Is Donald Trump fatigue setting in?
After fighting off attacks from all sides during Wednesday night’s debate, Trump stepped into his latest controversy at a campaign event in New Hampshire, and it appeared as if the GOP frontrunner’s week was as kind to him as he is to his adversaries.
Liberal and conservative pundits alike agreed that Trump’s performance took a back seat to his GOP rival, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who dominated the evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also made strong cases for themselves.
Trump’s glib insults, though warmly received at kickoff, did not fare as well later on as Fiorina and others addressed legitimate issues with poise and conviction. The standout moment when Fiorina got Trump to uncharacteristically back down from his comment about her face was just the feather in her cap.
For once, despite speaking the most, Trump was not the star of the show. Political commentators started questioning whether Trump-mania was fizzling out.
Politico, citing data from Critical Mention and PredictWise, reports that mentions of Trump on TV and radio have been steadily declining over the past month and that the likelihood he will win the nomination dipped from 16 to 12 percent after the first hour of the debate.
But, despite the reported drop in media mentions, Trump entered the week in a familiar position — leading the field of GOP presidential candidates.
Donald Trump, left, and Jeb Bush talk over each other during the CNN Republican presidential debate Wednesday. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
The problems with Trump’s performance continued to mount as fact-checkers combed through his arguments, particularly his assertion that he never wanted to change gambling laws in the Sunshine State.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with whom Trump bickered throughout the night, said that despite the billionaire’s boasts about buying out politicians, he could not purchase the loyalty of Bush’s administration.
“Totally false. I promise, if I wanted it, I would have gotten it,” Trump said.
But, as CNN previously reported, Trump donated $50,000 to Bush’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign and held a $500-a-head fundraiser for him — all while lobbying to change the gambling laws.
The Associated Press confirmed that Trump wanted gambling in Florida and that Bush remained opposed despite Trump’s contributions.
“It was pretty clear Jeb Bush wasn’t interested in casino gambling,” former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher said to the AP.
Then, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire Thursday, an issue from Trump’s past reared its ugly head as he failed to correct an audience member who said that President Obama, a Christian from Hawaii, is a Muslim from another country.
Trump acknowledges applause at a town hall event Thursday in Rochester, N.H. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. We know he’s not even an American. Birth certificate, man!” the unidentified man said.
Trump, who was once a prominent voice in the “birther” movement, chuckled: “We need this question? This is the first question.”
“Anyway,” the questioner continued. “We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”
In response, Trump said, “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. And a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”
In the hours that followed, the billionaire businessman caught heat for failing to rebuke the theories about Obama’s nationality and religion or defend Muslim Americans against the questioner’s desire to “get rid of them.”
In contrast, Arizona Sen. John McCain corrected several of his own supporters after they made similar allegations about Obama’s country of origin or faith during his 2008 presidential campaign.
“I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s not [an American] — he’s an Arab,” a woman said to the GOP’s nominee a month before the election.
“No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about,” McCain replied. “He’s not. Thank you.”
On Friday, the Trump campaign released a statement saying that the candidate would not be able to attend a scheduled campaign stop because of a business obligation.
“Mr. Trump has a significant business transaction that was expected to close Thursday,” it reads. “Due to the delay he is unable to attend today’s Heritage Action Presidential Forum. He sends his regrets and looks forward to being with the great people of South Carolina on Wednesday in Columbia.”