GOP front-runner Donald Trump "walked right in" at the first No Labels conference, co-founder Mark McKinnon said Tuesday, and he answered questions without reservations to a "very tough and sometimes hostile audience."
"He walked right in, completely undefensive, right into the buzz saw," McKinnon, a political adviser, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"And it was interesting to see the impact on the room."
There were many in the audience who were suspicious, said McKinnon, but they still appreciated that he attended and answered questions without reservations.
"He took a lot of questions he knew were going to be tough," said McKinnon. "Let me clear up one thing. Many people think No Labels is bringing together people with the same views. It is just the opposite. Our goal is to bring people together. We have tea party members. We brought together Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump."
McKinnon said he had never seen anything like Trump in his 30-40 years in political life.
"All candidates, they get into a room and people ask questions and they want to pander," said McKinnon. "They want to make the questioner happy. He doesn't. He doesn't care. That is so refreshing, and it is authentic. That's what people really hunger for in American politics."
The convention, held in Manchester, N.H., also attracted GOP candidates Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, George Pataki, and John Kasich, with video call-ins from Democrats Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb from Las Vegas, where they are preparing for Tuesday night's first Democratic primary debate.
However, Sanders did not take audience questions, reports The Daily Beast,
causing audience members to complain about his response.
Sanders didn't take questions and delivered his now familiar stump speech. An open mic heard over C-SPAN picked up an audience member complaining, "I waited all this time for that?"
But overall, Trump stole the show with his frank, often disputed answers to questions from the centrist crowd.
In addition to pitching his campaign, Trump also drew in the audience by telling about the work it took to build some of his most iconic properties, including his Manhattan golf course, which was built in four months after he "got tough with everybody ... you can do these things; it's about leadership."
Trump also stood his ground after a woman asked him about equal pay and if under his presidency, women would have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, telling her that he "cherishes" women and he'd guarantee equal pay "if you do equal work."
As it turns out, later in the morning Trump took to Twitter to accuse the woman, 18-year-old Lauren Batchelder of Chester, N.H., of being sent to the event by the Jeb Bush campaign:
Trump also tweeted a link to The Conservative Treehouse,
the website where he'd gotten that information.
"Ms. Batchelder is not just an average audience member," the website said, pointing to a tweet she had posted. "She's a paid political operative of the GOP and a paid staff member of Team Jeb Bush."
On Monday, Trump was also defensive when another woman asked him if his divisive persona undercuts the ability to bring people together, reports The Daily Beast.
"I went to Ivy League schools," he told her. "I know what's divisive and what's not divisive. I don't want to be politically correct ... I'm going to have to be who I am."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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