The Washington Examiner's Byron York interviewed Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump Tuesday afternoon aboard Trump's plane in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The talk ranged from Trump's GOP rivals to his relations with evangelicals to the November general election to abortion to his controversial proposals on deporting illegal immigrants and temporarily banning Muslims from entering to the U.S. Here is an edited transcript:
Have you seen this fight that has erupted where Jeb Bush is attacking Marco Rubio on amnesty?
I've seen a lot of fights, and the Republicans are fighting each other. They don't seem to be fighting me as much as they're fighting everybody else. Almost, they're not fighting me at all. Jeb has spent a lot of money, though, on commercials, I know, against me. That seems to be the one place. But Jeb is just going down. It's very sad when you look at what happened to Jeb Bush.
Let's go to Ted Cruz. He is apparently testing ways to attack you in Iowa. His campaign is calling people, testing, saying you have never asked God for forgiveness, saying you're a "New York liberal pretending to have conservative values." What do you think about that?
Well, first of all, I'm a believer in a very big way. I went through my Sunday school, I've done everything that you're supposed to do and that I love doing, and I feel really great about it. I think that the evangelicals have really taken to me, and I taken to them, and I've always taken to them. I'm doing very well with the evangelicals. In fact, nationwide, I'm leading by a substantial margin.
Frankly, we're doing very well. They just came out with polls in Iowa where I'm leading, and now I'm leading basically every state and every national poll.
People understand me. They know me. I think they respect what I've done. I've built a great company, a really great company. I've had tremendous success, whether it's books or whether it's doing a tremendously successful television show called "The Apprentice," or whether it's building a great company.
Conservatives are very worried about you. They concede that you've brought attention to issues that are important to them, like immigration or radical Islamic terrorism. But they don't believe you're one of them. Are you a conservative?
I am, and I'll tell you what will happen, I think, is they'll maybe see it more and more as time goes by.
If you think about it, if you take a look at what I've done, I've brought millions and millions of people to the Republican Party, and to the conservative party, because, as an example, the debate had 24 million people. If I wasn't in the debate, would it have had three, or four, or two, or what would it have been? And you look at the kind of numbers that they're doing on television, where every one of the stations, the networks that are covering us, and honestly in particular covering me, because I do seem to get a lot more coverage than anybody else, but their ratings are through the roof. So that focus is a very important focus because other people are allowed to take advantage of all of the eyeballs that I'm bringing to the screen.
But what makes you a conservative? What does being a conservative mean to you?
Well, I think it's just a conservative value. I'm very conservative fiscally. I mean, we owe $19 trillion, this is going to destroy our country, we're going to be destroyed by what's going on fiscally. And in terms of the economy, in terms of jobs, we're losing our jobs to everybody. You take a look at the kind of numbers that we're talking about with the closures and just pure and simple the number of jobs that have been lost, it's incredible. To places like China, Vietnam is the new hot one, they're taking our jobs. Mexico, always. They're outsmarting us at every turn, and we don't seem to be able to do it. I mean it's an incredible thing.
I will say this. In terms of conservative, I've had tremendous polling numbers with conservatives, I think to a large extent because of the border. Nobody has that issue like I have it, whether it's building the wall or closing the border and letting people in but they have to come in legally.
So why have you so many conservative leaders — the Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, National Review, lots of them don't think you're a conservative. They would look at what you just said about trade — they would say protectionism and tariffs, that's not conservative.
No, no, not protectionism — fairness. China is making hundreds of billions of dollars a year with us. At some point, we have to say, look, you can't do that. I mean we have rebuilt China virtually. Now, I am a free trader, 100 percent. But we can't continue to lose tremendous amounts of money to these countries. We're losing with virtually everybody, everybody that we do business with. The fact is, our leaders have been outsmarted at every step of the game. and we just can't do that.
I read Art of the Deal. And one of the things you write about is you have to be bold, you have to make a splash, you have to attract attention. You've also talked about compromise. There was a time you said there's nothing wrong with compromise — you just ask for about three times what you want, and then you get what you want.
So I look at deporting all illegal immigrants. I look at a temporary ban of Muslims coming to the United States. They get a lot of attention. Are they opening positions in a negotiation?
I'm not saying there can't be some give and take, but at some point we have to look at these things. You look at the radical Islamic terrorism and you look at what's going on, we have to take a serious look. There's tremendous hatred. You look at illegal immigration and all that's taking place with respect to illegal immigration, whether it's the crime or the economy, I mean, it affects many different elements. It doesn't mean I'm hard and fast 100 percent, but we to get a lot of what I'm asking for, or we're not going to have a country any more.
So they are opening positions?
They are very strong positions. It doesn't mean you're not going to negotiate a little bit, but I guess there will always be some negotiation. But they are very strong positions, and I would adhere to those positions very strongly. That doesn't mean that at some point we won't talk a little bit about some negotiation. Who wouldn't do that?
Do you see yourself as being able to pivot to a general election? What does pivoting to a general election mean to you?
I feel very strongly about what I'm saying. And it's pretty well documented what I'm saying. whether it's on illegal immigration or whether it's on Obamacare, which you have to repeal and replace. It's going to probably die on its own volition. I would say in '17 it's going to die anyway, because it's just out of control. You look at what's happening with the premiums, I mean the increases are incredible — 25, 35, 45 percent, the deduction, the deductability. What's going on with Obamacare is something that cannot continue to go on, because our healthcare system is a mess.
So what I want to do is I want to come up with great healthcare. There's not a lot of negotiation on that, because Obamacare just isn't working — you know it, I know it, and probably pretty much everyone knows it, including the administration.
A question about abortion. The Mexico City policy, the policy that does not allow federal dollars to go to international groups that perform or support abortions. Reagan instituted it, Clinton got rid of it, George W. Bush reinstated it, Obama got rid of it. If you were president, would you reinstate it?
Yes, I would reinstate it.
Let's talk about the Democratic race. Who would you rather face in a general election, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?
Very interesting question. I've really had my mind set on Hillary. We've had some very good polls over the last few days, and actually even before that, some excellent polls saying that I beat her. And I've really been thinking in terms of her, but now I see what's happening and there's a possibility that it won't be her. I think beating him ultimately would be easier than beating her. I don't really care who I face. I want to face whoever it is. It's like the baseball team, they say who would you rather face? The best answer is whoever it is that's there.
I'm looking forward to winning here. A lot of people have dropped out. A lot of people will drop out after Iowa and New Hampshire. I think you'll see a lot of people drooping out, which is a good thing, not a bad thing. Good for me. The poll numbers have been fabulous. I have some polls now at 42, which is pretty amazing when you have 14 to 15 people. But I look forward to running against whoever it is. It doesn't make that much difference to me. I think I'll beat Hillary. I think Sanders actually would be easier to beat. But it makes no difference to me whatsoever.
In 2012, Mitt Romney got just 206 electoral votes to Obama's 332. Romney lost Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia. Which of those states that Romney lost can you win?
I think I can win all of them. Look at what I'm doing in Florida. I'm way ahead of Jeb Bush, way ahead of Rubio, and he's a sitting senator and a longtime governor. I'm way ahead. In Ohio I'm way ahead of Kasich, who's a successful governor of the state of Ohio. I'm way ahead. Pennsylvania, I'm doing great, and I think that we're going to win Pennsylvania. I think we're going to win Virginia. I have a lot of property in Virginia, I have a lot of jobs in Virginia, frankly. I employ a lot — I have thousands and thousands of people that I employ — Virginia just happens to be one of those places.
I think I can win all or most of those places. I also think I can do really well in New York and places that people never even thought about. I don't know if you saw there was recently an article where upstate New York, I just absolutely — I mean, they like me, I like them. it's one of those things. I think I can do great in New York. I think I can do great in New York. Now, you win New York, you have a whole new deal, because of the size of that state. So I think we can do very well in New York. I think I have a real chance of winning New York.
I have a chance of winning places that every single one of the people that I'm running against, they can't even think about it.
Would you self-fund in a general election?
We haven't really given it much thought. I'm self-funding my existing campaign. I'll tell you it's having a huge impact, when I mention that I'm self-funding, and you've seen it. I have not gone that far. It's a much different kind of a thing, because there you have a party backing you and it seems sort of a little bit, maybe, foolish to say that instead of the party backing you put up your own money.
But it's something that I am thinking about already. I mean, I'm looking at the poll numbers and I'm starting to think a little bit ahead, although I don't want to go too far ahead. But it's something I am thinking about. I'll make a decision in the future.
Could you elaborate on that a little bit? What are you thinking in terms of a general election structure?
First of all, I don't want to think too much about general election right now. I want to get through what we're doing right now. We had a total of 17 [candidates], now we're down to 13, and we have a long way to go. So I'm not thinking too much in advance, other than I think I can win a lot of states that a lot of other people can't win. One of the articles came out recently and they said I'll be taking a tremendous chunk out of the Democrats. I really believe it, and no other Republican's going to do that.
People are saying that I may get 20 percent of the Democrat vote, and I believe that is maybe true, and maybe even on the light side. So I think I'll be able to do things that no other Republican is able to do.
The debate is coming up in a day or so. Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul, who were in the main debate, are now out. What's your reaction? You now have seven in the field. Too big?
I like seven better than I like 10. I like seven better than I like eight. The number is getting smaller. I'm very satisfied with that. I'd like to see a smaller group. You know, last time — 'Please discuss your views on terrorism, you have 30 seconds' — it's a little bit ridiculous when you think of it. So I like more time. I would prefer having more time. So obviously the fewer people on the stage, the more time you have individually.