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Is Trump’s rapid rise headed for a reverse?

Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report and Susan Page of USA Today join Gwen Ifill to discuss the campaign disruption of Donald Trump, who offered controversial remarks about Sen. John McCain and religion over the weekend, plus demonstrators disrupt Democratic candidates speaking at the Netroots Nation conference.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    For both Democrats and Republicans, 2016 has turned into a season of disruption, as candidates have attempted to woo voters from the left and the right and encountered attacks from within.

    Here to sort it out this Politics Monday is Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, and Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report and the Roll Call newspaper.

    Part of the disruption for the last several weeks has been Donald Trump. This week, he was at a Faith and Values Summit in Iowa and he was asked about John McCain, who had said that Donald Trump was stirring up the crazies, so Donald Trump responded.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Candidate: I supported him. I supported him for president. I raised a million dollars for him. It's a lot of money. I supported him.

    He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost. So I never liked him as much after that, because I don't like losers.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • DONALD TRUMP:

    But…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DONALD TRUMP:

    Frank, let me get to it.

  • FRANK LUNTZ:

    He's a war hero.

  • DONALD TRUMP:

    He's not a war hero.

  • FRANK LUNTZ:

    He's a war hero, five-and-a-half years as a prisoner…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • DONALD TRUMP:

    He is a war hero — he is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    He's talking to Frank Luntz there, who is conducting the conversation and says he's a war hero.

    So what effect do we think that Donald Trump's statements this weekend, not only on that, but also religion, Susan, have to do with this race?

  • SUSAN PAGE, USA Today:

    It's interesting, because when Donald Trump made outrageous statements about Mexican immigrants, saying they were rapists and drug dealers, there was a pushback from his rivals, but not that strong a one.

    On this, almost all of the other Republican candidates came out and criticized him, called for him to apologize, something he has refused to do. And the question is, will this reinforce Donald Trump supporters, who tend to like the fact that he's a no surrender sort of guy, or will this really peel off — will this mean that his support, his rapid rise, his phenomenal rise, we have seen in the Republican field, does it mean that is about to be reversed?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What do you think, Stu?

    STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report: Well, it's too early to know.

    The indication over the past few weeks is that he's been in first or second place either in national polls or in Iowa. He's clearly touched a nerve. I'm skeptical that it's going to last much longer, but the Republican electorate, the core Republican voter is angry, frustrated, disappointed not only at the president, but at leadership within their own party.

    And Donald Trump goes out there and he's bombastic, and explosive, and causes trouble. He likes doing it, clearly, and it has resonated. Look, over the long haul, it's hard to believe Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president, but in the short-term, he's obviously having a factor in the debate and the discussions.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    One of the things that struck me is not only did he insult the guy who most Republicans voted for in the last term, the party's nominee in 2012, but he also — or 2008 — but he also did another interesting thing, in that he kind of insulted evangelicals a little bit, even though he was at an evangelical conference, saying — he himself is a Presbyterian, he goes for the little cracker, he goes for the little wafer, but he's never asked God for forgiveness, which it seems to me would kind of — would hurt.

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    I think that it does.

    I think that really caused more of a stir for that particular audience than his comments about John McCain, speaking of communion in a way that seemed very dismissive, and also saying he's never asked God for forgiveness. Believe me, don't put me in that category. I'm constantly asking for forgiveness for various shortcomings.

    But we know that isn't his part of the Republican Party; his part of the Republican Party is more likely to be a Tea Party sort of Republican that thinks Washington doesn't work, politicians can't be trusted, here's a guy who tells hard truths, although we do see — we don't put too much story on a single poll, but we do have a new Washington Post/ABC poll out just tonight that shows Donald Trump in first place, 24 percent.

    But the pollster says that his support on the last night, on Sunday night of polling, when people possibly had heard about the McCain exchange, his support fell to single digits. That may be one early sign that this is going to hurt him a lot.

  • STUART ROTHENBERG:

    I would simply add let's remember that right now, when people answer poll questions, they're not really answering the question of, who do you want to be president of the United States?

    They're answering a different question. Who is reflecting your anger and frustrations and disappointments? Who is giving voice to your feelings?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK, let's assume that's the answer — they're answering your question for now.

    But what effect then does it have on the other people in the race? There are 20 other people in the race, and they all have to respond every single day to the Donald Trump whirlwind. So what does it tell us about them?

  • STUART ROTHENBERG:

    It's had a number of impacts.

    I think the greatest one is it's kind of frozen the race. Nobody else can get much traction. How do you get through when Donald Trump is saying Donald Trumpisms, whatever they are? Individual candidates I think are hurt because his appeal to the Tea Party and to the angry older voters is eating into Ted Cruz's.

    His emphasis on a straight-talking Republican, I will tell you what's really going on eats into Chris Christie's. So I think, more than anything else, he has been, as you said, a disrupter.

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    And an opportunity cost, right? Other candidates not only can't get any attention. They can't talk about issues, including issues that are likely to be much more important in the presidential campaign than these.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Even though Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton seemed to have thrown in the towel and decided, there is just something about him, where I can then use Donald Trump as an advantage?

    But what does it do for candidates like Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, who got into the race last week, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, who is getting into the race this week and who we assume both would be strong Midwestern governors? Do they get blown out of the water with all of this going on?

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    I think it cost Scott Walker some of the bump he expected to get from his announcement.

    And one danger for Governor Kasich — tomorrow, he announces — does the attention to Trump cost him a little bit of the bounce that he's hoping to get? And for John Kasich, that could be really important because you're looking coming up on the first debate early next month. You need to be in the top 10 to participate. I think Kasich is counting on getting some kind of bump from tomorrow's announcement to get him in at number 10 or number nine so that he can participate in the debate.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    On the Democratic side of this, there was also disruption on the far left. And that is at the Netroots Nation conference, which is a very — a liberal conference where the candidates show up and they usually tell them what they want to hear, except both Bernard — Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, and Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont, got shouted down by people who were there on behalf of the black lives matter movement and neither of them came of out of it smelling like a rose.

  • STUART ROTHENBERG:

    I think, in that case, the news told you less about the candidates and more about the constituents there.

    And this is the Tea Party version on the Democratic, on the progressive side, people who are distrustful of the Democratic Party's leadership, want more ideology, more confrontation. Right now, the Democrats don't quite have the problem that the Republicans have with the Tea Party and the division, but this conference was, I think, a warning that the Democrats have to worry about that kind of disruption.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Is it the kind of thing that Hillary Clinton has to worry about? SUSAN PAGE: Yes, I think it's a warning to Hillary Clinton.

    We don't think Martin O'Malley or Bernie Sanders is going to be the nominee. We think Hillary Clinton is likely to be the Democratic nominee. And she is going to have to deal with a party that has moved significantly to the left since her husband ran for president and that is distrustful of her in some ways, even though her support remains pretty strong even among liberals.

    She is going to have to deal with a liberal wing of the party that really feels energized.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And they're all going to be dealing with energies on the far left or the far right. What a fun summer.

    Susan Page of USA Today, Stu Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call, thank you both.

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