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Pope, Trump Feud Heats Up

Pope, Trump Feud Heats Up
Trump has lashed out at the Pope over immigration. (AP)

By Friday, 19 February 2016 03:01 PM Current | Bio | Archive

On the eve of their presidential primary, South Carolina Republicans left little doubt about their anger over Pope Francis’s much-publicized criticism of Donald Trump and his position on illegal immigration.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., even went as far as to voice concern about a possible backlash over the Pope’s remarks that might help Trump Saturday at the expense of the Columbia-area congressman’s favorite candidate Marco Rubio.

Asked about Trump on Thursday during his return flight from Mexico, the Pope told reporters that a “person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."

Pressed as to whether Roman Catholics in the U.S. should not vote for Trump, the pontiff replied: "I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

The “Francis flap” came when virtually all polls show Trump with a big lead in the South Carolina primary. According to a tracking poll by the American Research Group Thursday, Trump leads among likely primary voters with 34 percent, Rubio at 22 percent, John Kasich 14 percent, Ted Cruz 13 percent, Jeb Bush 9 percent, and Ben Carson 4 percent.

“I’m just shocked the Pope would intervene two days before our primary and over a basic issue such as security,” Rep. Wilson told me hours after Pope Francis’s remarks were reported, “A wall provides security and a fence provides friendships.”

An early backer of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for president and later Sen. Lindsey Graham before they withdrew from the race, the eight-term congressman revealed to me that “I plan to vote for Marco Rubio Saturday [in the primary].”

Asked if he felt the Pope’s comments might stir up support for Trump at the expense of his candidate Rubio, Wilson replied: “I am concerned there will be a backlash.”

Another Rubio backer in South Carolina, real estate broker Rusty DePass, seconded Wilson’s view that Pope Francis should not have drawn attention to Trump.

“The clergy — Protestant and Catholic — needs to stick to saving souls,” said DePass, a conservative activist going back to his stint as executive director of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in South Carolina in 1976.

“Didn’t Jesus make it clear one renders unto Caesar what is Caesar’s?” remarked State Rep. Kirk Finlay, a Jeb Bush supporter, “and the last time I checked, the Vatican had a wall separating it from Italy.”

Jake Holmgreen, past chairman of the Teenage Republicans at Lexington High School, told me “I respect the Pope but I’d rather him stay out of choosing our president.” (Holmgreen added that in the Saturday primary, he was “at the moment leaning to Ted Cruz.)

At an awards banquet hosted by the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce Thursday, feeling among community leaders — an estimated 80 percent of whom will vote in the Republican primary Saturday — ran strongly against the Pope’s comments on Trump’s position.

“I don’t know why the people would enter into domestic policy in the U.S.,” said Michael Ana, a retirement specialist from Columbia who is “undecided” in the primary. “Just leave it up to the candidate and to the American people to judge them.”

Lexington banker Vaughn Dozier was ambivalent about the Pope’s comments, saying “everybody has a right to an opinion.” Dozier is a strong supporter, he explained, “because he champions freedom of speech by saying exactly what he thinks. All of this political correctness will have us walking on eggshells.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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On the eve of their presidential primary, South Carolina Republicans left little doubt about their anger over Pope Francis’s much-publicized criticism of Donald Trump and his position on illegal immigration.
trump, pope, primary, cruz
Friday, 19 February 2016 03:01 PM
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