"Donald Trump, with this recent statement, has taken xenophobia and religious bigotry to a new level," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a long-shot presidential hopeful, told The Washington Post in one of the more forceful rebuttals against the real estate mogul. "Statements like this empower the enemy, and make it difficult for our soldiers and diplomats to operate throughout the Muslim world. His antics and bombastic behavior are literally putting American lives at risk around the world. And statements like this would mean a death sentence to our interpreters and others who have helped the American military in our struggle against radical Islam."
He added: "The effects of this statement are far-reaching and should be rejected by all serious candidates. Ted Cruz must finally speak when it comes to Donald Trump. Ted, are you with Donald on this?"
Cruz, a conservative Texas senator who has tended to be less critical of Trump than other hopefuls, reportedly drew a policy distinction without applying a disparaging label to Trump's rhetoric.
"That is not my policy. I believe the focus should be on radical Islamic terrorism," he said, according to an NBC News reporter. According to a CNN reporter, Cruz, speaking in South Carolina, went on to explain what he believes after expressing his policy disagreement.
Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and leading candidate who has generally been reluctant to directly criticize Trump, said in a statement: "Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries. I do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion." Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a frequent Trump critic, quickly dismissed Trump's ideas on Twitter:
Donald Trump is unhinged. His "policy" proposals are not serious.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 7, 2015
"This is just more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath and another reason why he is entirely unsuited to lead the United States," said Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a moderate Republican candidate, in a statement.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reportedly argued in a radio interview that Trump's comments were a sign of his inexperience:
Sergio Gor, a spokesman for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), responded to Trump only by pointing to Paul's proposals. "Senator Rand Paul has led on the issue of border security, proposing real solutions," said Gor. "That's why earlier this month he introduced legislation to block visitors and immigrants from nations with known radical elements while a new system is developed to screen properly."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Twitter that Trump has made a "habit" of making "outlandish" statements.
I disagree with Donald Trump's latest proposal. His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 8, 2015
Democratic candidates reacted negatively to Trump's statement. Hillary Clinton had this to say on Twitter:
“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a statement. "Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.” On Twitter, long-shot Democratic hopeful and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley labeled Trump a "fascist demagogue."
Jose A. DelReal and Anne Gearan contributed to this post