The last time Donald Trump appeared at the sprawling Sun City retirement community on South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast, he had just belittled U.S. Sen. John McCain’s heroism as a POW — saying, “I like people who weren’t captured” — and the political pundits predicted his front-runner status for the Republican presidential nomination would be short-lived.
Fast forward to Wednesday, as Trump returns to the Palmetto State, just days after his attacks on former President George W. Bush. The Iraq war was built on “lies” and 9/11 happened on Bush’s watch, Trump said during a GOP debate, proving he didn’t keep America safe.
The statements led to renewed speculation that he had finally gone too far for voters in a pro-military state with warm feelings for the former president.
Not so fast.
The latest statewide polls have Trump maintaining a 2-to-1 lead over his nearest competitors going into Saturday’s primary.
Public Policy Polling found Trump leading with virtually every demographic subgroup, including those who like George W. Bush — even with Bush’s brother, Jeb Bush, in the race.
According to PPP, Trump leads with 29 percent to 19 percent for Ted Cruz, 16 percent for Marco Rubio, 11 percent for John Kasich, 9 percent for Ben Carson, and 7 percent for Jeb Bush.
According to the Real Politics average of recent polls, Trump is in front in South Carolina with 34.3 percent to 16.8 percent for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 16.5 percent for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, 10.3 percent for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Bush with 9.8 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 6 percent.
Most recent national polls also show Trump with a solid lead, though a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday found Cruz creeping ahead of Trump for the first time.
At Donald Trump’s last visit to Sun City retirement community on South Carolina's Atlantic Coast, he made news, reading aloud U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham’s cellphone number, and then, just to make sure everybody got it, reading it again.
That was back in July when Graham, the popular GOP South Carolina senator, was trying to find a place on the main debate stage.
“The whole thing is, like, ridiculous. He calls me a jackass this morning,” Trump said then, referring to comments Graham had made about him on national TV. “He doesn’t seem like a very bright guy. He actually probably seems to me not as bright, honestly, as Rick Perry.”
The crowd gave Trump a standing ovation, coming and going, but that's routine, said Sherri Zedd, a former head of the Sun City Republicans, who now books the GOP candidate appearances here.
They offered approving applause when Trump, asked whether he would sanction water-boarding, replied “absolutely,” while adding that it was “not nearly tough enough.”
“Torture works, folks,” Trump said. “Believe me, torture works.”
Trump told his Sun City audience of his comments on the Iraq war: “If Bush is insulted, what do I care? It was a horrible mistake. One of the worst disasters in the history of our country.”
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