New polls conducted in the key early-primary states New Hampshire and South Carolina show the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump not only with large leads over the rest of the GOP field, but with robust support among groups that had not previously shown strong backing for him, such as evangelical Christians and women.
The numbers arrived just as Trump let loose with fresh attacks on Republican rivals, including the former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and on media figures, including Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
In a continuation of a feud with Kelly that began at the first presidential debate, when she asked him about his past “disparaging comments about women’s looks”, Trump disparaged Kelly’s appearance on Twitter on Monday night, retweeting a post that said Kelly had returned to her show after a hiatus “looking like Nancy Grace”, the legal commentator.
He also retweeted a message referring to Kelly as a “bimbo”, as he has done before.
A poll of “usual Republican voters” in New Hampshire by left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) found Trump attracting 35% support, well beyond that of the runner-up, John Kasich, the Ohio governor, who was on 11%. Trump’s wide lead held among both evangelicals (32%) and women (30%).
In South Carolina, a Monmouth University poll of likely voters found Trump with a 30%-15% lead over neurosurgeon Ben Carson, his nearest rival in the state. Evangelical Christians in the poll backed Trump over Carson 33%-15%, and women backed Trump 25%-18%.
“Congrats @LindseyGrahamSC ,” Trump tweeted gleefully at the senior senator from the state, who is also running for president and who has been a lacerating Trump critic. “You just got 4 points in your home state of SC—far better than zero nationally. You’re only 26 pts behind me.”
Trump, who has said that he might switch from running as a Republican to running as an independent if he fails to win the GOP nomination, has not attracted wide support among Republican officials, elected or unelected. In a local television interview last week, Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said of Trump’s run: “I don’t think it’s a very serious candidacy, frankly.”
Trump also came under fire on Monday from Bush, who performed shabbily in the most recent polls. The PPP poll of New Hampshire voters had Bush tied for fourth with 7%, while the Monmouth poll of South Carolina voters had Bush in third with 9%.
During a visit to a Texas border town, Bush said Trump’s plan on immigration was “unrealistic” and recommended that the developer read a book that he, Bush, had written on the subject.
“He needs to be held to account for his views,” Bush said of Trump.
True to form, Trump gave better than he got, in the form of a short video published on Monday night on the candidate’s Instagram account. The spot highlights a 2013 interview in which Barbara Bush, Jeb Bush’s mother, said that her son should not run for president.
“Mother Knows Best Jeb!” the video concludes.
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