Can anyone catch him now?
Donald Trump is projected to win the South Carolina primary Saturday night, his second statewide win this month and a troubling sign for Republican leaders who originally hoped Trumpmentum would be a passing fad.
As the Republican primary remains crowded, with Govs. Jeb Bush and John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio continuing to battle it out to win the establishment money and electoral support, Trump has consistently broken out among an electorate hungry for a “say-it-like-it-is” Washington outsider.
Trump’s South Carolina victory might have been expected. As Nate Silver pointed out Friday, Trump has led in all but one poll of South Carolina since July. Still, the bombastic billionaire’s first-place finish is striking given the fact that he’s never held elected office and has flip-flopped on core Republican issues like abortion and the individual mandate. In deeply religious South Carolina, Trump closed his part of the CNN Republican town hall Thursday night with stories about Michael Jackson’s plastic surgery and proclamations that he was a twice-divorced man who was a better father than he was a husband.
But none of his strange diatribes appear to be detractors.
Trump’s campaign has defied the political odds so far. Even as a BuzzFeed report surfaced Thursday that Trump had supported invading Iraq in 2002, Trump dismissed his change of heart by saying “I could have said that…I wasn’t a politician.” Trump controversies have had a way of passing almost as soon as they have begun.
While some have inferred that Trump’s support has a ceiling, as long as the field remains bunched up behind him, Trump continues to be the favorite among Republican voters. From his disparaging comments directed toward Fox’s Megyn Kelly to declarations that he would bar any Muslim from coming to America, Trump’s brashness has come with little apparent political cost so far.
Even one of the holiest men in the world could not stop Trump. A tussle with the Pope? Why not. Even in South Carolina, a brush-up with the leader of the Catholic church didn’t make an obvious dent in Trump’s iron-clad support.
Trump’s momentum now gets harder to put the brakes on as he barrels toward Southern-focused Super Tuesday. A CNN poll ahead of the South Carolina primary found that Trump led Cruz by 20 points there among key evangelical voters. If that poll is any indicator, Trump may have just run away with the Republican primary show.