Real estate mogul and possible presidential candidate Donald Trump has embraced virtually every conspiracy theory about President Obama popular among the right-wing. Over the last two weeks, he expressed doubt about Obama’s citizenship, demanded Obama release his birth certificate, released his own (unofficial) birth certificate, and speculated that Obama might be hiding his birth certificate because it says he is a Muslim. Even when admonished by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, he refused to back down.
We’ve seen this kind of stunt from Trump before. Trump has toyed with the idea of running for president in 1988 and 2000, when he has had books to promote. Sagging early season ratings for “Celebrity Apprentice” suggest publicity may be his motivation this time around too.
But a new poll released tonight from NBC and the Wall Street Journal shows that Republican primary voters are taking Trump’s run very seriously. In the NBC/WSJ poll, Trump is in a statistical dead heat for first place with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mark Huckabee. Among Tea Party members, he’s doing even better. From NBC’s Mark Murray:
“You’re fired” isn’t a message Republican primary voters and Tea Party supporters are telling real-estate mogul Donald Trump, at least not yet.
According to the latest national NBC/WSJ poll, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the hypothetical 2012 GOP pack with support from 21 percent of Republican primary voters — followed by Trump and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 17 percent each, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 11 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 10 percent. [...]
Strikingly, Trump — who has received a considerable amount of attention for incorrectly stating that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. — finishes first among Tea Party supporters (at 20 percent), followed by Romney (17 percent), Huckabee (14 percent), Palin (12 percent) and Gingrich (9 percent).
In a CNN poll released March 23, Trump came in fifth in a hypothetical GOP primary, collecting only 10 percent of the vote. That poll, however, was conducted from March 18-20, as Trump’s embrace of the birther issue was just beginning. In just two weeks, he has nearly doubled his support.
Prominent Republican strategists have blasted Trump’s strategy, saying it discredited the entire Republican party. In fact, his public embrace of discredited conspiracy theories has lead him to the front of the Republican field.