On Tuesday, Donald Trump made a proclamation that most presidential front-runners usually don’t have to directly spell out.
He was asked by CNN anchor Don Lemon if his inflammatory statements about Muslims and Mexicans whether reflected racial or religious biases.
Trump scoffed at the question.
“I am the least racist person that you have ever met,” Trump said. “I am the least racist person.”
Another week dominated by a Trump controversy.
He was in the midst of a furious defence of an unprecedented proposal on Monday — to temporarily ban most Muslims from travelling to the US. But while he has played defence from some in his party and from most of the mainstream press, most of those who have contributed to his groundbreaking surge have signalled they won’t change their minds about him. They even largely favour his plan.
Another seemingly bulletproof moment for Trump shows that Republicans find themselves in this election.
“His numbers apparently have gone up since his call to ban Muslims from entering the US despite universal condemnation from Republicans — even from hawks like Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol. The party is in full panic mode,” said Greg Valliere, the chief global strategist at Horizon Investments.
Despite receiving virtual universal condemnation from politicians on both sides of the political spectrum for proposing the temporary ban — including the former vice president Cheney and the influential writer Kristol — the incident appears to be only the latest of Trump’s controversial statements to actually benefit his standing among Republican voters.
Several recent polls taken during the week appear to show Trump’s support unmoved — and possibly even growing — following the release of his ideologically charged plan.
A Bloomberg Politics survey released on Wednesday showed that 65% of likely Republican primary voters supported the plan.
A WBUR poll released this week, taken partially after Trump’s proposal, showed him star leading the state with 27% support among likely Republican primary voters. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who vaulted into second place, garnered 12% support, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) took third with 11% support.
And in a New York Times/CBS poll taken mostly before the real-estate mogul’s comments, Trump garnered 35% support among Republican voters across the country.
It was significant uptick from Trump’s previous showing in a Times/CBS survey taken earlier this year, and The Times noted that it was his “strongest position yet” in the survey. The poll found Cruz with the second highest support with 16% support, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 13% support.
Trump’s resilience in the polls and ability to leverage inflammatory and often false statements to build his strength among disenchanted Republican primary voters appears to have spooked Republican Party officials, who are beginning to consider the possibility that the real-estate mogul could carry several states.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday on a dinner meeting of several high-profile Republican leadership figures earlier this week. Several of the attendees acknowledged that the party needs to prepare for the possibility of a brokered convention in which no candidate secures enough delegates to clinch the nomination, according to the report, a situation that has not occurred since 1976.
In this case, the candidates and their surrogates would be forced to lobby delegates at the Republican National Convention next summer in Cleveland, Ohio, until a candidate has enough delegates to nail down the nomination. The Post reported that a floor fight to prevent Trump from the nomination could ensue.
Trump’s Republican rivals seem bewildered to still be lingering in his shadow. At a town-hall event in New Hampshire on Thursday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) joked that he “almost promised not to use [Trump’s] name today.” But he took several explicit shots at the Republican front-runner throughout the event.
Asked about his immigration platform, he scoffed at Trump’s proposal to deport the approximately 11 million people living in the US without permission.
“That’s not a serious proposal. He’s not a serious man,” Bush said.
“Pass that along, by the way. Because that will get him upset,” he added.
Indeed, many establishment figures in the Republican Party are still holding on to hope that Trump’s support in the polls is a figment of a media-created “horse race.” They believe he will wither under heightened scrutiny when Americans get closer to entering the voting booth.
Former Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who is supporting Bush, says the press has fixated far too much on the proverbial horse race and is missing what Ridge calls the “disciples” in the early states that Bush has won over.
“The race is immaterial. They’re starting to figure out — who do I want to be president, and who do I want to see in the Oval Office? Who do I want to be Commander in Chief?” Ridge said. “So that’s why I think he’s gaining momentum. I don’t care what the polls say. I’ve never been a big believer in national polls.”
Asked by Business Insider where he sees Bush’s momentum if he does not believe in polls, Ridge was fairly vague.
“Out and about,” Ridge said. “The people I talk to.”
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