Donald Trump's refusal to correct a New Hampshire man who said that President Barack Obama is a Muslim is "a bump in the road" for his campaign because many of the Republican front-runner's supporters believe it, University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said Saturday.
"There are loads of Republicans — in fact, a majority of Trump supporters and a pretty sizable minority of Republicans generally — who believe that Obama is a Muslim, which, I should add, is false," Sabato, director of the university's Center for Politics, told Uma Pemmaraju on Fox News.
"There's also a fifth or a quarter who believe that Obama was not born in the United States, which I need to add, is also false," he added. "But the fact that they believe it means that it's very difficult to use that against Trump, particularly with his own supporters."
Trump came under attack Friday from other GOP candidates for refusing to correct the man at the campaign event who had called Obama a Muslim.
He fired back
early Saturday in five tweets, saying in one of them: "Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so!"
Two recent polls, however, indicate that many Republicans and Trump supporters do believe that President Obama is a Muslim.
A CNN/ORC International poll
released this week found that 43 percent of Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim. That compares with only 28 percent who say that the president is a Christian.
Fifty-six percent of the GOP respondents, however, said they believed that Obama was born in Hawaii.
In a Sept. 1 survey by Public Policy Polling released
, by contrast, 66 percent of Trump's supporters said they believed that Obama is a Muslim, versus only 12 percent who say he is a Christian.
In addition, 61 percent think Obama was not born in the United States, compared with only 21 percent who say that he was.
Sabato told Pemmaraju that Trump "could have saved himself a lot of trouble by just deflecting what the gentleman said at that rally.
"He could have said, 'I don't know about the things you just raised, but here's my view on … .'
"He's the front-runner," Sabato added. "Since you're the front-runner, you always have to think about how all your opponents are going to interpret what you say and are you giving them an opportunity to come after you?
"He gave them an opportunity to come after him, not that I think that it will affect Trump's support, one way or the other."
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