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Trump’s attack on McCain marks a turning point for him — and the GOP

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It was only a matter of time before Donald Trump crossed the kind of line he did on Saturday, when he questioned the heroism of Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War POW. The question now is whether Candidate Trump is immune from the laws of political gravity or soon will be isolated and regarded as an object of scorn or curiosity rather than of presidential seriousness.

Since announcing his candidacy last month, Trump has enjoyed a swift rise, vaulting into the lead in some national and state polls in the crowded contest for the Republican nomination. His sharp attacks on illegal immigrants from Mexico and his flamboyant style struck a nerve with voters who are angry with Washington and with political double talk.

Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent

and Southwest correspondent. View Archive

Trump has dominated coverage of the race with nonstop interviews and over-the-top comments. He has proved to be a skilled showman — a talent honed on reality TV — who is able to command attention with his combative verbal style.

But there is more to becoming president than what Trump has displayed so far, and many Republicans said Sunday that they think his attack on McCain (R-Ariz.) marks a turning point for Trump the politician.

Few would offer their views for the record, owing to their positions working for other candidates or a desire not to put themselves into direct conflict with Trump. One described Trump’s attack on McCain as “lethal.” Another said he expects “a complete cratering” of Trump’s support. Still another predicted that Trump would become “a niche candidate” and a sideshow to the main event.

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