Donald Trump has dashed to a commanding lead in this early stage of the Republican presidential primary race. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday, Trump outpaces his closest competitor, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, by 11 points, with the support of 24% of likely Republican voters. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, at 12%, is the only other candidate to crack double digits.
But a closer look at the polling shows Trump's recent remarks about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) might have blunted his controversial surge.
The survey was conducted across four days, from July 16 to 19, meaning his now infamous dig at McCain landed during the final 36 hours of the poll. At an event Saturday in Iowa, Trump questioned whether McCain, who had been sharply critical of Trump earlier in the week, was a "war hero." The Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate was held captive and tortured for more than five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp between 1967 and 1973.
Trump, who received four deferments and never served in the military, said McCain is only celebrated "because he was captured."
"I like people who weren't captured," Trump told the audience.
The poll: "Trump's support was 28% in this survey's first three nights of polling," writes ABC News' chief pollster. "While the sample size of registered leaned Republicans on Sunday is quite small, he dropped to the single digits that day."
Voters could be responding to the storm of dissent from across the political spectrum, including 12 of the other 14 declared Republican presidential candidates, that followed his comments about McCain. Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have remained mostly silent. The Republican National Committee, however, released a statement on Saturday saying, "There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably."
If Trump can survive this latest flap — there is nothing in the survey to suggest respondents had taken issue with his repeated verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants — he could emerge as a legitimate threat in the GOP primary and, should he run later as an independent, next year's general election.
As seen below, the poll finds that Trump has the potential to take a significant bite out of Bush's support in a potential matchup with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton:
But the McCain affair has thrown an added variable into this already topsy-turvy nominating contest. Monday's multiple revelations are likely to send pollsters right back to work, as they seek to gauge the extent of the damage this latest flap has done to Trump's standing among Republicans.
For now, though, Trump's in the lead.