The Des Moines Register editorial board on Monday night called for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to drop out of the race, saying the real estate mogul and reality star disqualified himself by questioning Senator John McCain’s war record.
Trump on Saturday said McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years, is considered a war hero only because he was captured. Amid backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike, Trump walked the comments back, saying that McCain is a hero but hasn’t done enough for veterans.
“His comments were not merely offensive, they were disgraceful,” wrote the newspaper, whose home state of Iowa will begin the presidential nomination balloting early next year. “So much so, in fact, that they threaten to derail not just his campaign, but the manner in which we choose our nominees for president. By using his considerable wealth, his celebrity status, and his mouth to draw attention to himself, rather than to raise awareness of the issues facing America, he has coarsened our political dialogue and cheapened the electoral process.
“He has become ‘the distraction with traction’ — a feckless blowhard who can generate headlines, name recognition and polling numbers not by provoking thought, but by provoking outrage.”
The editorial came as Trump ranked at the top of a national Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Monday night with 24%. In second place was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who got 13%. The Post noted that most of the survey was completed before Trump made the comments and that support for him dropped off considerably on the one night of polling after Saturday.
“Although the sample size for the final day was small, the decline was statistically significant,” the Post reported. “Still, it is difficult to predict what could happen to Trump’s support in the coming days and weeks as the controversy plays out.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain’s who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination alongside Trump, said on Tuesday he didn’t mind if Trump stayed in race as long as his behaviour improves.
“I don’t care if he drops out,” Graham said on CBS. “Stay in the race, just stop being a jackass.”
Trump’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. In an appearance on ABC on Sunday, Trump said he was not dropping out of the race. Graham spoke ahead of a scheduled appearance by Trump on Tuesday in Graham’s home state, which holds the south’s first primary election. The senator said people there would be put off by the McCain comment.
“The motto of our state is smiling faces and beautiful places — I don’t think he quite fits that motto,” Graham said. – Bloomberg
- Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report