Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says he is leading the GOP race because he represents Americans who have had it with their nation coming up short.
“People in this country are smart,” he told listeners at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies’ 2015 conference in Nashville on Saturday.
“We’re tired of being the patsies for everyone,” Trump said.
“There is a big, big, growing-by-leaps-and-bounds silent majority out there. [The 2016 race] is going to be an election based on competence.”
Trump argued he is surging in national polls because he represents the Tea Party supporters ignored by Democrats and betrayed by Republicans.
“I love the Tea Party,” Trump said. “You people have not been treated fairly. These are people who work hard and love their country, and then get beat up by the media. It’s disgusting.”
“At least I have a microphone and can fight back,” the outspoken billionaire added.
Trump indicated he envisions a much wider base for his campaign than traditional Republican voters next election cycle.
“You don’t know how big you are,” he told listeners. “The Tea Party has tremendous power. It’s Democrats, it is evangelicals, it is everybody.”
The New York business mogul also vowed he would not succumb to the prestige and power of Washington’s political establishment if he wins in 2016.
“They go to Washington and they get weak,” Trump said of Democrats and Republicans alike. “They get there and they see these beautiful, vaulted ceilings and they say, ‘Honey, I’ve made it.’ That won’t happen to me, I promise.”
Trump also said he intends on saving taxpayer dollars by focusing his energy on the nation’s capital if elected next year.
“I think I’d maybe never leave,” Trump quipped of the Oval Office. “I’d do the fundraisers in the White House. Whoever the [interview] host is would like it better – ‘Hey, we’re live from the White House.’”
“Do you know how much it costs to fuel those things?” he joked of jets like Air Force One.
“We have so many things to do to straighten out our country,” Trump added. “We can’t waste time.”
Trump’s address at the NFRA’s 2015 conference Saturday was attended by many notable figures from the original Tea Party movement.
The organization’s president is Sharron Angle, who unsuccessfully challenged Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in 2010.
The NFRA’s executive vice president is Ken Blackwell, a challenger for Ohio’s gubernatorial office who came up short against former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) in 2006.
The group is — despite its name — a grassroots network unaffiliated with the Republican Party that counts on Tea Party voters for its membership.
Trump is currently leading the race for the GOP presidential nomination across national polls.