While previous GOP debates have been highlighted by insults and crude comments from Donald Trump, Thursday’s debate proved to be a more subdued event as the frontrunner called for unity within the Republican Party.
In his opening statement, Trump noted the record turnout of voters thus far in the GOP primaries, calling it one of the “biggest political events anywhere in the world.”
“One of the biggest political events anywhere in the world is happening right now with the Republican Party. Millions and millions of people are going out to the polls and they’re voting. They’re voting out of enthusiasm. They’re voting out of love. Some of these people, frankly, have never voted before—50 years old, 60 years old, 70 years old—never voted before.”
Trump claimed that voters are turning to the Republican Party, and he said he thinks the Republican establishment “should embrace what’s happening.”
“We’re taking people from the Democrat Party. We’re taking people as independents, and they’re all coming out and the whole world is talking about it. It’s very exciting. I think, frankly, the Republican establishment, or whatever you want to call it, should embrace what’s happening. We’re having millions of extra people join. We are going to beat the Democrats. We are going to beat Hillary or whoever it may be. And we’re going to beat them soundly.”
According to reports from the Washington Times, Republican voter turnout broke records in New Hampshire with “nearly 285,000 voters to the polls, which was 15 percent more than in 2012, and just shy of the all-time record of 287,000 voters that Democrats drew in their marquee 2008 battle,” and in South Carolina, with “more than 737,000 votes,” which is “more than 20 percent higher than 2012.”
Following Super Tuesday on March 1, the Washington Post reported that over “1 million more people have voted in Republican primaries than Democratic ones,” and that Democratic turnout has fallen since the last contested nomination in 2008, while it has risen for Republicans since 2012.
Although there have been reports of GOP elites preparing for a contested convention if Trump does not receive the 1,237 delegates needed to qualify for the Republican nomination, Trump said at Thursday’s debate that he thinks the GOP should seize the opportunity to the “millions of people” he is brining to the Republican Party.
“The Republican Party has a great chance to embrace millions of people that it’s never known before. They’re coming by the millions. We should seize that opportunity. These are great people. These are fantastic people. These are people that love our country. These are people that want to see America be great again.”
“So I just say embrace these millions of people that now for the first time ever love the Republican Party,” Trump concluded. “And unify. Be smart and unify.”