At a boisterous rally in South Carolina on Friday night, Trump abandoned his stump speech and asked for some legal advice. “Are we allowed to do this?” Trump said, turning to the state’s two Republican senators, Lindsey O. Graham and Tim Scott, seated in the crowd of thousands.
The president then asked the audience to help him identify the “weakest” Democratic candidate, instructing them to strategically vote for that person in South Carolina’s primary to deliver Trump an easier path to reelection.
“I assume this is OK, from a campaign finance standpoint, I assume,” Trump said, looking to Graham and Scott. He continued: “First, we have to figure out who would be the weakest candidate against President Trump and then if it’s legal … Are we allowed to tell them who we would like them to vote for?”
South Carolina has an open primary system, allowing voters of any party affiliation to participate in the Democratic primary. And Trump isn’t the first to suggest such a maneuver. Republican activists in South Carolina have boasted about a plan called “Operation Chaos” to encourage Trump supporters to back Sanders. State officials, however, have cast doubt on how many GOP voters will actually participate in the effort.
But at North Charleston Coliseum, the crowd roared its approval, and Trump said, “All right, so wait a minute, let’s do a poll.”
For the next five minutes, he conducted a live, call-and-response poll of the people packing the arena, home to a minor league hockey team.
“Who would be the best candidate?” he asked. “For us, not for them.”
Trump didn’t ask about Steyer, whom he deemed “a loser,” and disqualified Bloomberg, too. “Mini Mike is gone, he doesn’t have a chance so let’s forget it,” he said.
“Pocahontas, we can forget about her,” Trump said of Warren. “How about Klobuchar? Not gonna happen.”
Once he had narrowed the field to two — “Sleepy Joe Biden and Crazy Bernie” — Trump asked the crowd again, “Who the hell is easier to beat?”
After a vote-by-cheer poll, and a brief recount, Trump dubbed Sanders the winner.