Ken Crow, an Iowa tea party activist, says Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans may have been too blunt for some, but that is exactly why the billionaire real estate mogul and reality star is picking up, not losing, support in polls.
Mr. Crow said people agree that the nation must confront the immigration issue by first securing the border and then dealing with the millions of people living in the U.S. illegally.
“America is looking for John Wayne, and Donald Trump is proving to be John Wayne,” Mr. Crow said. “America is sick and tired of political correctness, and they are sick and tired of media bias destroying candidates.”
For Mr. Crow and a growing number of others, Mr. Trump’s unvarnished candor and the overwhelming media reaction against him are two big points in his favor.
The controversy is putting stress on the entire Republican presidential field, which is struggling to find the right response.
Mr. Crow predicted, “Quite a few of the candidates, I think, are going to be forced into siding with him because they are watching his numbers dramatically jump.”
With the exception of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, that has not been the case. Most of the Republican candidates have either been silent or run in the opposite direction.
Mr. Trump ignited a controversy at his campaign launch three weeks ago when he said Mexico is “sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.”
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said. “And some, I assume, are good people.”
The backlash began when Univision, the biggest Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States, announced that it was cutting its ties with Mr. Trump over the “insulting” comments and no longer would air Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which the tycoon co-owns.
NBC and then Macy’s jumped onto the anti-Trump bandwagon. The retail giant announced this week that it was yanking the Trump label of shirts and ties from its shelves.
Mr. Trump, 69, has stood his ground in typical fashion by saying his statements were correct and accusing NBC and Macy’s of supporting illegal immigration.
“All I’m doing is telling the truth,” Mr. Trump said on CNN.
Despite the backlash — and in some cases because of it — the brash real estate mogul’s political star has been on the rise.
A CNN/ORC poll released this week showed that 12 percent of respondents said they most likely would support Mr. Trump, placing him second behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who garnered 19 percent. Mr. Bush was one Republican candidate who rejected Mr. Trump’s comments on illegal Mexican immigrants.
Mr. Trump also placed second to Mr. Bush in a CNN/WMUR poll out of New Hampshire.
A Quinnipiac University poll, released the same day that Macy’s dumped Mr. Trump, showed him tied for second in the Iowa caucuses with Ben Carson.
“In that second place gaggle is newly declared candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump, whose early showing — he is getting one in 10 votes — worries many party leaders. They see him as a potentially disruptive force,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
The episode has put the Republican Party in a tricky position given its struggles to win over Hispanic voters in presidential elections and concerns that overheated rhetoric on immigration could cost the GOP at polls next year.
Divisions in the field
“I do not agree with his remarks,” Mr. Bush said, in Spanish, during a recent event in Nevada. “They do not represent the values of the Republican Party, and they do not represent my values. The man is wrong.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Mr. Trump’s remarks “inappropriate,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told The Des Moines Register editorial board this week that it was wrong to cast a whole group of people in a negative light.
“That is not going forward; that is going backward,” Mr. Graham said.
Former New York Gov. George E. Pataki, a long shot to become president, has called on the entire slate of Republican presidential candidates to denounce Mr. Trump.
“I don’t believe he will be the nominee of the Republican Party, but what is troubling to me is the other candidates not standing up and denouncing this type of horrible speech,” Mr. Pataki said Wednesday on CNN. “It’s so derogatory towards an entire class of Americans.”
Mr. Cruz, meanwhile, has been Mr. Trump’s biggest advocate in the Republican presidential field.
“I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific. I think he’s brash. I think he speaks the truth,” Mr. Cruz said this week.
Democrats, meanwhile, said Mr. Trump “fits right into the Republican field.”
“Frankly, I wish Donald Trump’s utter disrespect for Mexicans and immigrants was unique in the Republican presidential field,” said Holy Shulman, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. “Sadly, it’s just an unvarnished look at their anti-immigrant policies. You’d think the GOP would have learned by now.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant rights group, said he is shocked that more Republicans have not come out in a more forceful manner against the comments.
“It is the combination of Trump’s bigoted remarks and the GOP’s leadership failure to denounce them that is going to define the GOP with the fastest group of voters in America,” Mr. Sharry said. “The reaction among Latinos, especially Latino immigrants, has been intense, and this is as much a cultural moment as a political moment in which no self-respecting Latino and no corporation that wants to do business with Latinos can be seen as coddling Trump.
“This is an electoral game-changer, and I am stunned at the tepid response from the GOP leadership,” he said.