NEW YORK -- During a town-hall discussion held over the telephone Monday night, Michele Bachmann had a special guest -- Donald Trump. The “tele-town hall” marked the first such event Trump has done with any of the GOP candidates for president.
The idea for the call, the Bachmann campaign says, came during a meeting the two had over breakfast last week, at Trump’s home in New York.
Bachmann dialed in from a hotel room in Las Vegas – the site of tonight’s GOP debate – and Trump called from his office in New York. Though both the Bachmann and Trump teams said yesterday the event did not mark an endorsement, the two met eye-to-eye in a wide-ranging discussion.
“We have a country with tremendous potential. Unbelievable potential. It's untapped,” Trump said during introductory remarks, before calling attention to competition with China. “We don't have the right leadership, and we're really falling badly. By 2016 China will overtake us economically. Hard to believe it would have been impossible to say that 10 years ago.”
Bachmann said later in the call that China’s rise has “profound implications,” and added, “One thing Ronald Reagan understood is you have to be the economic super power if you want to be the military super power.”
It’s a message Bachmann often delivers during stump speeches – and though Monday’s call was billed as a discussion about the economy, national security and international affairs often crept in.
Trump attacked Democrats and Republicans for avoiding discussing OPEC’s hold on oil prices, and suggested that if the United States were to stop doing business with China, “they would go into a depression the likes of which you have never seen before.”
The Bachmann campaign says Tele-Town Hall events are a regular part of Bachmann’s strategy, helping the campaign to identify supporters and key issues to voters. But the campaign acknowledges this event was unique.
“The reason we brought him on is that he’s a well respected person on issues of the economy, but he’s well versed on foreign policy issues and the politics of the day,” says Bachmann Campaign Spokeswoman Alice Stewart of Trump.
On Friday, over Twitter, the campaign teased a coming announcement “sure to fire up this race.” Stewart said tens of thousands of people were on the call, and that Bachmann and Trump spoke privately beforehand.
A poll taken during the call identified key initiatives voters thought should be undertaken to revive the economy. Cutting spending ranked first, followed by repealing the federal health care law, opening domestic energy resources, cutting taxes, and clamping down on illegal immigration.
“This gave her an opportunity to engage the people,” Stewart said. “And an opportunity, for sure, to get an idea on where the focus needs to be paid in terms of improving the economy.”