Donald Trump Could Bump GOP Veterans Off Debate Stage

Donald Trump quickly earned the scorn of many veterans' groups this weekend with his controversial comments about Sen. John McCain's military service.

But the irony is that the unpredictable Trump is still likely to make it into the Fox News debate next month. And if he does, he will quite possibly bump off the stage one of the only two Republican candidates who are military veterans: former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The other veteran, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, is not close to the threshold for inclusion, but having neither Graham nor Perry on stage is sure to be an issue.

According to the Washington Post's most recent calculations, Perry just barely makes the cut for the Aug. 6 debate; the candidates on stage will be the top 10 from an average of the five latest national polls. Last week, Perry ranked 11th and looked like he would miss the debate, while Graham is further down. New polls are being released that could change that formula, but Perry is on the bubble.

The potential slight to the two Air Force veterans also comes at a time when national security is a big issue among voters. Now some Republicans are worrying about denying the vets' voice while giving Trump his greatest megaphone yet.

"It has the potential to become a sideshow on an important issue for Republican voters," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, who worked on McCain's 2008 campaign for president. "Graham and Perry pretty much stay above the fray. With Trump, he's just so unpredictable and is running an entire campaign on emotion."

Read more from Jessica Taylor at NPR

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