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Donald Trump: "I will gladly accept the mantle of anger”

Trump is angry.
Trump is angry.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

In Thursday night’s debate, Donald Trump appeared to bear hug Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor who criticized him in her State of the Union response.

In that speech, Haley warned the party that no matter how dire the circumstances, they mustn’t heed the "siren calls" of the party’s "angriest voices."

After pointing out that Haley called him a "friend" earlier in the day, he went on to say Haley had a point. "She did say there was anger. I'm very angry because our country is being run horribly, and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger," he said to applause. He continued:

Our military is a disaster. Our health care is horror show. Obamacare, we're going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. And yes, I am angry. And I won't be angry when we fix it but until we fix it, I'm very, very angry. I say that to Nikki. So when Nikki said that, I wasn't offended. She said the truth. One of your colleagues interviewed me. And said, well, she said you were angry. I said to myself, huh, she's right. I'm not fighting that. I didn't find it offensive at all. I'm angry because our country is a mess.

His comments ignored the larger thrust of Haley’s speech, which warned her party against the allure of Trump-esque vitriol in favor of a more inclusive tone that mirrored Obama’s forward-looking address.

Haley, herself the child of immigrants, offered a valid counterpoint to the anger politics of the Republican primary. She argued in favor of welcoming immigrants who "abide by our laws and love our traditions."

Trump, on the other hand, has argued for banning all Muslims from entering the country "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

The difference highlighted a genuine split in the Republican Party, with Haley's comments hailed by party leaders for their upbeat tone —something they believe the primary largely lacked and could put the party in danger this November.

Trump, by proclaiming his anger while also embracing Haley, appeared to bridge the gap — between the rage that animates his candidacy and the more positive approach that Republicans know they must use to attract a wider swath of votes.