Donald Trump Is Now Attacking Bernie Sanders

Republicans used to ignore the Democratic socialist from Vermont. Not anymore.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen in a contemplative moment.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen in a contemplative moment.

Fresh off a convincing victory in his party's New Hampshire primary, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump took to CBS Wednesday to gloat over his win -- and to take a few shots at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who won the Democratic primary by an even greater margin.

"I would beat Bernie easily," Trump said on "CBS This Morning", even though polling data has consistently given Sanders a wide lead over Trump in a hypothetical general-election face-off.

Trump's comments are in line with a growing willingness among Republicans to take Sanders seriously. Over the past week or so, GOP candidates have shifted away from their relentless focus on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the inevitable Democratic nominee, and have started attacking Sanders as a potential adversary in November.

Trump also claimed Wednesday that he would beat Clinton "easily" in November, though polls likewise show Clinton besting Trump in a presidential matchup, albeit by narrower margins than Sanders. Polling data is notoriously unreliable early in presidential contests, but at this point, both Sanders and Clinton have an unmistakable edge over the reality TV star.

"The one thing we have in common is trade," Trump said. "The difference between us is, [Sanders] can't do anything about it. I can."

Trump and Sanders are both critics of former President Bill Clinton's North American Free Trade Agreement and President Barack Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership. Sanders, unlike Trump, has consistently argued that such deals have hurt not only American workers, but also workers abroad. Trump's economic message appears premised on a xenophobic fantasy in which fixing trade would magically spark a middle-class renaissance in the United States. It's a sharp contrast with his tax policy, which would inflate the federal debt by 75 percent or more by providing massive tax cuts to the wealthy.

Hillary Clinton has publicly repudiated the TPP, but as The Huffington Post has reported, key elements of the American corporate lobbying and executive community do not believe she would actually reject the deal if elected.

Liberal critics of NAFTA-style trade deals have argued that such pacts suppress U.S. wages by forcing American workers to compete with laborers in markets with poor environmental protections and weak labor laws. Trump, however, has argued in a nationally televised debate (and elsewhere) that American wages are already "too high," only to deny having done so after facing political blowback. Lying is one of Trump's more common rhetorical techniques.

Trump did not explain how he would overturn the U.S. trade deficit, or why Sanders would be unable to do it as well as him. Like his attacks on fellow Republicans, Trump's new assault on Sanders appears to be rooted in the idea that Trump can intimidate foreign powers into submission with the force of his personality alone.

Trump also suggested Wednesday that he would assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jon Un, saying he would "make that guy disappear."

"There are worse things, frankly," Trump said.

Presidential candidates typically do not threaten to kill foreign leaders on the campaign trail, as doing so can harm existing diplomatic efforts and damage the possibility of future diplomatic solutions.

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

Zach Carter is a co-host of the HuffPost Politics podcast "So, That Happened." Subscribe here or listen to the latest episode below: