Will 'blood' remark sink Donald Trump?

Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump (AAP)
Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump (AAP)

Real estate mogul and surprise frontrunner for the Republican presidential candidacy Donald Trump is refusing to apologise for a crude remark about a Fox News host.

Megyn Kelly moderated last week's televised debate between a number of Republican hopefuls, watched by 24 million people, during which Mr Trump alleges she asked a number of "unfair" questions of him.

"You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," Mr Trump told CNN on Friday.

He's since denied he was referring to menstruation, saying only a "sick" or "deviant" person would interpret the remark that way.

But several of his Republican opponents did take it that way. The only woman in the Republican field, Carly Fiorina, told Fox News there was "no excuse" for Mr Trump's attack on Ms Kelly, and Jeb Bush called on Mr Trump to apologise.

International relations expert Robert Patman of Otago University says as long as Mr Trump stays ahead in the polls, he probably won't apologise.

"I don't think it matters enormously to Mr Trump, because from his point of view, when he gets these demands for apologies, he feels that he's striking a real raw nerve," Dr Patman said on the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"He says he has never been apologising to failed politicians, and he's not going to start now."

Mr Trump has also been disinvited to a major conservative event in Atlanta, where he was scheduled to speak.

Dr Patman says Mr Trump won't be too worried, because his strategy doesn't seem to be focused on winning over just the Republican base.

"He is an entertaining character who is galvanising people who would not normally watch those sort of political programmes. The interesting thing is Trump said that he's very angry with Fox News' coverage of his candidature. It's no secret that many people in Fox believe that Trump is unelectable, and Trump knows this. He's fully aware of the situation, so we've got this fascinating struggle going on between Trump and a major conservative media outlet.

"The interesting thing is though I think Trump is thinking ahead, and not only is he roughing up his rivals in the Republican Party, but he is trying to extend his appeal to people who may not be Fox News viewers – that is conservative Democrats."

Republican voters who watched the debate, says Dr Patman, may have seen past Mr Trump's bluster and been impressed by some of the lesser-known candidates.

"I thought Marco Rubio from Florida was very impressive, the Senator who's only been in office since 2011, but he was articulate and crisp. Also, he conforms the American dream – comes from a relatively modest family, Cuban parents, and he'd be in a very good position to take on people like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders on questions of distribution of wealth."

But how long can Mr Trump's brash and confrontational style keep him riding high in the polls? Dr Patman says it's difficult to know what he'll have to say or do to turn voters away.

"So far, he has defied the pundits – everybody said when he made those remarks about Mexican criminals crossing the border, that would finish him; when he made the unflattering remarks about Mr McCain's war record, they said it would finish him; so we will have to wait and see whether his very unflattering remarks about Megyn Kelly hurt him or not."

The official decision on who will be the Republican nominee for president doesn't even begin for another six months, and won't be over until July.

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