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Trump weighs in on potential Bloomberg candidacy

Donald Trump is far from scared at the prospect of an independent presidential bid by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He's welcoming it.

"I'd love to compete against Michael. And I know him very well. And I think he might very well get in the race and I would love to have him get in the race," the businessman and frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Bloomberg is taking steps to launch an independent bid for president and is apparently ready to spend up to $1 billion of his own money to fund a campaign. He intends to make a final decision by early March, after the first nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

One of the reasons spurring Bloomberg to consider jumping into the 2016 race is a desire to counterbalance Trump.

"That would be good," Trump said, who also noted that he holds different positions than the former mayor on guns and abortion.

As a major business player in New York City, Trump has long had a relationship with its mayors - although his opinions can be quick to change. He once said of current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, "I think pretty strongly that he'll end up being a good mayor, maybe a very good mayor." But on "Face the Nation," Trump said, "He's turned out to be a terrible mayor, he doesn't know what he's doing. I mean, the guy is incompetent."

The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll shows Trump retaking his former lead in Iowa (he's now up 5 points over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) and running far in front of the field in New Hampshire and South Carolina. That success is part of what prompted conservative magazine National Review to publish an entire issue called "Against Trump" where nearly two dozen conservatives argued why he is not fit to be president. It's not bothering Trump.

"It's a failing magazine," Trump said. "They need publicity."

"These are people for the most part I don't know, I don't even know who most of them are, I don't want to know who most of them are. And they're just people that are I guess trying to save a magazine that's close to closing up," he said.

He argued that the magazine has a bad track record because it backed both the 2008 and 2012 Republican nominees Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who went on to lose the election.

"They lose and they don't know how to win. And I'm not sure they even want to win, they just want to stay relevant. And they're very irrelevant," Trump said. Moderator John Dickerson asked about the magazine's argument that Trump has not been consistently conservative on political issues. Trump's answer was to invoke former President Ronald Reagan, as he often does.

"Ronald Reagan was a fairly liberal Democrat and he evolved over years and he became more and more conservative. And he was not a very conservative person, but he was pretty conservative and he ended up being a great president," he said.

Trump said he defines a "conservative" as a person who doesn't want to take too much risk, wants to "conserve" government, balance budgets, and "feels strongly about the military." He also touted his opposition to the Iraq War, saying that was "a little different than a normal conservative" but defended it as the right decision.

"When I was saying, 'Don't go into Iraq,' I'm a very militaristic person, I'm very much into the military and will build our military bigger, better, stronger than ever before. And that's safe, that's actually the cheapest thing to do as opposed to what we have right now. But I was opposed to the war in Iraq. Most conservatives were, 'Let's go gung-ho.' I mean, these guys, just about all of them, every one of them, wanted the war in Iraq. Look what it got us," he said.

He is continuing to suggest that Cruz, his chief rival in Iowa, isn't eligible to run for president because he was born in Canada. Trump said Saturday that he wouldn't vote for Cruz as president and went on to reference his failure to disclose a low-interest loan he received for his 2012 Senate campaign. But on "Face the Nation," Trump said that his comments were "in relationship to his place of birth."

"It depends on where he's from. In other words, he's got a problem," Trump said. But he eventually concluded, "Yeah, if he got the nomination and if everything was fine, I would vote for Ted Cruz."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.