At a campaign rally in South Carolina on Tuesday, Donald Trump doxxed Lindsey Graham, a senior senator from the state who is a Republican and a candidate like himself.
Trump read out Lindsey Graham’s personal cellphone number to his supporters and urged them to give him a call — “give it a shot”. Within minutes, Graham’s voice mail was glutted.
Trump wasn’t done yet. He went on to call Graham an “idiot” and he then rounded off on another presidential rival, former governor Rick Perry saying he should get an IQ test.
This was retribution. Graham had earlier called Trump a “jackass” — for trashing Senator John McCain’s war record — and Perry had called him unfit to lead the country.
The showy tycoon and TV personality has tended to dominate the race and the debate since stepping in; and he is now surging in polls, leading the 16-member Republican field.
A Washington Post-ABC poll this week placed him right at the top, with 24% support, nearly double that of his nearest rival, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who scored 13%.
He would have done even better but for the McCain remarks. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” He was upset that McCain had called his supporters “crazies”.
But those remarks hurt him. Trump had been averaging 28% in the poll until then. And then his numbers plunged into single digits, leaving him down at 24%, but still at the top.
Trump doesn’t seem too worried about the points he lost though. That’s the kind of edgy rhetoric that has propelled him to the forefront from the moment he stepped into the race.
Laying out a case for stricter policing of the border, Trump had said that immigrants from Mexico were “bringing drugs …bringing crime”. And, he added, “They’re rapists.”
Businesses cut ties with him in the ensuing backlash.
And Republican party leaders were worried. Trump may have further alienated Hispanics, a growing and important ethnic group that they were trying to woo away from Democrats.
They urged him to tone it down. But a section of the Republican party — young whites, less-educated and less affluent — loved his belligerence. And now even poll numbers support him.
But experts don’t expect his lead to last, and point to Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain from the 2012 presidential election cycle, who flamed out after flourishing in early polls.