Club for Growth: Trump accusations far from true

Group spends $2 million on anti-Trump ads
Group spends $2 million on anti-Trump ads

Days after Donald Trump called members of the Club for Growth "stupid" and "extortionists," the head of the free-enterprise advocacy group called the GOP front-runner "challenged" when it comes to the truth.

In comments Thursday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Trump accused the Club for Growth of coming out against his candidacy, when he refused to give the group $1 million.

"We all know how challenged Donald Trump is with the truth," Club for Growth President David McIntosh told "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "The reality is, he invited me to his office, and said, 'What are you doing? What can I do to help?'"

"[Trump] was telling me he's changed," continued McIntosh, a congressman from Indiana from 1995-2001. McIntosh said New York real estate tycoon told him that Trump is "more free trade" than he used to be and he doesn't want to raise taxes. "Well, maybe the guy is a conservative," McIntosh said he thought. "[It] turns out he's not."

McIntosh said he did solicit money from Trump to elect "good candidates" for office. "We did send him a letter, and never heard back from him."

In the CNBC interview last week, Trump called out the Club for Growth: "These stupid people, like Club for Growth. They come to my office ask for $1 million and I say for what? They said it's, this and that, and they gave me an explanation which didn't make any sense. They wrote me a letter and asked for a million dollars. I very nicely said no. Then all of a sudden they became hostile and they're doing ads all over the place. They are extortionists. They are terrible people."

Club for Growth would still be against Trump even if the candidate did provide money, McIntosh said Tuesday. "I told him that in the meeting. I don't agree with you on trade and taxes. If you still want to send us money, you can."

McIntosh said the group analyzed Trump's public comments over the years about public policy. "Over 10 [or] 12 years, he's consistently been for a big government solution. He hates the idea of free trade. He thinks that he can negotiate better trade agreements. And if not, he'll slap tariffs on."

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Club for Growth said it's spending $2 million in Florida and $2 million in Illinois and Missouri on anti-Trump ads.

The three states are among those holding Republican primaries Tuesday, and Trump holds leads in all of them, with an especially wide margin over Marco Rubio in the Florida senator's home state, according to the RealClear Politics polling aggregator. Trump also leads in North Carolina. But in Ohio, John Kasich, the governor there, now leads Trump.

If Trump were to score victories over Rubio in Florida and Kasich in Ohio — both winner-take-all primaries with 99 and 66 delegates up for grabs respectively — he could effectively end their campaigns. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won his home state on the March 1, is hoping for a strong showing Tuesday to stay close to Trump in the delegate count.

"Today if Cruz wins a state or Kasich wins, I think Trump is done. And we can beat him," McIntosh said. Under that scenario, McIntosh said the delegate count could work out for Cruz but not Kasich. But with both candidates siphoning votes, McIntosh said Trump could lose.

Ahead of Tuesday's contests, Trump had 460 delegates, Cruz had 369, Rubio had 163, and Kasich had 63. To win the GOP nomination, a candidate needs 1,237 delegates.

McIntosh said he has not ruled out voting for Trump if he were the GOP nominee, but he added: "We have to do everything to not make Trump the choice."

Asked why he thought Trump was running for president, McIntosh said: "I think Trump is a brand. And he's out there [and] originally thought he'd build his brand by running for president."

"I think he caught on because there's a group of people in America who feel the American Dream has left them behind for the last eight years." McIntosh said "That's a real group of people who we, as Republicans, should address and should say we have a better solution for you."

Also on CNBC, Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation, said Rubio blew his chances against Trump by going negative.

"I think Rubio's last chance[s] were hurt when he blundered a few weeks ago, and went to schoolyard, gutter tactics against Donald Trump, leaving his aspirational, inspirational message. The voters of Florida simple didn't recognize that Marco Rubio," Jackson said, predicting a Trump victory in Florida.

Refusing to say who he's voting for, Jackson did say: "I'm independent. I left the Republicans last year when they didn't take on Donald Trump early."

Jackson also said he just wrote a check for Kasich. "I think Ohio is even more interesting story."

"Here you have a successful sitting governor who's very popular in Ohio; has a good economic story to tell; has worked in Democratic and Republican environments successfully; is competent, is reasonable, positive; and he's hanging by his fingernails."

But if Trump sweeps winner-take-all Ohio and Florida, he'd be on his way to winning enough delegates to capture the GOP nomination on the first ballot at this summer's convention, Jackson said.