That’s according to the POLITICO Caucus, our weekly survey of the top activists, operatives and early-state strategists. Fifty-four percent of Republicans surveyed, and one-quarter of Democrats, said Trump lost the contest. And two-thirds of Republican insiders said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got the better of Trump during their numerous confrontations throughout the night.
“Trump lost any chance to grow his base with his mean-spirited performance,” a South Carolina Republican said of Trump, the current poll-leader in that state one week from the primary. “He may still receive a quarter of the vote on February 20, but he will fall far below polling expectations. Trump’s attack on President George W. Bush was galactic-level stupid in South Carolina.”
Onstage, Trump repeatedly noted that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon happened on Bush’s watch and argued that proved Bush did not keep the country “safe.” That position led to heated back-and-forths with both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
“Was nearly rabid at points,” remarked an unaligned South Carolina Republican of Trump. “Could have jeopardized his lead.”