- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Businessman Donald Trump is apparently tightening his grip — and his inimitable style — on the Republican presidential contest, as two polls in key early-primary states Tuesday give him lopsided leads, and he renewed his feud with Fox News Channel.

According to a Monmouth University Poll released Tuesday, Mr. Trump leads by 15 percentage points in South Carolina, the first Southern state and the third overall to vote. And according to a survey by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, Mr. Trump enjoys an even fatter lead — 24 points — in New Hampshire.

In South Carolina, Mr. Trump had the support of 30 percent of likely Republican primary voters, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, at 15 percent, in the poll.

“We’ve become accustomed to Donald Trump leading in every poll, as the candidate himself likes to remind us,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey. “It’s interesting that Ben Carson, whose parents come from neighboring Georgia, is outpolling the state’s own senator as a second choice.”

Indeed, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was in a tie for seventh in the state with 4 percent — a number that drew mocking praise from Mr. Trump on social media.

“Congrats @LindseyGrahamSC. You just got 4 points in your home state of SC — far better than zero nationally. You’re only 26 pts behind me,” Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

Interviewed on CNN on Tuesday, Mr. Graham said about the tycoon: “Come to South Carolina, and I’ll beat his brains out.”

Mr. Graham wasn’t the only person to get into a spat over Mr. Trump’s Twitter trolling.

Mr. Trump renewed his attacks Tuesday on Fox News host Megyn Kelly, saying she is not a “quality journalist” and rejecting an entreaty from Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes that he apologize to Ms. Kelly.

“I totally disagree with the Fox statement,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday afternoon. “I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist. I think her questioning of me, despite all the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair. Hopefully, in the future, I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as Fox deserves.”

Mr. Trump has been feuding with Ms. Kelly since the first Republican presidential debate earlier this month, when Ms. Kelly read a series of disparaging comments about women attributed to Mr. Trump and asked if he thought it was presidential.

Mr. Trump said on CNN after the debate of Ms. Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” He later said only a deviant would think he was talking about Ms. Kelly’s menstrual cycle.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Ailes spoke by phone after that, and Mr. Trump has made appearances on Fox News since, albeit not on “The Kelly File.”

On Monday evening, however, Mr. Trump took to Twitter and started going after Ms. Kelly again upon her return from a vacation. “I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!” he tweeted.

He also shared a tweet from someone else referring to Ms. Kelly as a “bimbo.”

Mr. Ailes issued a lengthy statement earlier Tuesday defending Ms. Kelly and calling on Mr. Trump to apologize.

“Donald Trump’s surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing,” the statement read. “Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise.”

“Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should,” Mr. Ailes continued. “We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we’re certainly not going to start now.”

But the feuding seems only to help Mr. Trump’s standing in polls. The PPP New Hampshire survey released Tuesday had him more than tripling the support of his next-closest competitor.

Mr. Trump was the first choice of 35 percent of GOP primary voters in the Granite State, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 11 percent and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina at 10 percent, according to the survey from the Democratic-leaning firm.

“This is by far the best we’ve found Donald Trump doing anywhere during his entire surge,” said Dean Debnam, PPP president. “If anything, he just seems to be getting stronger as the campaign rolls on.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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