After Donald Trump repeatedly attacked George W. Bush in Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, the conventional wisdom was that the attacks could backfire in South Carolina, where the former GOP president is popular among primary voters.
But a new Public Policy Polling poll of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters in the two days after the debate shows that not to be the case, as Trump is still leading his opponents by 17 points.
According to the poll, Trump is at 35 percent; Texas Sen. [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] is at 18 percent; Florida Sen. [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] is at 18 percent; Ohio Gov. John Kasich is at 10 percent; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are both at 7 percent.
“There’s been a lot of speculation that Trump might take on water after attacking George W. Bush on Saturday night,” Public Policy Polling acknowledged in a memo about the poll. Here’s What Bernie Sanders’ Wall Street Tax Means For The Middle Class
“But despite his comments, Trump is still leading even among voters with a positive view of George W. Bush — he gets 26 percent to 22 percent for Cruz, 20 percent for Rubio, and 10 percent for Jeb Bush. And Trump is dominant with the swath of voters that doesn’t like George W. Bush, getting 57 percent to 12 percent for Kasich, and 11 percent each for Cruz and Rubio.”
During the CBS debate in South Carolina, Trump accused the Bush administration of lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “They lied,” Trump said during the debate. “They said there were weapons of mass destruction — there were none. And they knew there were none.”
He also argued that it was wrong to say George W. Bush kept the country safe during his presidency. “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign,” Trump told Jeb Bush during the debate. “Remember that.”
The prevalent argument was that Republican voters would be turned off by Trump’s personal attacks on Bush. (The PPP poll shows that Bush is popular with 64 percent of voters seeing him favorably.)
For his part, Jeb Bush appears to be counting on these voters helping him in the state. On Monday evening, his brother appeared in the state for his first public campaign appearance of the race.
George W. Bush didn’t mention Trump by name, but he took a number of apparent shots at the New York businessman during his remarks.
“I understand that Americans are angry and frustrated,” Bush told the crowd in Charleston, South Carolina. “But we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our anger and frustration. We need someone who can fix the problems that cause our anger and frustration. And that’s Jeb Bush.”
PPP said it surveyed 897 likely Republican primary voters on Feb. 14 and 15 with a margin of error of 3.3 percent.