Real-estate magnate Donald Trump is on a roll. And three-plus weeks into his presidential campaign, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Not even a phone call from the leader of the national Republican Party — reportedly asking the presidential candidate to “tone it down” when it comes to his crusade against illegal immigration — has had much of an effect.
Trump’s campaign announced Friday that he would meet with “families with victims of illegal immigrants” to discuss their tragedies. The next day, he headed to Arizona, where his campaign said an “overwhelming response” led to the venue being changed “to accommodate the thousands of people expected to attend.”
The Trump campaign is a phenomenon rarely seen in presidential politics, boosted by his celebrity status, scorched-earth approach to his party rivals, and unfiltered self-promotion. Cable news channels have dedicated a seemingly endless amount of segments to Trump’s comments. News websites have relentlessly covered every Trump tweet, outburst, and interview. Almost every single presidential candidate — Republican and Democrat — has either been willing or forced to respond to his statements.
And all this appears to be working for Trump so far: The real-estate developer surged into first place in at least two polls this week.
In a Economist/YouGov poll released Thursday, Trump holds 15% of the Republican vote nationally — ahead of former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida (11%). But the good news for Trump didn’t stop there.
“Trump looks even better as a candidate this week when Republicans are asked for their second choice,” YouGov’s Kathy Frankovic wrote along with the results. “When they are, Trump extends his lead. One in four Republicans who are registered to vote say he is their first or second choice.”
A new Public Policy Polling survey of North Carolina published Wednesday also placed Trump ahead of the GOP pack among GOP voters in the Tar Heel state. In that poll, Trump led Bush 16% to 12%.
“Trump’s favorability rating in North Carolina is 55/32, much higher than we were finding in national polls prior to his entry into the race,” PPP director Tom Jensen said. “Trump’s really caught fire with voters on the far right.”
Trump’s position atop the polls, however, may be a bit of an illusion. Two polling experts previously told Business Insider that his support could simply be a byproduct of his high name recognition: Trump is a national figure thanks in part to his luxury brands and his reality-television show, “The Apprentice.”
“This year, with close to 20 candidates expected to enter the race, the threshold for looking like a top-tier contender is quite low — even 10% of GOP primary voters is enough,” Princeton University polling expert Sam Wang said earlier this month. “We don’t know whether his ceiling is greater than 50% of GOP voters … or more like 25% of GOP voters.”
On the other hand, perhaps Trump’s ceiling could rise: The never-ending media attention might soften his image as a grandstander with the Republican base, which is strongly opposed to illegal immigration and attempts to reform the nation’s immigration system that include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Several right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Breitbart have given him particularly favourable coverage, and they have outsize influence on the GOP primary electorate.
Regardless, it’s clear that for now, the 2016 presidential race is all about Trump.
The media firestorm started last week after a backlash bubbled up against controversial comments he made while raging about illegal immigration during his June 16 campaign kickoff speech. Many people, including rival GOP candidates, labelled his remarks derogatory toward immigrants. Trump’s supporters say he was simply telling the truth about criminals crossing the US border.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said in his speech. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
A growing number of businesses and individuals since cut ties with Trump, including: major TV networks refusing to carry his upcoming Miss USA pageant; Macy’s announcing it would no longer sell its Trump products; the PGA of America relocating a tournament away from one of his golf courses; and much more. Even a mattress company said it would stop selling its Trump products.
For his part, Trump appears to love all the attention and has agreed to interview after interview to further blast undocumented immigrants — even with reporters who he likely knew would challenge him. One particularly combative interview came Wednesday, when he sat down with NBC News, whose parent company he fiercely berated over the Miss USA spat.
After NBC’s Katy Tur questioned Trump’s argument linking violent crime to illegal immigration, he told her she should be better informed.
“Don’t be naive. You’re a very naive person,” he said.
When Tur stumbled while referencing some statistics to bolster her point, Trump mocked her inability to get the question out.
“Try getting it out. Try getting it out. I mean, I don’t know if you’re going to put this on television. But you don’t even know what you’re talking about. Try getting it out, go ahead,” he said.
Watch below, video via The Daily Beast:
As far as the rest of the candidates are concerned, Trump is a mixed bag. Some of the Republicans — notably former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) — have tried to use the Trump controversy to elevate their own standing in the race. On the flip side, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) strongly defended Trump.
And at least one candidate is tired of all the Trump talk.
“I’ve already stated my views about Donald Trump,” Bush said Wednesday when asked about the real-estate developer. “I’m done. I’m through.”
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