Condemnation of Trump Plan Can’t Bridge Divide Among Republicans

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.54.42 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

 

 

Good Wednesday morning. The day after Donald J. Trump said he would prohibit all Muslims from entering the United States, the response continued to be mostly negative. But the soft and in some cases nonexistent criticism from some of his Republican rivals showed how delicately they continue to treat the front-runner and the voters keeping his poll numbers so high.

Condemnations of Mr. Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants reverberated across the political spectrum and the globe on Tuesday. Mr. Trump drew fire from the leaders of both parties in Washington and from his Democratic opponents.

But the plan has also laid bare the chasm between Republicans in Washington and many of the voters their party represents. Mr. Trump’s supporters stood with him, as did influential conservative radio figures. The Republican presidential candidates who criticized him in the strongest terms are polling mostly in the single digits.

Others, such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has been steadily rising in polls nationally and in Iowa, rejected the specific proposal but commended Mr. Trump for making illegal immigration a central tenet of his candidacy.
Republicans are not the only ones who appear to be struggling with how to respond to Mr. Trump. The White House press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed Mr. Trump’s proposed Muslim ban as disqualifying, yet he also mocked the real-estate developer’s hair. Hillary Clinton, who has alternated between laughing at the mention of Mr. Trump’s name and criticizing his comments, grew more somber late on Tuesday, with a lengthy post on her website appealing to Muslims.
While Republican operatives express frustration about Mr. Trump’s durability in the polls, many acknowledge privately that he, more than their own preferred candidates, seems to be in tune with the sense of insecurity — both physical and financial — that voters are feeling in this era of income inequality and the Islamic State. Such economic fears among working-class white voters, a number of whom see Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as their champion, also exist among Democrats.
In the early primary states, the sentiment has been somewhat mixed. Among the most notable reactions was one from Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina, a Republican daughter of Indian immigrants and a conservative favorite. Ms. Haley called Mr. Trump “an embarrassment” to the party.

It remains to be seen whether that sentiment will be expressed more broadly. In the meantime, the one unifying effect of Mr. Trump’s proposal has been to finally end predictions that whatever new controversy he has generated will be his immediate undoing.