MUSCATINE, Iowa — It's crunch time here with the first votes of the 2016 presidential race just eight day away and Donald Trump isn't playing it safe.
The polls continue to show him with large leads over the pack – nationally and in key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina (the latest Fox News Iowa poll shows Trump opening up a lead on closest rival Ted Cruz, 34% to 23%).
And the GOP frontrunner, who’s candidacy has been studded with controversy from the start, added more over the past week. Here are five top moments from Trump over the past week:
1. How deep is their love?
Trump has often gloated about how loyal his supporters are to him, previously saying he could “be the worst person in the world” and they wouldn’t leave him. Saturday in Sioux Center, Iowa he escalated what he could do and still be loved.
"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's like incredible.”
The crowd laughed. Later, at his second event in Pella, across the Hawkeye State, NBC News asked supporters about this latest comment. Karissa Hastings chalked it up to “shock factor,” explaining that she didn’t think he believed that but that if he did she’d be “concerned, I guess.” Still: “I don’t think he means it.”
The most incredible part of Trump’s statement? It is actually steeped in truth. An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll from early January 2015 shows that Trump supporters, once decided, are likely to stay with him. 51% of respondents said there were “absolutely certain” that they will vote for Trump.
2. Remember: Trump retweets are still kind-of endorsements
Which is important when considering Trump’s latest re-tweet controversy. On Friday, Trump retweeted what appeared to be a neo-Nazi Twitter account, “@WhiteGenocideTM,” for a tweet that featured an image of Jeb Bush outside Trump Tower, dressed as a panhandler, and holding a “Vote Trump” sign.
The user’s profile picture depicted the founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell, and a caption “The Man Who Wants To Be Hitler.” WhiteGenocideTM’s location was listed as “Jewmerica,” his Twitter background read "GET THE F— OUT OF MY COUNTRY” and the website linked on his Twitter page is one promoting a Hitler bio-documentary, as well as a section that questions if the Holocaust actually happened. The Trump campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this re-tweet and the tweet is still on Trump’s Twitter page.
3. The Megyn Kelly feud is back (again)
Donald Trump’s disdain for Fox News host Megyn Kelly is no secret, but he’s reigniting those flames again ahead of Fox News’ coming GOP debate.
Kelly will, once again, be a moderator for the debate held just days before the Iowa caucus. In what appears to be an early attempt to discredit Kelly for having a “conflict of interest and bias,” Trump said she should “not be allowed to be a moderator of the next debate.” A Fox News spokesperson tells NBC News: "Megyn Kelly has no conflict of interest. Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday's debate, for which we thank him."
As a refresher: it was Kelly who, in the first GOP debate, asked Trump about his history with offensive language about women and it was about Kelly that Trump made his “blood coming out of her eyes” comment.
4. Mama Grizzly joins Team Trump, stirs controversy almost immediately
Former Alaska governor and prior vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Trump this week. The GOP frontrunner stood behind his most high profile endorser yet, smiling and at-times looking awkward as she hammered through lines hitting the DC establishment and reprising some of her greatest hits from the 2008 campaign.
But less than 24 hours earllier, her son Track Palin was arrested for domestic violence. Appearing with Trump in Tulsa, OK the day after throwing her support behind him in Iowa, Palin linked her son’s arrest on a battle with PTSD and President Obama’s stance on vets. Asked about it the following day, Trump told CNN that he “actually suggested” Palin discuss her son’s arrest and stood behind her connecting this to Obama. "Look, you know, everything starts at the top,” Trump said Wednesday evening. "He’s the president. And I think you can certainly do that.”
5. What RNC pledge?
Ted Cruz has spent the past few weeks in Donald Trump’s crosshairs – and with the polling in Iowa showing them neck-and-neck it’s not surprising why. But amid attacks on Cruz’s natural born citizenship, his ability to make deals and “cajole” in the Senate, and news about undisclosed loans from Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, Trump leveled a new claim on Saturday in Pella: All things considered, he wouldn’t vote for Ted Cruz. During a riff about those loans, Trump said “so that’s the story. I can’t – I don’t know. Maybe he’ll win. But I wouldn’t vote for him. I can tell you that. I wouldn’t vote for him.”
That sentiment is at direct odds with a previously signed RNC pledge to vote for the eventual Republican nominee, whoever it might be. Trump signed that pledge to much fanfare in September, effectively closing the door to a third party run and promising to support the eventual GOP nominee. On Sunday to CBS, Trump seemed to walk back these comments saying that he’d vote for him “if everything was fine” regarding his citizenship and eligibility.