A gaffe too far? Don­ald Trump pres­i­den­tial bid suf­fers due to mis­s­peak

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY MICHAEL MATHES

Don­ald Trump, the de­fi­ant, mer­cu­rial re­al­ity TV host lead­ing the U.S. op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Party pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion race, is fac­ing a back­lash over his crude com­ments and fears he could mount an in­de­pen­dent White House bid.

The trash-talk­ing bil­lion­aire has up­ended the Repub­li­can cam­paign, re­fus­ing to apol­o­gize for sug­gest­ing that a pop­u­lar Fox News de­bate mod­er­a­tor asked him tough ques­tions be­cause she was men­stru­at­ing.

“She should be apol­o­giz­ing to me,” Trump told MSNBC early Mon­day, af­ter ap­pear­ing on sev­eral Sun­day talk shows to de­fend his sug­ges­tion that Megyn Kelly had “blood com­ing out of her wher­ever” as she ques­tioned him dur­ing the de­bate last week for the cen­ter­right Repub­li­can Party.

Trump has shot to the top of the Repub­li­can field, in­vok­ing a re­bel­lious, im­pro­vi­sa­tional tone em­braced by sup­port­ers, and strik­ing fear into a party es­tab­lish­ment keen to see a se­ri­ous, vi­able can­di­date emerge to bat­tle likely rul­ing Demo­cratic Party nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“I think the guy went way over­board — of­fen­sive, out­ra­geous. Pick your ad­jec­tive,” Clin­ton told re­porters on the cam­paign trail in New Hamp­shire.

But “what the rest of the Repub­li­cans say­ing about women is also out­ra­geous,” she went on, seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity to at­tack other Repub­li­cans, whom she has ac­cused of wag­ing a war on women.

Fel­low Repub­li­cans Take Aim

Trump in­sisted Washington has been con­sumed by po­lit­i­cal correctness, and that he brings a dose of straight talk to the White House race. But is that enough to win over Amer­ica?

“There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween avoid­ing po­lit­i­cal correctness and be­ing a moron,” Brian McClung, a Repub­li­can strate­gist who con­sulted for Tim Paw­lenty’s 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, told AFP.

Repub­li­can can­di­dates and lead­ers, McClung stressed, “have to stand up and speak out against Trump’s brand of stu­pid­ity.”

But in the first ma­jor poll re­leased since the frac­tious de­bate fea­tur­ing Trump and nine ri­vals, and an event with seven sec­ond-tier hope­fuls, the cam­paign’s most con­tro­ver­sial can­di­date re­mained on top.

Trump earned 19 per­cent sup­port, com­pared with 12 per­cent for neu­rol­o­gist Ben Car­son and Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker, and 11 per­cent for Jeb Bush, ac­cord­ing to Public Pol­icy Polling’s sur­vey of Repub­li­can vot­ers in Iowa re­leased Mon­day.

Ex­perts say The Don­ald — as New York media call him — is now en­ter­ing a more dif­fi­cult cam­paign pe­riod, one marked by in­creas­ing skep­ti­cism about his po­lit­i­cal in­ten­tions, deeper scru­tiny of his past, and con­cern about Trump’s back-up plans.

“RedS­tate Gath­er­ing,” a high-pro­file seminar of con­ser­va­tives, dis­in­vited Trump to its week­end con­fer­ence, where Jeb Bush laid into the fron­trun­ner.

“Do we want to in­sult 53 per­cent of all vot­ers?” Bush asked at the At­lanta event.

“What Don­ald Trump said was wrong. That is not how we win elec­tions.”

Trump sig­naled cam­paign changes are afoot, in­clud­ing the de­par­ture of long-time strate­gist Roger Stone, who re­port­edly urged Trump to lay out a po­lit­i­cal agenda rather than fo­cus on snip­ing.

In an in­ter­view with The Washington Post, Trump said he “fired” Stone, while Stone said he quit be­cause of the di­rec­tion of the cam­paign.

“I’m go­ing to come out with more po­si­tions,” Trump added, promis­ing more pol­icy heft.

‘Longer slog ahead’

His Repub­li­can ri­vals are not hold­ing back. Carly Fio­r­ina, the for­mer Hewlett-Packard boss who per­formed well in the first de­bate and cat­a­pulted from the back of the pack to fifth place with 10-per­cent sup­port in the PPP poll, blasted Trump’s “com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate and of­fen­sive com­ments” about Kelly.

Sen. Rand Paul warned Tea Party con­ser­va­tives Mon­day against sup­port­ing Trump, declar­ing he sim­ply “isn’t suited to lead the coun­try.”

Paul cited the real es­tate mogul’s pre­vi­ous sup­port for fig­ures of the cen­ter-left Demo­cratic Party, in­clud­ing the Clin­tons, and for lib­eral causes like abor­tion rights and uni­ver­sal health care.

“Are con­ser­va­tives re­ally will­ing to gam­ble about what Don­ald Trump re­ally be­lieves in?” Paul wrote in the In­de­pen­dent Jour­nal Re­view.

De­spite the blow­back, McClung an­tic­i­pated “a longer slog ahead” and that a Trump cam­paign could last un­til early 2016 and Iowa, which holds the first pri­mary vote.

“That’s when the Trump can­di­dacy ends,” he pre­dicted.

Brad Marston, another Repub­li­can strate­gist, said Trump does not au­to­mat­i­cally spell dis­as­ter for the party, but he doubts the bil­lion­aire will trans­late his early lead into a se­ri­ous can­di­dacy.

“He would have to come out with wellthought-out, re­al­is­tic pol­icy pre­scrip­tions to back up his bom­bast, and I don’t think he’s in­clined to do that,” he said.

And Trump’s post-de­bate state­ments “dis­qual­ify him for se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion as our nom­i­nee,” Marston added, es­pe­cially given how Mitt Rom­ney lost the women’s vote by 12 points to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in 2012.

Even if Repub­li­cans jet­ti­son Trump, he could still throw a wrench in the spokes by run­ning as an in­de­pen­dent, some­thing he de­clined to rule out dur­ing the de­bate.

“That could be very scary” for Repub­li­cans, Duke Univer­sity as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Mac McCorkle told AFP.

“Even if he wears out and he’s not much of a third party threat, he may well dic­tate the way the cam­paign nar­ra­tives run, and that could be very ben­e­fi­cial to Hil­lary Clin­ton,” he added.

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