Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was silent on his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States during a town hall event Friday evening in Iowa, instead taking audience questions on a wide range of issues.
About 2,500 people responded to attend the Dec. 11 campaign event, but some seats were empty in the Varied Industries building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
Earlier this week, the business mogul who has led almost every poll since late summer, called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Trump’s proposal was immediately met with opposition from both Republicans and Democrats.
At one point, Trump seemed to take a swipe at Cruz, saying he supports ethanol while Cruz takes “big oil money” from companies. At one point, Trump also said “not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba.”
But one attendee asked Trump what he would do with Cruz if elected president: nominate him to be vice president or nominate him to the Supreme Court? Trump responded, saying, if elected, “I certainly have things in mind for Ted.”
Trump also touched several times on the U.S. economy and his proposal to cut ties with trade partners like China. “We have rebuilt China,” he said. “They have taken our jobs…they’ve taken our money. That’s not going to happen anymore, folks.”
Although he said he supports free trade Trump said he plans to make changes regarding manufacturing abroad if elected. “We’re going to start making Apple computers here,” he said. “What the hell are they doing being made in China?”
Tamara Scott, Republican National committeewoman from Iowa, said Trump why the GOP establishment would not be thrilled to have a candidate like him?
“The country is run by stupid people,” Trump said.
Trump said he would be a “Second Amendment president,” and touted that he is a member of the National Rifle Association. Speaking on the recent events in Paris and San Bernardino he said he would defend gun rights as president and, to a loud applause after voicing his support for gun rights, Trump also said “We’re going to say Merry Christmas again.”
One protester voiced his dissent toward the beginning of the event when Trump took a question on immigration and stricter border laws. The man managed to rip up a sign before being escorted out by Secret Service and the Iowa State Patrol.
Trump went after the media, as well. To one of the loudest applauses of the event, Trump said The Des Moines Register is dishonest in its reporting. He also called out chief politics reporter Jennifer Jacobs, who was in attendance at the event, by name, saying she was “the worst” when it comes to reporting at Iowa’s largest newspaper.
He also joked that the media present at the event will only focus on the one protester, versus the hundreds of attendees, “which is sad.”
Noah and Nicholas De Kruif and Jackie Smith, seniors at Johnston High School, were at the rally to hear Trump speak. Nicholas De Kruif said he was a firm supporter of the presidential candidate, while Noah De Kruif and Smith were undecided, but willing to hear what Trump had to say.
Nicholas De Kruif said he supported most of the candidate’s policies, such as his stance on world trade and veterans’ health care.
However, Nicholas De Kruif said he does not support Trump’s recent call to bar Muslims from entering the United States.
“I don’t agree that we should bar a people based on their religion,” he said. “However, I do agree that we need to have stricter immigration on countries we’ve had an issue with in the past, especially with things like terrorism.”
All three Johnston High seniors, who will be turning 18 this year, said they all plan to support a Republican candidate in the caucuses, and eventually in the national election.
State Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale who endorsed Trump, also spoke at the event, saying Trump takes a lot of criticism for some of the things that he’s said but Trump is committed to keeping the United States safe.
Trump’s event in Des Moines was held a little more than 50 days until the Iowa precinct caucuses are held Feb. 1.