A Backlash Costs Trump, and Possibly Republicans

NYT FDAlan Rappeport 7/2/2015

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Good Thursday morning from Washington. As we head into the holiday, the campaign trail is crowded in Iowa, and Hillary Rodham Clinton released a large fund-raising figure as her emails while secretary of state continue to be parsed. And with news of another business partner deserting Donald J. Trump, he has put Republicans in a delicate spot, even as he finds some success in the polls.

Mr. Trump has gone from sideshow to serious problem for Republicans as his comments that Mexican immigrants are “rapists” and “killers” risk staining the party.

Republicans have struggled with the question of immigration overhaul for years, trying to balance a hard-line stance with the need to appeal to Hispanics. Now they have to say whether they agree with Mr. Trump’s views.

Democrats relish the situation. Mrs. Clinton called Mr. Trump’s remarks “emblematic” and suggested that they were inappropriate talk-radio fodder.

American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic “super PAC,” tried to tar the rest of the party with his views.

“Donald Trump is suddenly a force to be reckoned with in the G.O.P. primary, proving their rebrand is going splendidly,” said Jessica Mackler, president of American Bridge. “He’s a great example of everything Republicans stand for.”

For Mr. Trump, who has for years used the prospect of running for president to generate publicity, the attention may be a mixed blessing.

Mr. Trump is performing surprisingly well in recent national polls and in New Hampshire and Iowa, the crucial primary season states. However, businesses like Univision, NBC Universal and Macy’s have cut ties with him, dealing a financial blow to the billionaire who boasted that running for president would be cheap.

“The potential is Trump benefits from this politically because it keeps him in the spotlight,” said Dan Hill, a crisis communications specialist. “In terms of his brand and his business, obviously it’s devastating.”

Since Mr. Trump’s brand is built on outrageousness, refusing to soften his tone will most likely lift his standing with some Republicans, keep him afloat in polls and help him reach the debate stage. But if he continues to offend companies and their customers, a long campaign could be more costly than he expected.