PPP’s newest national poll finds that Donald Trump is likely facing at least some fallout from his comments about John McCain over the weekend. Nevertheless we do find him narrowly leading the national field in our survey, which went into the field on Monday. Trump gets 19% to 17% for Scott Walker, 12% for Jeb Bush, 10% for Ben Carson and Marco Rubio, 8% for Mike Huckabee, 4% each for Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul, 3% each for Chris Christie and John Kasich, 1% for Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum, and less than 1% each for Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki.

Trump’s lead comes despite the fact that only 22% of Republicans agree with the comments he made about John McCain over the weekend compared to 50% who disagree. Despite his overall lead there are some signs that Trump’s comments may have hurt him. For one thing his favorability rating is back down in the 40s, at 48/39. Although it’s not a perfect comparison, our state polls in Virginia (58/32) and North Carolina (55/32) over the previous two weeks had found him with numbers in the mid to upper 50’s. And although it’s an even more imperfect comparison to compare numbers with other polling organizations, Trump’s 2 point advantage is a lot less than the 11 point one had in an ABC/Washington Post poll conducted largely before Trump’s comments about McCain.

Many national Republican officials are increasingly resigned to Mr. Trump’s looming presence. At a meeting of the Republican Governors Association this week in Aspen, Colo., donors and operatives mused about how to prevent him from hijacking the debate.

One idea that came up was to urge three leading candidates— Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor; Mr. Walker; and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — to band together and state that they would not participate in any debate in which Mr. Trump is present, using his refusal to rule out a third-party bid as a pretext for taking such a hard line. The thinking, according to a Republican involved in the conversations, was that the lesser-funded prospects who have been eclipsed by Mr. Trump would follow suit, and the TV networks airing the debates would be forced to bar Mr. Trump in order to have a full complement of candidates.

But none of the campaigns have shown any appetite for such solidarity, for reasons ranging from their strategic interests and not wanting to make Mr. Trump a martyr, to fear of making an enemy out of Fox News, the preferred cable network of conservatives and the host of the first debate.

Trump’s presence at center stage [at the first debate] — his reward if he maintains his lead in the polls — is likely to transform the first Republican debate into a major media event, bringing big ratings to Fox News, the debate sponsor. By the same token, however, it will likely turn the traditionally policy-focused event into a pageant of personality, which is a potential nightmare for other candidates.

“I think you have to assume he’ll be loud and aggressive and do everything he can to stay on offense,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who gave the most commanding debate performances of the 2012 primary cycle, told POLITICO. “Trump is very smart, he has lots of TV experience and is absolutely uninhibited.”…

“He might be the only person on that stage with nothing to lose,” said one senior Republican campaign adviser, “and he isn’t going down alone.”

Laura Ingraham made the case for Mr. Trump during her radio show on Tuesday, calling on Republicans to do some soul searching about why he was resonating with voters and outpacing established politicians in the polls despite his McCain comments.

“How is it that the field is so susceptible to being, at least for the moment, Trumped?” Ms. Ingraham asked, lamenting that Republicans were doing themselves a disservice by ganging up on Mr. Trump…

According to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, much of Mr. Trump’s draw lies in his bluntness, a characteristic that also draws conservative listeners to talk radio hosts. The candidate is breaking what scholars call the “spiral of silence” and is validating voters who hold views that are widely considered politically incorrect. And the fact that party elites seem to loathe him only adds to the appeal.

“There’s an attraction to someone who seems to be standing up to all the elites that you despise,” she said, explaining why some voters might find Trump’s candidacy appealing. “Sometimes it isn’t what they are standing for, it’s how they are standing.”

Donald Trump might be leading in the polls, but even his biggest supporters don’t seem to know what would happen if he were voted into the Oval Office. When CNN asked Robert Kiger, head of the Trump Super PAC Citizens for Restoring USA, just what a Trump administration would accomplish, his answer was incredibly vague: “I think he’s going to accomplish everything that he set out to do,” Kiger replied, without much elaboration. In fact, aside from asserting that Trump is the most galvanizing political figure since Ronald Reagan and stressing that he will secure the U.S.-Mexico border, Kiger seemed clear about little else in the GOP hopeful’s agenda.

Kiger isn’t the first Trump supporter to be stumped by the question of what exactly The Donald would do in office. Just two days before Wednesday’s CNN interview aired, Trump campaign head Michael Cohen was unable to provide any supporting evidence to the claim that Trump was a better candidate for veterans issues. “So what is Donald Trump going to do?,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Cohen. Cohen’s response: “Donald Trump fixes things. You gotta acknowledge that.”

After discussions about immigration and issues related to the Chattanooga Shooting, Paul gave his thoughts about how the amount of coverage Trump receives is part of a “self-reinforced” media loop that takes away from other candidates.

“You go from channel to channel and people are looking for news and all getting the same thing,” Paul said. “I think its a temporary phenomenon though, and like a lot of things, it gets old quick, particularly once it starts to grate on people’s nerves.”

When asked about Trump’s bolstered ratings in the wake of his controversial comments about Mexicans, Paul said that presenting oneself as an outsider was recycled political maneuver that worked in the beginning because of the need for oneself to be distinguished. Paul said that Trump’s inflammatory attack took it to the next level, but at the expense of discussing serious issues.

“If you want to tap into a 90 percent issue, attack the Washington machine,” Paul said. “We have done the same thing, but not in a way that has engendered all of the attention all of the time.”

[Rush] Limbaugh is one of the few leaders in the conservative movement who has the megaphone and the juice to enforce discipline and good behavior, the way Bill Buckley did when he chose to write Ayn Rand, the Birchers, and a whole host of other unpleasant factions, out of the conservative movement…

This is not to suggest that nobody on the right has the cajones to stand up to Trump. In fairness, The Wall Street Journal has pointed out Trump’s horrible record and rhetoric, but their audience tends to be free market or fiscal conservatives—not the more angry, populist-leaning sort who listen to talk radio, read Breitbart.com, and might be susceptible to someone like Trump. These are the people who Limbaugh, who is still the king of talk radio, could dissuade from backing a charlatan like The Donald, and his refusal to thus far is truly dispiriting

Why would any real conservative want to defend this guy? Or, more to the point, why wouldn’t they show some courage and openly condemn him?

He’s been pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax hikes, pro-single-payer and is a past master of crony capitalism, to say nothing of his political and financial support for the Clintons and Barack Obama. It’s a mess. You’d never give any other candidate the benefit of the doubt on such a wide portfolio of positions that have changed 180 degrees and back again so many times. And yet, I imagine you can drill into Marco Rubio’s or Jeb Bush’s or even Scott Walker’s record for some sign of apostasy that you can never, ever, ever forgive…

Remember when Ted Cruz was your idol? When he was going to turn the world upside down and bring the TruCon revolution to its zenith? A month ago seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Ben Carson? Suddenly haram. Perry? Off the list. I’ve even seen Trump fans savaging Scott Walker, who almost everyone seems to love. You do know we’ve seen this movie before, right? A celebrity candidate? Cult-like devotion? Iconic posters? Vehement, bordering on violent reaction to any criticism of the One? Weird; I remember conservatives in 2008 reacting to the Obama Cult with disdain, but now we’ve got one of our own…

You hate political consultants. Message received. We’re the despised lepers of American political life because we’re warning you about Trump. You hate that we work for candidates who are not perfectly ideologically homogenous with your litmus test-du-jour. You hate me, for mocking His Majesty King Donald the Coiffed. You can’t imagine I do it because he’s not a conservative, and that by every professional metric this is a con game, not a campaign. A little part of you hates us because we’re telling you the truth about this flamboyant fraud, and you loathe being wrong, just as you were about Akin, McDaniel, Angle or the others.

So it may be that we are likewise today seeing a turning; a turning in which everything swirls around the New Man and the New Man can do no wrong. What he does is put the old cultural cycle to rest. The attack on McCain was iconoclastic, like a Maoist revolutionary intentionally destroying a priceless Ming Dynasty vase to mark the transition in history. Trump repudiated the most treasured symbol of the old regime, its most venerable warrior.

And if it holds, it will spread to Europe. Le Pen will advance and so will the anti-establishment, hard right and euroskeptic parties. Greece will turn to Russia and so will others. The EU will disintegrate. Germany will rise. Pre-Trump America will be repudiated as decadent and totalitarian, a war-mongering, baby-killing nihilist world empire, leaving a trail of monstrosities in its wake. And Trump the new Napoleon, awakener of the New Man…

Rick Perry (R), former governor of Texas who wants to be president in 2016, today leads the charge against Trump. Perry has been all along the right man for the job in Washington, but, symptom of the times today (pre-Trump) for Democrats and Republicans alike, to find the best, look to the bottom. To find the worst, look to the top of the polls and there you will find Trump. The times cry out for radical change, change of any kind — painful, dynamic, irrational change — and Trump brings it…

If Trump is still riding high in the Republican polling say in a month or so from now, the Republicans can consider themselves to be all but finished. And Trump will be the avatar of a yet-defined new movement. A metamorphosis will have occurred. We will have entered a new phase of our American condition from which there will be no turning back.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, Trump — who created one of the most memorable moments of the 2016 campaign so far by sharing rival Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number on national television — suggested that he would shift his rhetoric as president.

“As president, you would change your tone?” Cooper asked.

“Oh, I’d think so,” Trump said. “I’ll change my tone.”