This election is testing the Republican loyalties of military voters

An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll in mid-August found that Trump was leading Clinton by 10 points — 51 to 41 percent — in military households, even after he angered many veterans groups by feuding with a Gold Star Muslim family that had lost a son in Iraq. (Blacks and Latinos in military households chose Clinton over Trump, though by lower margins than among the general population.) A Fox News poll in early August found Trump ahead of Clinton by 14 points in early August among veterans. But that lead is smaller than those of previous Republican candidates, possibly because of Trump’s remarks about the Gold Star family and his criticism of military interventions. At this point in the cycle, John McCain had a 22-point lead among veterans in 2008, and Mitt Romney was up 24 points in 2012.

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Military voters, notes Peter Feaver, a professor of political science at Duke University, encompass a wide range of demographic groups and ideologies, with the most senior military professionals tending to be the most conservative and Republican. The reason Trump is not doing as well as previous Republican candidates with military voters, he said, is that Trump’s message might resonate more with World War II and Korea veterans, who are aging and passing on. In particular, he calls Trump’s relationship to the Vietnam cohort of veterans “fraught.”
“Take our two iconic Vietnam vets — [Sen. John] McCain and [Secretary of State John] Kerry,” said Feaver, who held national security roles in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “The Kerry version of the Vietnam vet is not going to find Trump appealing. And you might say the McCain version would, but one of Trump’s first actions was to mock McCain’s time as a POW. He also dodged the draft more noticeably than any other Republican candidate for president.”

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