It Won’t Be Easy For Republicans To Get Rid Of Donald Trump

Despite his remarks about John McCain, Donald Trump is likely to be around for some time to come.

Trump Announcement

Since Saturday, the political news media has been almost completely fixated on Donald Trump, and specifically the remarks he made a gathering in Iowa where he downplayed John McCain’s military service and the five-and -a-half years he spent as a prisoner in North Vietnam. With the notable exception of Ted Cruz, Trump’s remarks have been universally condemned by his fellow Republican candidates as well as others such as the Republican National Committee, and even Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of State John Kerry. More recently, The Des Moines Register has published an extraordinarily caustic editorial calling on Trump to end his “bloviating side show’ and the New Hampshire Union-Leader has published a highly sarcastic editorial poking fun at the playboy lifestyle Trump led while McCain was being held prisoner. Despite all of that, though, there seems to be little sign that Trump is going away any time soon, and two recent polls that suggest that he may not have been harmed by the McCain’s as much as many had hoped.

First up, a new Monmouth poll out of Iowa shows Trump in second place behind Scott Walker and the only candidate other than Walker in double digits:

A poll shows that before Donald Trump told Iowans that Arizona Sen. John McCain isn’t a war hero, the New Yorker was in second place with likely GOP caucusgoers here.

A Monmouth University poll taken July 16-19 put Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker strongly in the lead with the support of 22%. Trump fared the next best, trailing Walker by 9 points, according to a news release Monday.

On Saturday, the third day of the Monmouth poll, Trump told a mass gathering of religious conservatives that just because McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam it doesn’t make him a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump, a real estate mogul turned reality TV star, said during his time on stage during the Family Leadership Summit in Ames. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.”

Those comments triggered a firestorm, including criticism from some Iowa Republicans. Trump later sent out news releases defending himself as a staunch backer of veterans, but continued to rake McCain for failing to prevent illegal immigration and the “tremendous amounts of crime” it has caused, and for failing to improve “the horrible treatment that our veterans are receiving.”

On Sunday, the fourth day of polling, Monmouth “did not find any significant change in support for Trump,” the university’s news release says.

A second poll released late yesterday from The Washington Post and ABC News, meanwhile, put Trump in the lead nationally but suggested that there may have been a drop off in support after his remarks about McCain:

Businessman Donald Trump surged into the lead for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, with almost twice the support of his closest rival, just as he ignited a new controversy after making disparaging remarks about Sen. John McCain’s Vietnam War service, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Support for Trump fell sharply on the one night that voters were surveyed following those comments. Telephone interviewing for the poll began Thursday, and most calls were completed before the news about the remarks was widely reported.

Although the sample size for the final day was small, the decline was statistically significant. Still, it is difficult to predict what could happen to Trump’s support in the coming days and weeks as the controversy plays out.

Even with the drop in support on the final night of the survey, Trump was the favorite of 24 percent of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. That is the highest percentage and biggest lead recorded by any GOP candidate this year in Post-ABC News polls and marks a sixfold increase in his support since late May, shortly before he formally joined the race.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who announced his candidacy a week ago, is in second place, at 13 percent, followed by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, at 12 percent. Walker’s support is strongest among those who describe themselves as “very conservative.”

The next seven, ranging in support from 8 percent to 3 percent, are: former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), former Texas governor Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The rankings are more important than early national surveys in previous campaigns because only the top 10 candidates, based on an average of the most recent national polls, will qualify for the first Republican debates. The first debate will be held Aug. 6 in Cleveland. Fox News Channel is the sponsor of that event and established the rules for eligibility.

The bottom six candidates in the Post-ABC News survey are Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who plans to announce his candidacy Tuesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York governor George Pataki, former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). Their support ranges from 2 percent to less than 1 percent.

The fact that the Post/ABC poll showed what pollsters described as a “significant” drop in Trump’s support on the final of the poll when news about his McCain remarks had become widespread public knowledge, likely gives Republicans who have been watching Trump’s rise with consternation some hope that, perhaps, The Donald has finally stuck his foot in his mouth far enough to end his surge among Republican voters. As I said when I wrote about this on Saturday, the fact that support for the military is so strong among Republicans was good reason to believe that what Trump said would end up hurting him with even the populist voters that seem to be rallying to his side. When you look at the details, though, and examine the reasons why Trump has become so popular, it’s unclear whether that optimism is well-placed.

First of all, the Monmouth poll should stand as a counter-example to what the Post/ABC shows.  In that poll, Trump’s numbers did not decline at all even on the days after his remarks about McCain were reported. Given that, it’s entirely unclear if what the Post/ABC pollsters experienced on Sunday was the beginning of trend or a statistical blip. Secondly, it should be noted that the polling of Republican voters that was done on Sunday constituted just 8% of the entire sample of prospective Republican voters in the poll. Given that, it’s hard to say that the results from that one day are indicative of much of anything other than the statistical and demographic peculiarities of that particular days polling. Additionally, it’s difficult tos ay exactly why Trump’s numbers were lower on Sunday than on any of the previous three days of polling. There could have been any of  a number of demographic reasons for that, and when you’re dealing with such a small sample to begin with, it’s not entirely proper to draw conclusions based on just one day of polling. Over the course of the entire poll, Trump’s numbers are very strong, and if it weren’t for the statistical blip of the final day he would have ended up somewhere closer to 30% in the final polling. That’s a very strong number, and it’s somewhat wishful thinking for people to assume that one flip remark about John McCain is going to be the end of the Trump Bubble.

The second reason that Republicans hoping for a quick end to the Trump circus should temper their optimism is because it seems as though they are seriously misunderstanding the reasons for his popularity right now. As I said last week, one of the reasons that Trump is doing well in the polls right now is because he is saying things that a lot of Republicans like to hear. This isn’t just true of immigration, although that’s certainly the largest part it, but a number issues along with the fact that Trump seems to be tapping into the same kind of navitist populism that the Tea Party, along with candidates such as Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich have in the past. Additionally, the fact that he is such a frequent media target is something that plays into a long-standing meme of media bias that has a long history on the right. Just yesterday, Rush Limbaugh jumped to Trump’s defense just for that reason, and Sarah Palin said that Trump is as much of a hero as John McCain. Because of this, and for other reasons that Conor Friedersdorf mentions in his piece at The Atlantic, the idea that Trump is just going to fade away quickly is probably just a fantasy.

Josh Marshall pointed out yesterday exactly why it will be hard for Republicans to get right of Trump as easily as they might hope:


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. KM says:

    Question: what does it really take to stay in the race? As long as you’ve declared yourself and finished all the legal legwork, is there anything you are legally obligated to do?

    He doesn’t have to do campaign stops. He doesn’t have to do debates. Hell, he doesn’t even have to do press releases or spend any money he doesn’t want to. He’s in the game until the election unless he officially bows out. He can just sit on his butt, piss people off, agitate and steal the spotlight to the very end. Remember, he doesn’t have to WIN in order to “win” in his own mind, he just needs the attention.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Trump is talking about whether John McCain is a war hero or just a shitty pilot, and driving Latinos further from the Republican party…while Clinton is talking about serious tax reforms.
    Guess which one OTB is covering?

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Trump doesn’t just say the things Republicans like to hear, he says them in the way they prefer: loud, blustery, angry, confrontational and well-attuned to the comprehension of deeply stupid minds.

    I’ve said many times that emotion, not policy, drives grass roots politics. Incoherent rage is the emotional state characteristic of Republicans, and Trump is incoherent, enraged, and wonderfully free of self-restraint.

    It’s a great article of faith on the right that there are “things that need to be said.” Generally racist, nativist and homophobic things. And this year we’re going to get a whole bunch of Republicans saying those things. When/if Trump falls we still have Carson, Cruz, Jindal, Santorum, Huckabee and probably some others I’ve forgotten, all ready, willing and indeed eager to raise high the banner of intolerance, stupidity, aggression and self-pity.

  4. Pete S says:

    Are we really sure that Republicans want to get rid of him? The party has spent the last few years pretty carefully cultivating voters who are supporting him. At most the party leaders never foresaw a Democratic supporter coming forward to take advantage of the prep work they had been doing…

  5. An Interested Party says:

    Of course he isn’t going anywhere…as the saying goes, in today’s GOP, Trump isn’t a bug, but rather, he’s a feature…

  6. Mu says:

    I can’t wait for Trump starting to pick apart the Bush years when Jeb gets into his crosshairs. Probably worse than anything Hillary might dish up.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    well-attuned to the comprehension of deeply stupid minds


  8. PogueMahone says:

    As I said when I wrote about this on Saturday, the fact that support for the military is so strong among Republicans was good reason to believe that what Trump said would end up hurting him with even the populist voters that seem to be rallying to his side.

    Except that “support for the military” is a misnomer.
    Most Republicans merely see the military as a tool – a means to an end. Something to be used and discarded when no longer needed or useful.
    Otherwise we would see more Republican policies/discussion about helping veterans when they come back – not just lip service.

    Oh sure, they’ll talk up military romanticism and pin a medal here and there, but when the rubber meets the road most Republicans couldn’t give a furry crack of a rat’s behind.

    Anyone with half an ounce of respect or support for the military would want nothing more to do with Trump and his disgusting comments about McCain.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    As I said last week, one of the reasons that Trump is doing well in the polls right now is because he is saying things that a lot of Republicans like to hear.

    Hot Take!

    This is probably one of three bullets in a PowerPoint presentation that Jeb Bush’s campaign paid 50K for in order to explain the so-called Trump Phenomenon.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    much to the chagrin of pretty much every sane Republican out there.

    Name three.

    More seriously, it takes at least a few weeks for things to work their way into the hive mind and show up in the polls. Way too soon to make a judgement. When Trump does fade, it will be hard to tell if it’s his McCain comments or just the fading of the flavor of the month, like last cycle.

    My own guess is this won’t be his last gaffe. He’s just pretending to be a base Republican. I don’t think he knows them well enough to consistently sound authentic.

  11. stonetools says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Yeah, Doug seems really mad that the party he would prefer to vote for is “ruining itself” by following after Trump instead of turning to the libertarian gospel.
    He is inclined to ignore the party where serious policy discussion is actually happening. But then, maybe we should be thankful Doug don’t do another “Clinton scandal” post, which is his typical post on the Democratic campaign.

  12. James P says:


    He is giving voice to what we think and we admire and respect him for that. He is saying things that need to be said.

    The more the Republican party tries to get rid of Trump the more popular he will become among grass roots conservatives — the people who attend caucuses on a snowy sub-zero evening in Iowa.

    The fact that the Republican party hates Trump is one of his major selling points. Trump loves it when the media and the RINOs rip him. Every time they condemn him he rises another two points in the polls.

    Support for Trump is basically our way of giving the finger to Reince Priebus, Benedict Boehner, and Mitch McConnell. If Trump wins we take over the party from the hacks – the people who foisted Thad Cockroach, er I mean Cochran, on us.

    At this point I think it is more likely than not that Trump wins the nomination. He doesn’t have to suck up to K Street and donors.

    When he says he is going to deport the illegals and bomb Iran he comes across as believable.

    I like Scott Walker but when he says he will attack Iran, do I really believe him? I don’t know – he’s a politician.

    Trump says he will bomb Iran on DAY ONE. Trump says he will build a wall. Trump says he will deport the illegals. I would imagine a Trump Justice Department will prosecute and harass B Hussein Obama. Sic the IRS on private citizen Obama – see how he likes it. How will he enjoy fighting the full might of the federal government.

    Trump speaks for the every day conservative.

    I wish he hadn’t attacked McCain’s war record. I would have rather he attacked someone phony like Kerry or Bergdahl.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    Even worse, it looks like it might be an entire Trump/media/base reinforcement cycle going on….

    Trump is the political equivalent of an internet troll. He’ll say whatever he has to in order to get attention. And the Republican base is STUPID enough to think that this “F-ck Yeah!” attitude is going to the best way to run the country? Heck, they’re not even thinking that far ahead…as long as it pisses off the Bigwigs, they’re happy with it.

    Then, of course, when you have Jeb! and Walker arguing whether they’re going to bomb Iraq the day of inauguration or the day after, you wonder exactly who are the “serious” candidates on the Republican side…

  14. grumpy realist says:

    …and here on cue comes our local internet troll to reinforce 100% my above comments.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @James P:
    Hey…it’s the guy that has to lie about his credentials in order to aggrandize himself.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @C. Clavin: Of course he does. Just like Teh Donald claims he is worth UMPTY BILLION DOLLARS.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @James P:

    Benedict Boehner

    It’s gotta be Reynolds again.

  18. James P says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Then, of course, when you have Jeb! and Walker arguing whether they’re going to bomb Iraq the day of inauguration

    Yeah, they claim they will bomb Iran on day one, but Trump will actually do it.

  19. James P says:

    @C. Clavin: I didn’t aggrandize anything Cliffy. I STATED my credentials – no need to aggrandize. Sorry if you can’t handle the truth. Go back to the bar with Norm.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @James P: You lied your freakin’ head off. And we all know it. Can’t give us the Title of his supposed doctoral thesis. Can’t explain what he did his research on, Can’t explain the argument of his thesis. Has been caught in contradictions over and over again. No evidence whatsoever that said Ph.D. is nothing more than a figment of your Walter Mitty imagination.

    Gonna come back and claim that you have a doctorate in Physics? I’ve got the scalpels ready.

  21. James P says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Gonna come back and claim that you have a doctorate in Physics?

    I do not have a doctorate in physics and never claimed that I did.

    I have a PhD in economics – specifically monetary policy.

    There is evidence of it – it’s hanging on my wall.

    The “proof” is a fictitious email someone received. That’s not proof. Proof is what’s hanging on my wall.

    My family thinks I have a PhD. My friends think I have a PhD. My employer thinks I have a PhD. The London School of Economics thinks I have a PhD.

    The fact that you are jealous of me is not “proof” to the contrary.

    The only people who have ever questioned it are a group of liberal muppets on a site for left-wing loons who can’t stomach the fact that a conservative is more educated than they are.

    One of your ranks could get a fictitious email saying the moon is made of green cheese – that doesn’t make it true.

    I care more about my employer believing my academic bona fides than a group of liberal muppets.

    My work colleagues (including my boss) are looking at this right now and enjoying a laugh! 🙂

  22. stonetools says:

    Probably hopeless , but DNFTT.

  23. Buffalo Rude says:

    @James P:

    Trump speaks for the every day conservative.

    And he makes it bloody obvious that they are in need of a serious mental health intervention.

    But don’t stop believing, Jimmy. Even after reality rears its ugly head and hands “every day conservatives” another national blowout loss at the ballot box.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @James P: If it really exists, then post a friggin’ picture of it, mmkay?

    But we know you won’t. Because you can’t.

    And you still haven’t given up even the tiniest explanation of what your supposed research was about. I did. I gave explanations of BOTH of my physics Ph.D. work AND my University of London degree.

    If you really were as courageous as you claim you are, you’d do the same.

    Come on, dude–it’s open kimono time. Put up or shut up.

  25. James P says:

    @grumpy realist:

    But we know you won’t. Because you can’t.

    I did.

    I did give detailed explanations of my thesis. I did “put up”.

    The fact that you are jealous is not my problem – it’s yours.

    You can’t counter my arguments so you attack me. I get it.

    I don’t really want to talk about myself — I want to talk about how and why Trump is going to kick the rear ends of the establishments of both parties as well as the media.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin: Say…. I’ve got an idea: Why don’t you start a blog of your own and then you can talk about only the things you think are important.

  27. Davebo says:

    @Pete S:

    This. The assumption that the GOP (whatever that really is) has a problem with The Donald has almost no supporting evidence.

  28. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Considering that two Democratic Party candidates for president were booed off the stage at a very left of center event, I doubt that Republicans have cornered the market on rage. It is funny to read progressives who have defended all of those Democratic Party voters who looted and burned businesses in Ferguson and Baltimore to claim that the Republicans are driven by rage.

    My guess is that as the Republicans fade away that progressives will use manufactured two minute hates to keep everyone in line and mouthing politically correct memes.

  29. superdestroyer says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Of course, the problem with all of those Republican consultants is that they cannot make the policy proposals that idiots like Sheldon Adelson want while also trying to deflect Trump How can Jeb Bush go in front of a audience of middle class whites and explain who his proposals for open borders and unlimited immigration will not cause taxes to go up, will not lower the quality of public schools, and will not lower their quality of life.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    So criticism of the host is not allowed?

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @James P:

    I have a PhD in economics

    They give those away as prizes in Cracker-Jacks boxes?

  32. James P says:

    @C. Clavin: @C. Clavin: Cliffy, time to get back to your mail route. Step away from the bar – people are waiting for their mail.

  33. James P says:

    @C. Clavin:

    They give those away as prizes in Cracker-Jacks boxes?

    No, it takes anywhere between three to five years of study, but I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?

  34. grumpy realist says:

    @James P: You did? Where? Give a link to your supposed ” detailed explanation” boyo.

    But you won’t. Because you didn’t.

  35. Scott says:

    @C. Clavin: Generally not. Disagreement, yes. Criticism, no. Good manners, always.

  36. James P says:

    @grumpy realist: I proved to my employer to his satisfaction that everything is in order.

    Then he hired me.

  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin: You can criticize the hosts’ positions on any # of things as far as I am concerned. But Doug has the right to write about the things he wants to write about. And you have the right to ignore those posts and not read them.

    But this isn’t criticizing. It’s whining.

  38. JKB says:

    @superdestroyer: My guess is that as the Republicans fade away that progressives will use manufactured two minute hates to keep everyone in line and mouthing politically correct memes.

    Well, the nationalist/socialist rhetoric of Bernie sure seems to be finding a crowd. Although, oops, he has a problem with brown people taking jobs, both in the US and as exporters to the US.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    One looks at this with fascination and wonders how many bottles of Pepto-Bismol Rince Priebus is chugging each day….

    If I were him, I’d go for the Laphraoig myself, get totally plastered for the next 12 months, and only come up for air next summer….

  40. stonetools says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I would agree that mentioning things that Doug won’t cover is legit criticism. But I think we’re a minority here, so let’s give it up.
    You can find good discussion of Democratic policy issues at the blogs Balloon Juice and Lawyers, Guns & Money.

  41. C. Clavin says:

    You’re right…stop whining.
    Policy v. the shiny object of the day is legitimate criticism.

  42. MikeSJ says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Then, of course, when you have Jeb! and Walker arguing whether they’re going to bomb Iraq the day of inauguration or the day after, you wonder exactly who are the “serious” candidates on the Republican side…

    This is key to Trumps popularity. Once you start campaigns built on lies and B.S. it’s all a matter of degree after that. Trump may be fuller of it but is he really that far from the rest of the pack? Is his “Build a Wall and Make Mexico Pay For It” really that out there compared to “Tear Up the Treaty on Day One” that Walker spews?

    The main foundation of the Republicans – Lower Taxes, Increase Defense and Cut the Deficit – put the party in Magic Thinking Land. (Brownback in Kansas showed what happens when you make budgets up depending on magic to balance the books.)

    Trump is just more of the same, albeit Louder and more Obnoxious about it.

  43. C. Clavin says:

    @James P:
    The difference between you and me is that I actually have a post-graduate degree.
    You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

  44. JohnMcC says:

    Certainly is less amusing than the thread so far but my reflection is that this business of a political party that cannot control who runs in it’s contests and represents it in general elections would NEVER have been called a political party just a few years ago. The present Republican party sold itself to several constituencies (as someone here — MichaelReynolds? — calls them, the Jesus party the Bomber party and the Banker party) and no longer can control it’s own ‘brand’. By definition, they are in complete failure as a party.

    Calling SuperD!

  45. Neil Hudelson says:

    The nature of being a Troll aside, James P screed brings up an interesting point. The section of the base that is supportive of Trump is the most authoritarian. The whole time they were complaining that Obama was a tyrant because something something healthcare, what they really meant was “He’s not the tyrant we want.”

    That part of the right is looking for someone who will be just as petty as them, just as reactionary, and will feed their bloodlust. How do you deal with immigration? A police state. How do you deal with the Middle East? Nothing more bombs can’t handle. What’s the proper role for the IRS? Deliberately harrassing an ex-President we didn’t like (because he was a tyrant, dontchaknow.)

    I’m glad James P is around, as it reminds me why I am a progressive, and it gives me material to raise funds for my organization.

    Bachman and Cain just had stupid ideas; Trump personifies to the Zeitgeist of the right. He has bad ideas AND the authoritarian will to enact them, Constitution and Democracy be damned. Low information voters need to know just what it is the base of the Republican party thinks and believes. Trump is performing a much needed service.

  46. michael reynolds says:

    I love the way Republicans just insist on helping Hillary win. It’s very generous of them.

  47. Pete S says:

    @michael reynolds: I am totally unconvinced that she would be a good president. But every day we see why any Republican alternative out of this race would be a million times worse.

  48. grumpy realist says:

    @MikeSJ: And it’s all still pushed by a bunch of idiots who think that if they wish hard enough, reality will suddenly corkscrew around to satisfy their desires.

    If you want to know how we got Waist Deep In the Big Muddy (And the Big Fool Just Says To Push On), just look at the Republican Party. All those who have some vague understanding about reality immediately get labeled as RINOs.

    Since when did being prudent and cautious become a Bad Thing for the Republican Party? They try to make up their realities the same way our local trolls do, are just as clueless about blowback, and then are shocked, just shocked, to find the Universe doesn’t work out the way they imagined it would in their fondest dreams.

  49. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Since when did being prudent and cautious become a Bad Thing for the Republican Party?

    This is the ultimate irony — that it’s the Republicans, not the Democrats, who have gone all in on Postmodernism. Republicans believe that reality is a social construct, and that being Morally Correct(tm) automagically overrides any allegedly objective reality. Democrats, against all odds, have become the party of science, rationality, objective reality, and Inconvenient Truth.

  50. JohnMcC says:

    @grumpy realist: Ms Realist, I think I love you! I’ll see your ‘Big Muddy’ and raise you with a song Mr Seeger sang on TV a couple of years later: ‘Bring ‘Em Home.’

  51. superdestroyer says:

    @Pete S:

    In a one party state, the qualifications of the winning candidate are irrelevant. Politics is quickly becoming about what the establishment Democrats want and the range of political views that are acceptable keep getting more narrow.

    When every Ivy Leaguer who wants to be involved in politics has to be certain that they are on the proper and correct side of every single issue, then what else could possibly happen in politics. What is amazing is how little discussion there is on the effect on policy or governance that is concurring as the U.S. becomes a one party state.