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Trump: I could ‘shoot somebody’ and not lose voters

GOP rival Marco Rubio, meanwhile, wins endorsement of Iowa’s biggest newspaper, which also backs Democrat Clinton

U.S. Republican front-runner Donald Trump expressed confidence on Saturday that he could push back attempts by his rivals to knock him off his top perch, saying he could stand on New York's Fifth Avenue "and shoot somebody" and still not lose voters.

Meanwhile, with the first nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses, just days away, his GOP rival Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida won the endorsement Saturday of The Des Moines Register, the state's biggest and most influential newspaper. On the Democratic side, the Register picked Hillary Clinton.

The endorsements were big developments for Rubio and Clinton. Rubio has been running third, behind Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in Iowa, and Clinton has struggled to fend off a challenge for the Democratic nomination from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Trump and Cruz, Trump's chief obstacle to a victory in Iowa, held competing rallies in the state while other candidates battled for votes in New Hampshire's Feb. 9 first-in-the-nation primary.

Trump, the New York billionaire and former reality TV star who has been virtually impervious to attacks from his opponents, pushed the limits of his political rhetoric again in Sioux Center, Iowa.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters," he said.

He has been a difficult target for his rivals because not all his supporters are conservatives and many are most interested in his projection of strength, not where he stands on issues.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll had Trump pulling in about 41 percent support of Republican voters nationally. A CNN/ORC poll has him up in Iowa, with 37 percent to 26 percent for Cruz, who has led in some other Iowa polls.

Trump did not repeat the "shoot somebody" line at a later rally in Pella and told the crowd there that he would tone down his rhetoric as president.

Cruz responded to Trump at an event in Ankeny, where he picked up the endorsement of conservative firebrand Glenn Beck, a counterweight of sorts to Trump's endorsement by 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. "Listen, I will let Donald speak for himself. I can say I have no intention of shooting anybody in this campaign," Cruz said.

Beck was more direct. "There is one thing to have a healthy ego. There is another to give a man who believes those kind of things, who has a habit of anyone who stands in his way of destruction," he said. "To give that man the full power and scope of the office of the presidency is something we will grow to regret."

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was an introductory speaker at Trump's Pella event. Grassley did not endorse Trump but repeated Trump's signature phrase, saying Republicans have a chance to "make America great again."

During his speech, Trump called Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly biased and said she should not be a moderator at a Fox-hosted Republican debate in Des Moines on Thursday. Her questioning at an Aug. 6 debate in Cleveland prompted Trump to unleash a series of insults at her.

There was no indication that Fox plans to remove her as a moderator. "Megyn Kelly has no conflict of interest. Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday's debate, for which we thank him," said a Fox News representative.

The potential for more chaos in what has been a turbulent campaign season on both the Republican and the Democratic side emerged on Saturday with the news that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg might launch an independent run for president. A source said part of his concern was the problem that Clinton seems to be having in dispatching Sanders.

"I hope he runs," Trump said of Bloomberg in Pella.

At a forum for candidates in Nashua, New Hampshire, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was notably withering in his criticism of Trump.

He reminded voters of Trump's dismissal of Sen. John McCain as not a hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War. McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. He was a two-time winner of the New Hampshire primary and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

"It is not strong to insult women. It is not a sign of strength when you insult Hispanics. It is not a sign of strength when you say that a POW was a loser because they got caught. John McCain is a hero," Bush said.


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