PALM BEACH – Donald Trump, the real estate mogul, reality TV host and holder of many opinions urged Republicans at a party fundraiser Thursday night to implore their leaders to stop caving into Democrats and get tougher in negotiations with President Barack Obama.
“Please tell your leaders – and I’m talking about the Republican leaders – please start negotiating. Get tougher. You’ve got some cards,” he said. “Tell your leaders. We love you. Get tough. Get smart.”
Trump was sharply critical of the way Republican congressional leaders handled the year-end negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff that ended up in tax increases for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans should have hung tough, he said, because if the country had gone over the cliff “Obama would have come running to make a deal.”
He said Republican toughness should extend to discussions of immigration legislation that could provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
“I’m all for the heart. I love the heart. But every one of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic. I don’t care what you do. Just remember that,” he said. “The Republicans are being out-negotiated on every front. And I think they are going to be out-negotiated on immigration because I see them now running to let everybody win.”
He said his party shouldn’t have lost the 2012 election. “We should have won. This should not have been a loss. This country’s going to hell and we lost an election.”
Trump, who floated his name as a potential candidate for the presidency last year, called his party’s nominee, Mitt Romney, a “very good man,” but described him as someone who “did not resonate. He didn’t catch on.” He was also dismissive of Romney. “He tried – I think.”
Trump delivered his wisdom to about 500 attendees at the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner, the party’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Though he wasn’t the keynote speaker, he was in many ways the biggest draw of the evening.
After he allowed one or two people to take pictures, he was mobbed by dozens of people who wanted shots with the host of Celebrity Apprentice.
Trump’s remarks, ostensibly introducing conservative commentator and keynote speaker Laura Ingraham, was vintage Trump. During his eight and a half minutes, Trump said “I” or “I’m” at least 29 times.
Besides giving his political views, Trump talked about the exclusive Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, which he owns and served as the venue for the evening.
The enormous gilded ballroom where the event took place looks as if it’s something out from the era of Henry Flagler and the robber barons. To the contrary, Trump said, he build the ballroom seven years go , following his purchase of the estate in 1985, saving it from a planned demolition that was to make way for eight mansions.
Mar-a-Lago, Trump explained, “is one of the great places in this country.”
Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Ira Sabin didn’t have an estimate for what the evening brought into the party’s coffers, but the event typically takes in around $100,000
Sabin told attendees that they need to get energized about the 2014 campaign – beginning now – or risk losing next year’s elections.
“We need you to work. We need you to organize,” he said. “Obama is organizing America. We’re taking back Palm Beach County.”
Sabin was elected party chairman in December. As disappointing as last year’s election was to Republicans, he said they need to “stop the whining about what happened and focus on what we must do.
“We have to build an effective machine. We do not have that much time. Everybody must engage. Everybody must be active. Otherwise it won’t happen,” he said.
Ingraham said Republicans need to eschew the so-called wisdom from pundits and consultants like Karl Rove. The party shouldn’t be put in the hands of moderates and who would put the party in the hands of the “mushy middle.” That guarantees future electoral losses, she said.