The Cable

With Tuesday’s Speech, Donald Trump Continues to Blow Up the 2016 GOP Primary Field

Donald Trump's latest speech on Iraq continues to rile the 2016 GOP presidential race.

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Real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continued to lay siege to the 2016 GOP presidential field Tuesday, telling a South Carolina audience that he would not have invaded Iraq in 2004.

An inconvenient truth for “The Donald” is that the United States invaded in 2003, not 2004. But as he has shown in recent days, facts just don’t get in the way of his pronouncements, which are upending the Republican race for the White House. Those candidates hoping for a more serious primary season are now forced to react to just about every one of his outrageous proclamations.

They might be forced to do so again after Trump’s speech Tuesday afternoon. He called Iraq an ally, using air quotes. He also described himself the “most militaristic guy ever.”

It’s obvious that Trump, who, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, holds the lead over rivals, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), knows the ground he’s hunting. The rest of the field is striking a difficult balance between the GOP’s initial support of the Iraq War, which left a power vacuum now occupied by the Islamic State, and the public’s subsequent distaste of it.

“I’m the only one who said, ‘Don’t do Iraq,” Trump said, though he’s obviously not the only person who said that. In 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama successfully campaigned on his opposition to the war.

For South Carolina voters hoping to get in touch with Lindsey Graham, the GOP senator seeking his party’s nomination, Trump made things much easier on Tuesday:

In an interview with CBS This Morning on Tuesday morning, Graham told Trump to “stop being a jackass.”

Trump’s shenanigans in South Carolina come on the heels of a recent swipe at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Trump caused an uproar among his rivals over the weekend when he suggested that McCain, who spent five years in Vietnam as a prisoner of war after his jet crashed in 1967, was not a war hero.

Both Bush and Rubio slammed Trump’s comments on Twitter and in the real world.

Trump is unmoved and has refused to apologize.

The former host of The Apprentice has also made provocative comments regarding Mexico. He opened his presidential campaign in June by saying Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs — they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”

He added that he would build a “great wall” to protect the U.S. border with Mexico and would do so “very inexpensively.”

Comments like these drew a rebuke from McCain, who accused Trump of riling up the “crazies.” It escalated Trump’s beef with the Arizona senator, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama. It also got The Apprentice canceled.

But Trump’s break from the mainstream Republican Party is winning him powerful backers. Conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh defended Trump, telling listeners on Monday that Americans “have not seen an embattled public figure stand up for himself, double down, and tell everybody to go to hell.”

His candidacy is also proving popular with the Republican base. The Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday shows that 24 percent of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents support him. His closest rival is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who drew support from 13 percent of those polled.

Photo credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

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