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.But don't pop the champagne at Trump Tower yet. The same poll showed Trump suffered a drop in support after his comments targeting John McCain's war record. While the poll showing Trump in the lead incorporated some of the responses after this incident, the bulk of the calls to obtain responses for the poll took place before the controversy really erupted. It will take the next poll to understand the full extent of the damage and determine whether Trump has recovered.
[Poll: Trump surges to big lead in GOP Presidential Race, by Dan Balz and Peyton Craighill, Washington Post, July 20, 2015]
Smart money was that Trump would eventually have to apologize, the Donald Trump moment was over, and the campaign of political and economic intimidation would have proved successful. Thus far, Trump has not backed down, and is, if anything, doubling down, attacking McCain's record on helping veterans. Trump has also ordered all flags at Trump properties nationwide lowered in honor of those killed in the terrorist attack in Tennessee [Donald Trump orders flags to be flown half-staff on his properties after offending veterans, Associated Press, July 21, 2015]. Attack may be his only political choice, as it is impossible to imagine anyone suddenly supporting Trump after hearing him apologize to John McCain.
Still, the economic squeeze on The Donald is only intensifying. While he concedes the city may not be able to break any contracts with Donald Trump in the short term, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York says there will be no new business deals of any kind with Trump [Mayor de Blasio: No more Trump deals in NYC future, by Nicholas Yeap, CNN, July 20, 2015]. Of course, Bill de Blasio needs to say something to take that recent spike in crime off the headlines [Spike in New York City homicides, shootings despite summer anti-crime push, NYPD data show, by Anthony DeStafano, Newsday, July 20, 2015].
That said, whatever his original intentions, Trump has no choice now but to pursue victory because of the economic price he is paying. And that alone is a point in his favor.
After all, how many public figures have paid a financial price because of their involvement in public life? Certainly not the Clintons.