Donald Trump just perfectly laid out the Republican strategy for boosting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in his primary against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
At a speech in Iowa on Sunday, the Republican presidential front-runner initially couldn’t help going after Sanders, but noted that it may be better strategically for him to hold his fire and let Sanders duke it out with Clinton.
“This guy Bernie Sanders, give me a break,” Trump said.
“We haven’t even focused on I mean here’s a guy who’s a — they say socialist, but some people say he’s a communist. I shouldn’t hit him too hard though, because if I hit him too hard then he’ll go down, and it will be a fight with Hillary, and maybe we want a fight for a while. So I’ll say ‘Isn’t he a wonderful guy?”
Trump also said that his attacks on Clinton were the reason that Sanders has risen in the polls, particularly in early states.
“They’re saying ‘Bernie Sanders is surging. It’s amazing.’ I did that!” Trump said. “I can hit him, I have stuff in mind. I would hit him so hard he would drop.”
A few audience members told him to do it anyway, but the reality television star demurred.
“No, he’s too easy. He’s really too easy.”
Republicans have increasingly taken Sanders’ side in his primary against Clinton.
Veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove’s super PAC has been running television ads in Iowa attempting to tip the scales for Sanders, while the Republican National Committee continues to celebrate Sanders’ high poll numbers in email blasts, and even defended Sanders’ talking points during the last Democratic debate.
RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer urged Sanders to have a better answer to a question about Iran during the last debate, saying that he was trying to help him.
For his part, Sanders has frequently touted hypothetical head-to-head matchups which show him beating Trump in a general election contest, though such early polls aren’t generally predictive of races months out.
“There would be nothing more in this world that I would like to take on Donald Trump,” Sanders said on “Meet The Press” on Sunday. “We would beat him, and we would beat him badly.”
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