After a Saturday debate in South Carolina that saw Donald Trump bombarded with heavy booing, polls show that the New York billionaire and reality TV personality has not only maintained his massive lead in the state, he actually expanded his dominant polling margin. And with the South Carolina Republican primary now less than a week away, a Donald Trump victory now appears inevitable.
In fact, his lead in most of the primary and caucus states coming after the February 20 South Carolina primary paints a picture of nearly complete dominance by the 68-year-old Donald Trump throughout the primary campaign, with his opponents not yet showing any coherent strategy to stop him. One of the few stumbling blocks for Trump will likely be Texas, home state of Trump's chief rival, ultra-conservative Senator Ted Cruz.
As we learned in NH, it doesn't matter if audience is booing TrumpIn the FiveThirtyEight polling average, Cruz currently holds a 17.1 percentage point lead over Trump in Texas, which holds its primary on "Super Tuesday," March 1, and has 155 delegates at stake. But in the second-most important Super Tuesday state — Georgia, with 76 delegates — Trump holds 17-point lead.
— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) February 14, 2016
At Saturday night's Republican debate at The Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina, Trump and his GOP foes were anything but peaceful, as Trump ripped into former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, maneuvering Bush into the position of defending his older brother, President George W. Bush, over both the Iraq War and 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But when Trump declared that the elder Bush did not "keep us safe" because the September 11, 2001, terror attacks occurred "on his watch," the Peace Center crowd drowned out Trump with angry boos.
"I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush!... He kept us safe? That is not safe!"Viewers who missed the no-hold-barred South Carolina Republican debate on Saturday can catch all the high-volume action in the video below.
In part as a result of the booing, as well as Trump's taking other positions unpopular with the Republican base — even declaring that the women's health organization Planned Parenthood "does wonderful things" — most political media pundits quickly reached a consensus that Donald Trump "lost" the February 13 debate.
But a new tracking poll released Sunday morning and conducted by the debate's sponsor, CBS News, in collaboration with YouGov, found that Trump appears unlikely to suffer as a result of his supposed "loss" in the debate. His lead in South Carolina heading into the event was larger than ever, and trending up.
UPDATE, February 15: A poll conducted Sunday, after the debate, by the South Carolina House Republican Caucus also shows Trump with a sizable continuing lead. In that poll, Trump leads Cruz by 19 points, 33 to 14. Another post-debate poll — by Public Policy Polling — came up with a similar result, showing Trump maintaining a 17-point lead over Cruz, 35 percent to 18 percent, as it becomes increasingly apparent that any damage sustained by Trump due to his debate performance was minimal.
As seen in the below graphic, the Sunday tracking poll shows Trump with a 22-point lead over Cruz and a 27-point margin over Florida Senator Marco Rubio, with the other candidates remaining essentially non-factors.
Even though getting booed on stage never creates a favorable impression on television, Trump has made a point of publicly noting that Republican debate audiences are not representative of the Republican electorate. Trump has described the audiences as artificially packed with big-time Republican donors who largely support Bush and Rubio, the "establishment" candidates.
According to data compiled by the conservative news site, Breitbart, there were approximately 1,600 tickets available for Saturday's South Carolina debate. Of those, 600 were split among the six candidates on stage, while 550 went to state and local GOP party big shots, and another 367 to the Republican National Committee itself.
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The final block of 100 tickets went divided among CBS News, The Peace Center, and debate co-sponsor Google.
In other words, as few as 100 people in the audience may have been supporters of Donald Trump thanks to the allocation of tickets, helping to explain why polls show no signs of the negative response Trump received at the South Carolina debate, one week in advance of the state's Republican primary.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]