- "Make America Great Again, that's optimism," Trump said at a campaign rally
- Since cinching his first electoral victory in the New Hampshire primary last week, Trump has tweaked his stump speech to include fewer attacks on his rivals
Tampa, Florida (CNN)Donald Trump is spinning his campaign in positive terms.
Facing a renewed onslaught of attacks from his GOP presidential rivals on the stump and in TV ads, Trump, who has built his campaign on sharply pointed jabs and harsh rhetoric, is now calling his campaign one of "great optimism."
"Make America Great Again, that's optimism," Trump said at a campaign rally Friday night here. "Some people say, 'Oh, such negativity.' It's just the opposite. We're going to fix things up, we're going to make this country better than it's ever been before."
Since cinching his first electoral victory in the New Hampshire primary last week, Trump has tweaked his stump speech to include fewer attacks on his rivals, with the exception of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The result has been a more focused stump speech that consistently delivers Trump's crowd-pleasing lines, with fewer tangents that can distract from his core message.
Instead, Trump has knocked his rivals in broader strokes by suggesting that they are all politicians doing the bidding of big moneyed, special interests.
"And you see the negative ads now, all phony ads. Those are paid for by the lobbyists that are all supporting them. I'm self-funding, I'm doing my own money," Trump said Friday as booming cheers erupted at a packed arena at the University of South Florida.
In doing so, Trump delivers a combo punch: offering a veiled swipe at rivals like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has lately upped his attacks on the front-runner, while defending himself from the increasing number of attack ads he is facing in South Carolina, which will hold the next Republican primary contest on Feburary 20.
Rival campaigns and super PACs opposed to Trump's candidacy are beginning to blanket the airwaves in South Carolina with ads depicting Trump invariably as a heartless billionaire, a corrupt political donor and a fake conservative.
The ads are backed by millions of dollars in airtime purchased by Cruz's campaign, the super PAC supporting Bush as well as anti-Trump groups like The Club for Growth and Our Principles PAC.
And the candidates themselves are also increasingly hitting Trump with an eye toward the South Carolina, where Trump is leading his closest competitors by double-digits in recent polls. Bush, Cruz and most recently Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have introduced a bludgeon of criticism against Trump as they crisscross the Palmetto State.
Earlier Friday, Trump threatened to sue the Canadian-born Cruz over his eligibility for the presidency if he "doesn't clean up his act" and stop running negative ads against him.
But Trump's campaign pulled a negative ad this week attacking Cruz for his position on immigration that had just begun airing in South Carolina.
In its place, the campaign released Friday an ad highlighting Trump's own hardline stance on illegal immigration -- an ad emphasizing Trump's own position, not knocking those of his rivals.
"Jas Shaw was a 17-year-old football star who was gunned down just outside his home. His killer? An illegal immigrant gang member who just got out of prison," a narrator says in the ad that began airing Friday in South Carolina, before noting that Shaw's father is a prominent supporter of Trump's.
On the stump Friday, Trump also quickly moved on from his criticism of his GOP rivals' ties to lobbyists and special interests to instead hammer on his core issues like trade and President Barack Obama's dealing with countries like Iran.
And, of course, Trump's pledge to build a wall on the U.S.'s southern border -- at one point leading the crowd in a "Build that wall, build that wall" chant.
"Do we have fun considering the subject matter stinks?" Trump said, pointing to his dismal assessment of the country's state of affairs. "But this is a message of optimism, a lot of optimism. I don't see any negativity."