When Donald Trump insulted John McCain and questioned his status as a “war hero,” some analysts dubbed it the turning point of the Trump campaign.
But some of his most ardent supporters have proven why, more than a month later, Trump continues to surge in polls.
“I don’t think he was necessarily trying to insult him,” one voter who described herself as being a Trump supporter said Monday night, as part of a
focus group conducted by pollster Frank Luntz.
Luntz presided over the focus group Monday night in Virginia, which featured 29 people who either support Trump or have at some point during the campaign expressed support for him. Business Insider attended the focus group.
Their unfettered support has fuelled Trump’s rise in Republican primary polls and kept him in the top spot for months. No controversy appears to faze them out of the many Trump has endured — from controversial comments over immigration, to the McCain comments, to a bitter, lingering feud with Fox News and host Megyn Kelly.
The focus group should not be considered representative of the Republican Party as a whole, or of the electorate in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. But their unwavering support indicates that there may be nothing that can take down Trump.
“This is a different cat. This is a different phenomenon,” Luntz told reporters after conducting the focus group.
“This is real. I’m having trouble processing it. Like, my legs are shaking,” he added. “I want to put the Republican leadership behind this mirror and let them see. They need to wake up. They don’t realise how the grassroots have abandoned them. Donald Trump is punishment to a Republican elite that wasn’t listening to their grassroots.”
No controversy appeared to dim their level of support for Trump.
On his feud with television personality Rosie O’Donnell, one panelist said she “attacked him first.” A majority of respondents reacted negatively to his comments on McCain, but Luntz said Tuesday night that Trump was the only candidate this cycle to score a perfect 100 from respondents when they viewed his comments on veterans.
Even his history of more liberal positions on certain issues didn’t appear to faze voters. One panelist asked the others in the room “how many” of them had not changed their positions on anything over the past 15 years.
The group was “prepped to dismiss every negative,” Luntz said. “His base cannot be broken.”
It certainly won’t be broken by controversies that resonate in the press. Panelists appeared particularly disdainful of most mainstream media outlets, claiming that “the media” is collectively seeking to discredit Trump.
Almost everyone in the room agreed when Luntz asked if the media was “more about inciting than informing,” and all but one panel member agreed or did not respond when asked about whether they are inclined to automaticlly support Trump when he is attacked by media outlets.
“The media and the establishment are deathly afraid of Trump,” a panel member said.
“That’s why I particularly love him. Because the media has become de facto the power behind the throne in this country.”
“Every time the media thinks its got a ‘gotcha,’ he turns it around on them,” another panelist said.
And at the end of the session, when reporters from The Washington Post and The Associated Press came into the room to ask questions, several outspoken panel members made snide comments.
“They need to start reporting again,” a panelist said after Washington Post reporter Robert Costa left the room.
And when an Associated Press reporter introduced herself: “That’s too bad.”
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