AMES, Iowa -- When Bob Vander Plaats, President & CEO of the Family Leader, opened the Family Leadership Summit Saturday, he made a plea to the audience: "Do not be the weird one today." Then he turned to the media and asked them, "Don't cover the weird one."
He was probably talking about unusually vocal protesters who somehow dominate the tenor of the event and the coverage. But as it turned out, the headline that saturated national media airwaves after the summit - where 10 Republican presidential contenders spoke over eight-and-a-half hours - came from on stage instead: "Trump says McCain 'is not a war hero,'" and further, he seemed to deride him for being captured, although Trump later tried to modify that remark.
The majority of the Republican presidential contenders immediately shot out sharp statements leaping to McCain's defense, stating that he is a hero, and in some cases, suggesting that anyone who would make such an utterance to the contrary shouldn't be running for president.
But, based on the diverse, noncommital opinions of the event's attendees, it is hard to tell if Iowan voters will turn on "The Donald" over his comments.
Immediately following Trump's on-stage performance, over 30 reporters crushed into a semi-circle around the argumentative billionaire. And they pounced, asking questions like, "Do you blame McCain for his capture?" and making statements like, "You do not respect him because he was captured - that is what you said." Trump suddenly seemed to have become the defendant in a supercharged trial. One photographer took a fall while Trump was still being questioned, and he momentarily paused to make sure the photographer was okay - escaping the questions for a few seconds. But the testy back-and-forth quickly resumed.
More than once Trump barked, "No" to whatever reporters were shouting at him. And he refused to back down in his condemnations of McCain.
"Let me just say something, I think John McCain has done very little for the veterans," explained Trump, in an attempt to shift the basis of the discussion from McCain's war-hero status.
On Sunday talk shows, there were more denunciations of Trump, while Trump still maintained he owed no apology to McCain.
But the real question is just how voters in Iowa will react, and whether election watchers will remember this moment as the turning point for the Trump campaign (although it must be said that the campaign is still young, and voters in Iowa still have about six-and-a-half months to settle on their candidate).
Trump went into the weekend with strong numbers. Three recent polls have showed Trump in the lead. And people in Iowa were talking about him, too. On Saturday, Trump's comments were also trending on social media on Saturday.
And at the end of the family leadership summit, despite Trump's aggressive McCain comments, attendees remained divided in their views of Trump.
After talking about all of the candidates she saw on the stage, one woman from Des Moines told CBS she had determined that she was sticking with Trump because he was "forceful." Her husband chimed in calling the McCain war hero comments "just headlines."
Other attendees mentioned Trump's business experience as the reason they still support him - jiving with a Quinnipiac poll from earlier this month showing that likely Iowan Republican caucus-goers by a margin of 68-28 percent think that working in business is better preparation for president than working in government.
On the contrary -- every single one of the presidential contenders got a standing ovation on Saturday and, according to Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and a CBS News analyst who moderated the event, 60 percent of the room stood up for Trump. One woman remained seated for a very personal reason: she has a family member who was a POW in Vietnam. She did not feel comfortable sharing her name, but she found Trump's comments completely inappropriate and added that they should "disqualify" him from the presidential race.
On Sunday, Luntz echoed these sentiments in his analysis on CBS' Face the Nation.
"This is a big deal because it demonstrates character. It demonstrates judgment," the pollster explained. "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."
Comparing this incident to the decline of the Perry, Cain and Bachmann campaigns in 2011, political scientist John Sides thinks this could be the end of Trump's streak of success.
"The short story is that the news attention to Trump is what's driving his poll numbers," Sides explained. "But his poll numbers will likely decline after strong criticism from Republicans and accompanying scrutiny from the news media."
There is an overwhelming backlash against Trump right now among Republican leaders. Conservative journalists Bill Kristol said "I'm finished with Donald Trump," and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry went as far as to say, "I don't think he has the character or the temperament to hold the highest position in this country."
But when all was said and done on Saturday evening - after the long eight-and-a-half-hour-day, the eyes of the Iowans inside the auditorium had glazed over. One man even fell asleep in his seat. And as they walked outside into the sticky summer night, the chatter was not just about Trump. More than 2,500 attended the event and, in typical Iowan fashion, many left, saying that they are still shopping for a candidate to win their heart and their vote. Trump didn't seem to win them over, but he didn't alienate all of them, either.