Lots of news out of Iowa over the weekend concerning Donald Trump as well as new polling which continues to put Scott Walker in a good position in the state. On Saturday, nearly every Republican contender attended the Family Leadership Summit and spent time answering questions from event moderator, Frank Luntz.
First, the report on Walker’s poll numbers which continue to improve in the Hawkeye state. Report from Politico:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is still out in front of all Republican contenders in a new Monmouth University poll out Monday surveying likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers.
But in second place is Donald Trump, whose remarks on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s military service do not appear to have had a material effect on his standing in the Hawkeye State, or at least not yet. In fact, a plurality of those surveyed (47 percent) said they have a favorable view of the multibillionaire candidate, while 35 percent said they do not.
Walker grabbed 22 percent, compared to Trump’s 13 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson received 8 percent, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 7 percent each. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 caucus, follows with 6 percent, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 5 percent, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at 4 percent.
So far, Walker is the first to break the twenty percent threshold which has capped everyone for months. To see him increasing means he is starting to cement his support and continue building on it. As a result, Walker is giving Iowa the majority of his time to continue building on that lead.
In other news, Donald Trump also made waves in Iowa when he questioned Senator John McCain’s status as a “war hero,” and stumbled on some basic questions about his religious faith. Report from the Washington Examiner:
The political world is in an uproar about Donald Trump’s attack on John McCain. Disparaging McCain’s military record will be a major inflection point in Trump’s campaign, some say, the moment when his bubble of popularity begins to deflate. Rival candidates say Trump’s remarks disqualify him from serving as commander in chief.
But for the actual voters who were in the room when Trump spoke to the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, it’s possible Trump’s greater sin has nothing to do with McCain. Instead, Trump’s casual and disengaged characterization of religious faith may have made a far worse impression on the mostly evangelical conservatives who came to hear Trump and other Republican hopefuls speak.
If a candidate wants to make a good impression on religious voters in Iowa, he probably should not offer the answer Trump gave when moderator Frank Luntz asked whether Trump had ever asked God for forgiveness. “I am not sure I have,” Trump said. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
A candidate who seeks to make a good impression should also probably refrain from describing Holy Communion in the way Trump did: “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”
The Iowa Republican electorate is heavily influenced with evangelical voters, some of whom may bristle at Trump’s answers about faith and forgiveness. Some argue, that beyond the flap with John McCain, those answers may hurt him the most. Then again, every time Trump opens his mouth, pundits and analysts react with utter disbelief and statements about how Trump “may not recover” from “this one.”
I think he’ll manage to fight his way out of it and by the time the debate rolls around on August 6, there will be a whole different news cycle to discuss.