After presidential candidate Donald Trump said Saturday that Arizona Sen. John McCain is only a war hero because he was captured, and "I like people that weren't captured," he drew immediate condemnation from many of his fellow Republican candidates. Whether it will become a turning point in his campaign depends on what he does over the next 24 hours, Republican strategist and CBS News analyst Frank Luntz said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.
Luntz said he spoken to two separate veterans organizations who have said that Trump should apologize to McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
"The idea of distinguishing veterans who were captured versus those that weren't is offensive to them," said Luntz, who moderated the Family Leadership Summit where Trump criticized McCain Saturday. "This is a big deal because it demonstrates character. It demonstrates judgment. Up until this point that exchange was because I was asking him questions about the words that he was using and whether they were proper for a presidential candidate. But that exchange suggested that he really doesn't appreciate the significance of being a POW and what that means in American society."
When Trump's campaign put out a statement following up on his remarks about McCain, his campaign said he "left to a long lasting standing ovation which will be by far the biggest ovation of the weekend." But Luntz said that every single candidate who attended got a standing ovation, and only about 60 percent of the room stood up after Trump's remarks. Plus, he said, the standing ovations for candidates like Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, to name a few, "were far more enthusiastic than the one for Donald Trump."
Luntz said Trump's appeal for voters stems from the fact that "he says it the way it is and the American people are desperate."
"Beyond someone who is honest and accountable, that number two attribute that the American people are looking for... is someone who says what they mean and means what they say and Trump does do that and his language is very powerful for the disaffected voter," Luntz said. "But you still have to ask the question is this the kind of civility, is the kind of decency, is this the kind of language that builds a good electoral process."