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Donald Trump hints at changing stance on minimum wage

Last Updated May 5, 2016 9:50 AM EDT

Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that he would be open to lifting the minimum wage, switching his previous primary campaign stance that the U.S. could not afford to hike the current federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Asked specifically if he was "open to raising the minimum wage" during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Trump responded: "I am open to doing something with it, because I don't like that."

"But," he added, "what I really do like is bring our jobs back so they're making much more than the 15 dollars."

The billionaire's statement comes just a day after his last opponent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, bowed out of the Republican primary race, leaving Trump to court general election voters as the likely GOP nominee. Trump's possible opponents in November have both pledged to raise the minimum wage by varying degrees: Hillary Clinton is open to a $12 minimum wage, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has called for a $15 wage increase.

During the primary campaign season, Trump, like his other Republican rivals, rejected any proposals for minimum wage raises.

At a GOP debate in November, the New York business mogul said of the federal wage rate: "We have to leave it the way it is."

"People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum," he said. "But we cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can't do it."

Trump, in another interview with CNN in 2013, suggested the possibility of two minimum wage rates: one for teenagers and another elevated rate for adults.

"You don't want to do anything that's going to keep the incentive away for whether it's McDonald's expanding in this country," Trump told CNN over two years ago. "At the same time you have to let people live."

Barring Rick Santorum's populist policies, no other GOP White House contenders had supported a jump in the minimum wage, and the issue remains an unpopular one among Republicans.

In Wednesday's CNN interview, Trump said he was "actually looking at" lifting the minimum wage.

"Because I'm very different from most Republicans," he said. "I mean, you have to have something that you can live on."

Addressing the news of Kasich's failed presidential bid, Trump also suggested that he would consider the Ohio governor for a running mate.

"I've had a good relationship with John," Trump said. "I think John will be very helpful with Ohio, even as governor... I would be interested in vetting John."

The presumptive GOP nominee later clarified comments he made earlier this week of his other rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who dropped out of the race shortly after Trump accused his father of consorting with John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

The Manhattan businessman, when asked whether he believed Rafael Cruz had anything to do with Kennedy's murder, told CNN, "No -- of course I don't believe that."

He added: "Ted Cruz's father seems like a nice guy. I don't know him, but he seems like a nice guy. He made horrible statements about me, you know, pray -- praying for bad things to happen to me, OK, essentially. I said, that's horrible."

The CNN interview also touched on Trump's "birther" claims about President Obama, with the de facto GOP leader accusing Clinton of having started the questions.

"You know who started the birther movement?" Trump said to CNN. "Do you know who started it? Do you know who questioned his birth certificate, one of the first? Hillary Clinton. She's the one that started it. She brought it up years before it was brought up by me."