After Donald Trump went after Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) military service at an Iowa forum last weekend, much of the punditocracy came to a conclusion: this guy’s toast. There are some basic lines of political decency that cannot be crossed, and Trump crossed one of them with brazen enthusiasm.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Republican candidate’s inevitable collapse: the predictions proved to be wrong. NBC News’ Mark Murray reported over the weekend on Trump’s improved position in the first two nominating states.
Trump leads the Republican presidential field in New Hampshire, getting support from 21% of potential GOP primary voters. He’s followed by Jeb Bush at 14%, Scott Walker at 12% and John Kasich at 7%. Chris Christie and Ben Carson are tied at 6% in the Granite State, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are at 5% each.In Iowa, Walker and Trump are in the Top 2 – with Walker at 19% among potential Republican caucus-goers and Trump at 17%. They’re followed by Bush at 12%, Carson at 8%, Mike Huckabee at 7% and Rand Paul at 5%.
Because of the significance – or at least, the perceived significance – of the Trump/McCain controversy, note that these statewide polls were conducted from July 14 to 21, with the Iowa forum comments coming on July 18. Murray added that Trump’s standing in Iowa was actually slightly better after his criticisms of the Arizona senator, though his support faltered a bit in New Hampshire.
A new poll from CNN, meanwhile, conducted since the McCain comments, also shows Trump leading the Republican field nationally with 18% support, followed by Bush’s 15%. More than a fifth of GOP voters, at least for now, actually believe Trump will eventually win the GOP nomination. Only Jeb Bush performed better on this question.
There’s a fair amount of volatility to the Republican race, and no one can say with confidence when, or if, Trump’s shtick is going to grow tiresome for GOP voters. But looking back at those predictions from a week ago, quite a few observers probably overestimated Republican support for John McCain with the party’s base.
Last weekend, Mitt Romney tweeted that the difference between Trump and McCain is simple: “Trump shot himself down.” It was clever phrasing, but the latest survey results suggest it was also mistaken.
Thanks to persistent support from the Republicans’ far-right base, Trump is still flying high.