With just days until the third GOP presidential debate, frontrunner Donald Trump has issued an uncharacteristic call for more civility in politics, arguing that "hatred" not only hurts both parties but the entire United States.
"When I'm president I'm going to unify the country," the real estate mogul, who leads nationally for the Republican presidential nomination, told CNN during an appearance on "State of the Union" on Sunday.
"A lot of people think I'm a tough guy, but actually I am a nice guy," he added. "Barack Obama has divided this country unbelievably and it's all hatred. I think it hurts both parties, it hurts the country."
In demonstrating his desire for peaceful politics, Trump went on to defend Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who on Thursday answered questions in an 11-hour appearance before a House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks.
"I thought she did OK. I felt she was going to do OK," he said of Clinton's testimony, which was heavily criticized by Republicans. "It was very partisan. The level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable. I have never seen anything like it."
The GOP frontrunner also contested Clinton's remark during the first Democratic debate that she viewed Republicans as "an enemy".
"I don't consider her an enemy," said Trump. "Right now I consider her an opponent. She can be easily beaten by her record."
While he has no prior political experience, Trump argued that his years as a business person taught him the importance of bipartisanship.
"One of the big knocks on me is that over the years I have got along with Democrats and I have got along with Republicans," he said. "That's a good thing. As a businessman, I had an obligation...I will be a great unifier for our country."
Despite issuing a call for peace, Trump didn't hold back when criticizing GOP rival Ben Carson, who recently overtook him in polling in Iowa. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed Carson overtaking Trump in the state and leading by 8 points, 28 percent to 20 percent.
"Ben doesn't go to Iowa that much," he said, explaining he was "surprised" by the number.
"I am a Presbyterian. I am a believer; I do very well with the evangelicals," he added. "They like me. I have gone to many meetings. I have a great relationship with Christianity."
Trump also called into question Carson's Christian faith and contrasted his Presbyterian beliefs with that of Seventh-day Adventists during a campaign rally last week.
"I love Iowa. And, look, I don't have to say it, I'm Presbyterian," said Trump. "Can you believe it? Nobody believes I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. Boy, that's down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about."
The two GOP candidates are no strangers to sparring over religion; last month, Carson and Trump were engaged in a back-and-forth debate over who is more genuine in their Christian faith.
Asked to name a difference between himself and Trump in September, Carson said, "The biggest thing is that I realize where my success has come from, and I don't any way deny my faith in God. And I think that probably is a big difference between us."
Carson added: "I haven't heard it, I haven't seen it. You know, one of my favorite, Proverbs 22:4, it says: 'By humility and the fear of the Lord, are riches and honor and life.' And that's a very big part of who I am. Humility, and fear of the Lord. I don't get that impression with him. Maybe I'm wrong."
In an earlier media interview, Trump wasn't able to name his favorite Bible verse.
"I wouldn't want to get into it. Because to me, that's very personal," the billionaire businessman said on Bloomberg's "With All Due Respect," when asked to share his favorite Bible verse. "The Bible means a lot to me, but I don't want to get into specifics," he said.