Could this be the bridge too far..?
At the the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, an unguarded comment – as far as any of his comments are actually ever guarded – may likely prove to be the beginning of the end of the meteoric rise of Republican “front-runner” Donald Trump.
In an on-stage conversation with pollster Frank Luntz, Trump was asked about his recent Twitter spat with Arizona Sen John McCain. Referring to McCain’s status as a “war hero” Trump said, in an almost throwaway, we’re-among-friends quip:
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
The audience reaction seemed to be an embarrassed half-laugh, not because it was funny, but probably because they couldn’t believe he’d actually said it. As the words sank in, there seemed to be some scattered boos. At the end of his session, about 15 minutes after the McCain exchange, there was more of the polite, even enthusiastic applause that had marked his answers to subsequent questions.
In one of them, Trump said he “didn’t think” he had ever asked God for forgiveness.
(YouTube/Voice of America)
The RNC and – significantly – virtually all his primary opponents immediately seized on the remark and issued condemnations.
Even the defeated GOP candidate last time round weighed in..
Meanwhile, Trump’s own war record or lack thereof soon became a thing.
Nate Cohn writes at the New York Times that this could represent the campaign’s turning point, saying the exchange “will probably mark the moment when Trump’s candidacy went from boom to bust.”
His support will erode as the tone of coverage shifts from publicizing his anti-establishment and anti-immigration views, which have some resonance in the party, to reflecting the chorus of Republican criticism of his most outrageous comments and the more liberal elements of his record.
Prophetically – or perhaps predictably – Michael Cohen wrote in this morning’s Boston Globe that the GOP’s problem “isn’t Trump, it’s the voters.”
The crash-and-burn phase of his embryonic campaign has not yet arrived — but it will.
Yet, more than any of the 17 people seeking to be the next GOP standard bearer, his run already tells us everything we need to know about why the Republican Party is in such desperate trouble.
And of course, the candidate’s timing was impeccable.
As if anything anyone else said at Ames on Saturday will now be of even remote interest, you can watch the full raft of candidate speeches from the conference on C-Span here
More to come, I feel sure.