Backlash Against Trump Is Far From Unanimous

NYT FDMaggie Haberman 7/20/2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 8.19.53 AM

Good Monday morning from Washington, where a new embassy is opening and where President Obama and his team continue to try to make their case on the Iran nuclear deal. On the trail, however, Donald J. Trump continues to gather the acclaim of his supporters and the condemnation of just about everyone else.

The Republican Party will begin another week facing questions about Mr. Trump, the bellicose real estate developer who on Saturday questioned the heroics of Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war.

The condemnation from most Republicans was swift — but it remains to be seen whether the party’s base will share their perspective.

Mr. Trump sought to clarify his comments, made at a Republican conference in Iowa, almost immediately after making them, but he said on Sunday that he would not apologize for saying that Mr. McCain is a war hero because he was captured; I like people who weren’t captured.

Top contenders, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, said Mr. Trump had discredited himself as a prospective commander in chief. The Republican national chairman Reince Priebus denounced the remarks, and the party’s professed revulsion was broad. But it was not unanimous: Both Mike Huckabee and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas declined to directly criticize Mr. Trump’s comments, and on Twitter, an imprecise metric, several self-described conservative users cheered Mr. Trump on.

Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, is a deeply respected figure in the establishment, but the conservative base has always viewed him with skepticism, in part over his support for comprehensive immigration overhaul. That Mr. Obama beat Mr. McCain that year has not helped his standing with the far right.

Frank Luntz, the pollster who asked Mr. Trump about Mr. McCain’s military service, predicted protests from veterans’ groups this week. Such a movement could force down Mr. Trump’s polling numbers.

Still, Mr. Trump, who is a celebrity candidate, is “touching a powerful chord” in an electorate that doesn’t trust its elected officials, Mr. Luntz said. That makes predictions about what happens after this weekend difficult to gauge.