A new tracking poll from The Economist/YouGov shows real estate developer Donald Trump expanding his lead over his Republican rivals. Trump has a 15-point lead over his nearest rival, Scott Walker, as the first choice among GOP hopefuls.
This is the first poll conducted after Trump’s controversial remarks about Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Trump is not yet paying any political price for his inflammatory remarks about the former 2008 Republican Presidential nominee.
Perhaps more surprisingly, according to the poll, veterans and those currently serving in the military have more favorable views of Trump than John McCain. Among veterans, 53 percent have a favorable view of Trump, against just 41 percent with a favorable view of McCain. McCain’s negatives with the group are 49 percent, while Trumps are just 42 percent.
The veterans sampled in the overall poll is a small group, with a likely significant margin of error. That said, Trump’s generally good standing with veterans even after his remarks about McCain reminds us that veterans are not monolithic, one-issue voters.
According to the poll, “veterans are divided on whether Trump owes McCain an apology.”
Among the full sample of Republicans, both Trump and McCain are rated favorably by 57 percent of participants. Their unfavorable ratings are about the same at 39 percent and 36 percent respectively.
Trump’s cavalier remarks about McCain wartime record are indefensible. McCain’s remarks that Trump’s supporters concerned about illegal immigration are “crazies” are also indefensible.
Running for reelection in 2010, McCain spent millions on a TV ad where he urged Congress to “build the dang fence.” His disdain for conservatives is well-known. When Sen. Rand Paul spoke for hours in the Senate against government spying, McCain called Paul and his supporters “whacko-birds.” He similarly belittled Sen. Ted Cruz’s efforts to block funding for ObamaCare.
Sen. McCain is a war hero. He endured horrors that are unimaginable. Trump, or anyone else, has no credibility to question that experience. That experience, however, does not give McCain a license to dismiss the very real concerns of Americans about serious policy issues. It grants him no greater moral authority than anyone else on other issues.
Trump is obviously a flawed candidate and would likely be a disastrous nominee. The concerns that are fueling his strong standing with Republican, however, are very real. Establishment Republicans ignore them at their own peril.