Flamboyant businessman Donald Trump basked Sunday in the glow of a poll that shows he is walloping his rivals in the Republican presidential field, elbowing his way into the anti-terrorism debate by proposing surveillance of certain mosques, condoning waterboarding and signaling that he is willing to retreat from a pledge he signed in September to forgo an independent run if he is not “treated fairly.”
The Washington Post/ABC News poll had Mr. Trump, whose outsider run has stunned the Republican establishment, grabbing 32 percent of registered Republicans and right-leaning independents, ahead of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 22 percent.
The rest of field struggled to crack double digits, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 11 percent, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 8 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 6 percent.
“I’m leading every poll by a lot,” Mr. Trump told ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s not even a little bit anymore — it’s a lot.”
Should things head south, the front-runner suggested, he might not honor the deal he made with the Republican National Committee to pledge allegiance to whoever becomes the party’s nominee.
“I’m going to have to see what happens. I will see what happens. I have to be treated fairly,” Mr. Trump said. “When I did this, I said I have to be treated fairly. If I’m treated fairly, I’m fine. All I want to do is [have] a level playing field.”
Later Sunday, RNC spokeswoman Allison Moore reiterated that “all of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination have pledged to run as Republicans and support the nominee.”
For now, Mr. Trump has trained his blunt rhetoric on the U.S. response to the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 130.
He called for surveillance of certain U.S. mosques, arguing that New York City officials essentially were doing that in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He also approved of waterboarding despite widespread condemnation of the interrogation technique during the George W. Bush administration.
“I would bring it back, yes,” Mr. Trump said, citing the Islamic State’s brutality. “I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they’re doing to us.”
His leading rival, Mr. Carson, declined to say whether he would bring back the technique, which has been described as torture.
“There’s no such thing as political correctness when you’re fighting an enemy who wants to destroy you and everything that you have anything to do with,” Mr. Carson told ABC. “And I’m not one who is real big on telling the enemy what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.”
The front-runners, mindful of their commitments to Second Amendment rights, also declined to say whether a person on a terrorist watch list should be able to buy a gun.
“If somebody is on a watch list, I would keep them away, absolutely,” Mr. Trump said, though he didn’t offer a yes-or-no on the gun question.
Mr. Carson said he worries that the watch list has roped some people into a bureaucratic nightmare, depriving them of constitutional rights.
“There are a lot of people on that watch list, and they have no idea why they’re on that list, and they’ve been trying to get their names off of it and no one will give them information,” he said. “You know, I am a big supporter of the Second Amendment, and I don’t want to deprive people unnecessarily of that. There needs to be better due process.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican primary contender who has been critical of the front-running outsiders, said he would at least debate a ban.
“If we want to examine people who are on terrorist watch lists and not let them buy a gun, I mean, it’s something that ought to be considered,” Mr. Kasich told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”