Interrupted and barraged with hostile, biased, “gotcha” questions all evening by moderator Kaitlin Collins at Wednesday’s CNN’s “Republican Presidential Town Hall” in New Hampshire, Donald Trump still managed to thrill his MAGA base, look confident and relaxed, and gain a huge conservative endorsement as he builds on his momentum as the party’s clear front-runner for 2024.
Popular MAGA conservative and former Fox News host Dan Bongino said on his Thursday broadcast that CNN thought in holding the town hall that “it could control Donald Trump,” but failed to do so: “I think we’ve learned from the last seven years now that no one’s going to control Donald Trump.”
Bongino said he likes and has been fair to all the GOP (likely) presidential candidates, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis, about whom he said: “I’m in Florida, and I can tell you that we’ve never had a better governor. And you’re never going to get me to say otherwise.”
Nevertheless, after watching the town hall, Bongino, who said “I’ve always been a Trump guy,” said, “I think [after] last night, it’s over. I really do.”
“I don’t see the purpose –” he said, cutting himself off as he began to discuss the 2024 primary. “Last night CNN thought was going to be the kill shot for Donald Trump. It turned out to be the kill shot for CNN.”
“I mean [he] absolutely body-bagged the CNN audience last night and the absolutely hapless Kaitlin Collins,” Bongino said.
Though Bongino’s comments were not a formal endorsement, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted out the clip with the words: “The great @dbongino endorses Donald Trump for President and says that after last night’s destruction of CNN, that the GOP primary is over.”
Trump got more praise from “War Room” host and former Trump aide Steve Bannon, on his daily morning broadcast Thursday.
“This was a command performance,” Bannon said. “What has freaked the media out” about the town hall interview is that “MAGA is ascendant. … Trump was triumphant … And they understand, we’re going to win the primary. We’re going to win the general, and Donald John Trump is going to be the 47th president of the United States.”
Democrats (including CNN’s Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper) who tallied up Trump’s alleged “lies,” Never Trumper Republicans, and supporters of Ron DeSantis and other potential GOP challengers to Trump hardly shared Bannon’s view, but even some conservative “influencers” who had veered away from their ardent past support of Trump said the former president had gotten the best of CNN.
Mike Cernovich, a one-time major Trump supporter who now believes Trump would lose the general election in 2024, tweeted that Trump “won” the town hall and then tweeted to his 1.1 million followers that “CNN ended its town hall 30 minutes early, too many people saw Trump”:
The theme of CNN getting defeated, as it were, by the man they despise the most was everywhere in conservative social media.
From the moment he walked on to the CNN stage, Trump had the affection of the audience, earning a standing ovation:
And after his hostile interviewer Collins had exited the stage, Trump hung around with the crowd, including some adoring fans who could be heard cheering him on:
As usual, a combative, entertaining Trump was great for CNN’s ratings: The Los Angeles Times ran this headline about the interview: “CNN’s Trump Town Hall nabs 3.1 million viewers amid brutal criticism.” Quipped Christopher Cadelago on Twitter: “In other words an average ratings night for [Tucker Carlson’s] old Fox show.”
Following is a sample of Trump discussing big issues during the town-hall interview.
Trump on energy
At around the 25:00 mark of the town hall, Trump was asked by a woman in the audience named Danielle Rieger, an oral surgery assistant and GOP activist in Derry, New Hampshire. She mentioned how prices for gas, food and utilities have “skyrocketed” and said: “Many people’s bills are up hundreds of dollars a month, including mine. If elected president again, what is the first thing you would do to bring down the cost to make things more affordable?”
“Drill, baby, drill,” Trump responded, enunciating for the effect. The crowd applauded enthusiastically as the CNN cameras panned back to Rieger breaking into a big smile. Trump then went into his usual talking points about how America under his leadership was energy independent, with gas prices much lower, until Biden took over the White House and “stupid people” shut it all down.
Trump on J6
One of the most widely circulated clips from the town hall, Trump calmly defended against Collins’ accusation that he had a role in the violence of Jan. 6, 2021, pulled out a tweet he sent out prior to the rally calling for peace and respect for the authorities:
Trump on immigration
As she did throughout the interview, CNN’s Collins attempted “gotcha” questions of the former president, trying to get him on record making damaging claims. But Trump was not flustered.
“We have to save our country,” Trump said in response to a question on illegal immigration, adding that big cities and even states like Iowa are “being swamped” by the flood of illegal aliens encouraged and incentivized to come to the U.S. by Biden’s lax policies.
He predicted, especially with the new surge with the end of Title 42, that 15 million illegal aliens will have entered the U.S. by the end of the year.
A post-town-hall focus group demonstrated how everyday Trump supporters are no longer intimidated by leading questions from TV news personalities:
Post-interview analysis: Donalds wont back down in defending Trump
Another big winner Wednesday night was Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who recently endorsed Trump. Donalds continues to impress conservatives coast to coast with his ability to articulate sound principles while not shrinking back from hostile, pro-Democrat media leftists.
Brought on by CNN to discuss Trump’s town-hall performance, Donalds more than held his own against a bevy of CNN commentators in analyzing Trump’s handling of the event.
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