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Interest in Donald Trump spikes in Florida, based on Google searches during debate

If there were any doubt about Donald Trump’s rising popularity in Florida, crunching numbers of Internet searches statewide during last night’s presidential debate might just put those doubts to rest.

Tallahassee-based Strategic Digital Services (SDS) released figures Wednesday morning examining Google Trends in the top Florida media markets during the final Republican Party debate for 2015. Search engine volume is one factor in gauging a candidate’s relative strength in a particular region.

SDS looked at numbers for Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as well as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Preliminary numbers suggest that among Florida voters, Trump, the real estate billionaire and current Republican front-runner, is moving from what many saw as a “fringe” candidacy squarely into the mainstream.

“The Google search data from last night’s debate solidifies that Donald Trump is absolutely no longer the sideshow candidate,” said SDS co-founder Joe Clements. “It also shows that Floridians are doing their homework. Though with top related searches ranging from questions about spouses to their height, what interests users is far different from what a candidate wants you to be interested in.”

Curiosity over Trump took the search engine lead in six of the 10 top Florida media markets (as of early Wednesday morning) – West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Panama City. Cruz was the leader in two – Miami and Gainesville (where he tied with Bush). Marco Rubio was the most searched name in West Palm Beach (where he also tied with Trump). Carson was tops in Tallahassee and Pensacola.

google searches GOP debate

“What we see in the data is people engaged in this election are taking the initiative to educate themselves instead of allowing others to dictate their support,” said Matt Farrar, co-founder of SDS. “The search data also illustrates the importance of candidates owning the content in those top Google searches. Controlling the digital narrative is a powerful accelerator.”

SDS also looked at specific numbers, which help to provide insight on how the Republican presidential race in shaping up in Florida.

One takeaway was that Trump dominated search engine activity early on in the debate, which started at 8:25 p.m., and remained on top throughout the evening. Being the most searched Republican candidate in the Sunshine State, Trump had more than seven times the volume of Cruz, the next most searched candidate.

Google searches during the debate corresponded in two important ways: on-screen time of a particular candidate, and how often an opponent was named, creating what SDS calls a “feedback cycle.” For example, when Trump answered a question and mentioned Cruz, Google searches for both spiked.

In addition, SDS found people in Florida were evaluating candidates based on personality and how comfortable they are with them, not necessarily on individual policy positions. Top search terms tended to be more about the candidate – his or her net worth, spouses and height – as opposed to just the candidate’s name.

SDS, a Republican-led technology firm providing digital insight for campaigns and causes, will also be researching similar data for Democrats during the next debate, set for Saturday, Dec. 19.


Republicans to take debate stage in race reshaped by attacks

Republican presidential candidates take the debate stage Tuesday night for the first time in a month, their race reshaped by national security threats but still dominated by outsider contenders. Now it’s Ted Cruz challenging front-runner Donald Trump.

Trump will once again be standing at center stage, reflecting the billionaire businessman’s surprising dominance in the GOP primary campaign. His newest test, at least in the leadoff Iowa caucus, comes from Texas Sen. Cruz, a chief antagonist of Republican leaders in Washington.

The debate will be the first for Republicans since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, that increased concerns about terrorism in the United States. Hours before the debate was to begin, officials in Los Angeles closed all schools after an emailed threat.

Trump’s response to the terror attacks was to call for a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. The proposal was roundly criticized by his rivals but appears to be resonating with some of his supporters.

With less than two months until voting begins, Cruz is trying to pitch himself as a more electable alternative to Trump. The Texas senator has a robust campaign infrastructure and conservative appeal, though some Republican leaders believe his hardline positions and prickly demeanor would put him at a disadvantage in a general election contest against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Trump and Cruz have maintained a friendly relationship for months, but signs of a split have emerged in recent days, with Cruz appearing to question Trump’s judgment at a private fundraiser, according to audio obtained by The New York Times, and Trump calling Cruz “a little bit of a maniac.”

Trump didn’t go after Cruz by name during a Las Vegas rally on the eve of the debate, but said the prime-time face off could turn messy.

“I am giving them a chance for them to make total fools of themselves in front of millions of people,” Trump said, adding that he was expecting to be attacked. “This will not be like an evening in paradise for me. Do we agree?” he asked.

Another dynamic in Tuesday’s debate involves Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another first-term senator and Cuban-American.

Cruz and Rubio have been sparring from afar, particularly over national security. Rubio has tried to brand Cruz as an isolationist and has criticized his support for ending the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, saying it weakens the government’s ability to identify potential terrorists.

“There are some differences in policy,” Rubio said of Cruz in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. “I think we need to be the national security party, the party of strong national security, committed to ensuring we have the strongest military force in the world.”

More broadly, Rubio’s campaign is eager to cast Cruz, who prides himself on being a conservative “truth-teller,” as a politically expedient flip-flopper who is willing to say whatever is necessary to win an election. Rubio’s campaign has raised questions about Cruz’s position on sending troops to the Middle East as well as whether he would allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to stay here.

Cruz’s campaign has dismissed the criticism, with spokesman Rick Tyler saying, “Nobody believes Senator Cruz is weak on national defense and security.”

The debate was being held at the Venetian Hotel, which is owned by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of the GOP’s prolific donors, and he and Trump were to meet beforehand.

“They are longtime friends,” said Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, via email. “Mr. Trump would be happy to have Mr. Adelson’s support but doesn’t want or need his money.”

The debate is particularly crucial for some of the more experienced GOP politicians who have struggled to gain traction in a crowded field.

That’s particularly true for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the former front-runner and elite fundraiser who has been languishing for months. While Bush’s advisers have brushed aside suggestions he should drop out of the race before voting begins, a weak performance would increase those calls.

One establishment candidate who does appear to be gaining ground is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He’s hanging his White House hopes on a strong finish in New Hampshire, where he’s winning important endorsements and climbing in preference polls.

“I’ve been making executive decisions for 13 years and been held accountable for them,” Christie told the AP Monday. “There’s no other way to get ready for the presidency than that; you have to have executive experience to be successful.”

Also on the main stage Tuesday night will be retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose campaign is on the decline after a surge in early fall; former business executive Carly Fiorina; Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Four lower-polling candidates will appear at an earlier event: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Florida primary ballot set: 13 Republicans, 3 Democrats

Florida’s presidential primary ballot will feature 13 Republican candidates and three Democratic ones.

Monday was the deadline for candidates to ask to have their name removed from the March primary ballot. Bobby Jindal, who suspended his presidential campaign in November, was the only candidate who asked to be dropped from the ballot.

Florida Republican voters will choose from among these candidates: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.

Democratic primary voters will have three Democrats to choose from during the primary: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders.

There could be a lot riding on the Republican primary. That’s because Republican Party of Florida officials voted to make the GOP primary a winner-take-all contest.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.15.15 – Vegas, baby, Vegas!

After the third GOP presidential debate in late October, I wrote in this space after Marco Rubio received plaudits for his effort if it would translate into votes.

A couple of weeks later, after the fourth debate in Milwaukee, the conventional wisdom from pundits was that it was time that Rubio and Ted Cruz were going to take off.

As we’ve seen in the past week, Cruz has finally jump started his campaign, and now leads in several polls in Iowa, the site of the first caucus next February.

And Rubio? He really hasn’t moved the meter. Yes, he’s moved up from the first debate in August from an average of 5.3 percent to 13.3 percent in the average of national polls (h/t to the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett for that stat).

The problem is that Donald Trump is averaging at around 33 percent in most polls. You don’t have to be a math major to realize that Rubio doesn’t come close to that.

For all the hype about Cruz, he’s averaging only at 16 percent nationally.

So, undoubtedly Marco will surely have another solid performance at the debate tonight at the Venetian in Las Vegas, but why would he move the dial now?

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Trump and Cruz tonight, or at least mine will be (then again, they’ll actually be dependent on where the CNN producers choose to put their camera). Cruz is riding the momentum – but it’s Iowa folks, the site where Mike Huckabee won in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. In other words, it’s somewhat overrated in terms of how it will decided the next president.

The fact is, other than the first debate, where Carly Florina did well in the “kiddie table” forum, the polls haven’t changed that much all year, save for the fact that Ben Carson’s stock is dropping like a rock and Cruz has filled that void.

In other words, Jeb Bush can have a spectacular debate tonight, and it probably won’t do much for his ratings. Chris Christie continues to hang in there in New Hampshire, but nowhere else really, yet some political analysts continue to rate him up there as possible figure who could start doing well.

It’s been five weeks since the previous debate, meaning before Paris and San Bernadino. Expect lots of questions on combating terrorism, Syrian refugees and gun issues.

In other news…

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is very much against the open carry legislation being pushed by GOP lawmakers in Tallahassee. But he says that quotes attributed to him in a News Story of Florida last week were out of context, and he’s been paying hell for them for the past five days.

Former GOP CD 13 candidate Mark Bircher is about to become a candidate once again in 2016.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz questions the premise that Marco Rubio has any appeal to millennial voters.

The Florida Democratic Party has released a web ad mocking Rubio’s financial issues, with their new “Rubio Card.”

Bob Buckhorn wants bankruptcy protection for Puerto Rico, and said so yesterday in an op-ed co-penned with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Marco Rubio in 4th place in Iowa in new poll

Despite the support from more major donors and the so-called GOP establishment, Marco Rubio‘s campaign doesn’t appear to be doing much in Iowa, site of the first caucuses next year.

The Florida senator remains in fourth place in Iowa, according a poll released Sunday.

The big story in the Des Moines Register  is the rise of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who leads the survey with 31 percent support, giving him a 10-point lead over Donald Trump, who has 21 percent support in the poll.

Dr. Ben Carson is in third place with 15 percent, and Rubio is next at 10 percent.

Jeb Bush is fifth with 10 percent.

Rubio and Bush have gained 1 point each in the survey from the previous poll the Register conducted in Iowa in October.

The story of the poll is Cruz. He was the favorite of just 10 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers in the Iowa Poll in October.

Another 20 percent of likely caucusgoers say he’s their current second choice for president. Cruz hits 51 percent support when first- and second-choice interest is combined, again leading the field.

Three Republicans are tied at 3 percent: Rand Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The Iowa Poll of 400 likely Republican caucusgoers was conducted Dec. 7-10 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Ben Carson threatens to leave Republican Party

In what would be a nightmare scenario for the GOP, presidential candidate Ben Carson threatened Friday to leave the Republican Party amid reports of deepening concerns from GOP officials about the splintered 2016 electorate.

The retired neurosurgeon lashed out at Republican leaders who discussed the possibility of a “brokered convention” during a recent private dinner in Washington. The Washington Post first reported Thursday that the group, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, addressed the sustained strength of billionaire businessman Donald Trump and the possibility that a consensus nominee might not emerge before the party’s mid-July national convention in Cleveland.

“If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party,” Carson said in a statement that referenced Trump’s repeated threats to leave the GOP if treated “unfairly.”

“I pray that the report in the Post this morning was incorrect,” Carson added. “If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Republican voters on Donald Trump: no compassion, no problem

Republican voters don’t think Donald Trump is likable. They don’t think he’s compassionate. And many don’t consider him particularly honest.

But he’s overwhelmingly viewed as decisive and competent. And that’s what matters most – at least for now – to Republicans.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that 8 in 10 Republican registered voters call Trump very or somewhat decisive. That’s top in the field for the businessman, whose blunt style was featured for years on reality TV. At the same time, it finds much resistance to him from the country at large.

The poll was taken before he called for a ban on Muslims coming into the United States and does not reflect the furor that has turned some leading Republican figures, at least, against him.

“I wouldn’t give him a 10 on the compassionate scale,” said poll respondent Lisa Barker, 55, of Worcester, Massachusetts, an unaffiliated voter who says she’s all in for Trump. “I’d probably put him in the middle. But I love the fact that he’s decisive.”

She’s not alone.

After rocketing to the front of the Republican pack in the 2016 race for president, he’s stayed there for months with a brash approach that has captivated a healthy slice of the GOP electorate.

People frustrated with the status quo appear to love his style – even when his policies draw condemnation and his facts are wrong. Trump drew widespread criticism from within his own party and from leaders around the world this week after calling for the ban on Muslim entry to the United States.

In the new national survey, three-quarters of Republicans said Trump would have a chance of winning the general election if nominated, significantly more than say so of any other GOP candidate.

“Donald Trump is saying what 95 percent of the people of this country, that belong to this country, that were born and raised in this country, feel and think,” said 83-year-old J.W. Stepp, a registered Republican who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Donald Trump is exactly what this country needs,” Stepp said. “He’s probably the most decisive person in the race.”

But the AP-GfK poll also offers cause for long-term concern for such Trump loyalists.

Beyond Republicans, 58 percent of all Americans have an unfavorable view of him. That’s the worst favorable rating of any candidate in either party, a reminder that decisiveness alone may not be enough to help Trump prevail in next fall’s general election if he represents the GOP on the ballot.

Yet he appears to be well-positioned in his party’s nomination contest, which begins with the Iowa caucuses in less than eight weeks. The early voting contests tend to feature the GOP’s most passionate voters, a small but vocal group that has been excited about Trump’s candidacy.

While Trump is considered the most decisive of the five GOP candidates tested, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz earned the next highest mark with 56 percent calling him very or somewhat decisive. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson had 53 percent, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 52 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 42 percent.

By contrast, just 31 percent of Republican voters say Trump is at least somewhat compassionate, and 43 percent say he is at least somewhat likable. Carson, who’s been slipping in recent polls, is viewed as most compassionate and likable, with 7 in 10 Republican voters saying each word describes him at least somewhat well.

Unfortunately for Carson, likeability isn’t among the most desired attributes among Republicans in this campaign.

Nine in 10 Republican voters say decisiveness and competence are extremely or very important in a candidate for president in 2016, according to the poll. Just 6 in 10 rate compassion as that important, while only half say it’s important for a candidate to be likable.

Nine in 10 Republican voters also say that honesty is an important quality in a presidential candidate, although they’re split on whether that’s a description that applies to Trump.

Fifty-five percent say “honest” describes him very or somewhat well and 43 percent say it describes him only slightly or not at all. Bush, Rubio and Cruz don’t do much better. Carson, by contrast, is viewed as at least somewhat honest by 66 percent of Republican voters.

Trump has repeatedly made false or dubious assertions, such as his debunked claim to have seen thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the 9/11 attacks. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the Republican electorate, which is deeply skeptical of the media.

Two-thirds of Republican voters believe media coverage is generally biased against Trump, more than say so of the other top candidates. Fifty-four percent say media coverage is biased against Carson, close to half say that about Bush and Cruz, and 40 percent say that about Rubio.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,007 adults, including 333 Republican and Republican leaning registered voters, was conducted online Dec. 3-7, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s knack for controversy drowning out his rivals

Even campaigning half as much as his rivals, Donald Trump is drowning them out in an echo chamber of insults and charged pronouncements that have taken over the presidential campaign. Frustrated GOP candidates trekking across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are struggling to be heard.

All the while, some Republican officials worry the intense Trump focus is letting Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton escape serious scrutiny as she works to strengthen her case to general election voters in the 2016 contest.

“He’s playing you like a fine Stradivarius violin,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters who mobbed him after a campaign stop in New Hampshire this week — to get his reaction to Trump’s remarks. “This is what he does. He’s an expert at this. He’s phenomenal at garnering attention.”

Perhaps no one is more frustrated than Bush, the former Florida governor once thought the likely nominee but now fighting for relevance as Trump leads most Republican polls.

Bush spoke at length during his campaign stops about his strategy to stop the Islamic State, which he said President Barack Obama and Clinton, as secretary of state, had foolishly dismissed.

Yet the first question he faced from voters at a Tuesday night stop in southern New Hampshire had nothing to do with his policies. “I’m going to say two words, probably the last two words you want to hear right now,” said Tim Chrysostom, one of 125 in attendance. “Donald Trump.”

“What about him?” Bush replied curtly.

With Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States, just the latest example of his provocative statements, the billionaire businessman has found a way to dominate the conversation even when he’s not in the room.

On Wednesday, Bush touted a plan to return more power to states. Ohio Gov. John Kasich addressed national security in New York. And retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson outlined his plan to reshape the U.S. health care system.

Each made hardly a ripple in the race.

Trump’s newest comments on Muslims, however, got attention.

“I’m doing good for the Muslims,” he declared in an interview to be aired Wednesday night on CNN. “Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me.”

Tens of millions of dollars in campaign spending aren’t helping Trump’s adversaries break through.

Trump spent $5.6 million through the end of September. The rest of the GOP field spent more than $76 million over the same period.

Bush and his supporters alone have invested some $32 million in television and radio commercials. Trump? About $300,000.

Even Trump’s critics, like New Hampshire Republican national committeeman Steve Duprey, admires the real estate mogul’s ability to dominate the conversation with such a modest investment of time and money.

“No one can deny he’s running a brilliant campaign,” Duprey said.

Trump has all but abandoned traditional retail campaigning in which candidates court smaller groups of voters in key states. Instead he’s focusing on massive rallies and most often on national media interviews — frequently conducted on the phone from Manhattan’s Trump Tower.

Extraordinary statements have become ordinary for Trump. At the same South Carolina rally where he read his no-Muslims statement aloud, he also suggested “closing that Internet up in some way,” saying it had become a breeding ground for radicalization.

Some rivals have tried to emulate Trump’s fiery rhetoric.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz explained his preferred approach to the Islamic State militants by promising to rain violence on their strongholds. “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion,” he said at a tea party rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”

At a rally Tuesday night in Atlanta, Carson suggested that U.S. citizens should train for terrorist attacks much as schoolchildren once conducted air-raid drills during the Cold War. “We need to start teaching people what to do once again in those situations,” he said.

Such tactics concern some Republican donors and operatives.

“You’re not going to get earned media unless you’re outrageous, but it is foolish to try to out-Trump Trump,” said John Jordan, a California donor backing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

At the same time, Republicans are missing a key opportunity to weaken vulnerable Democrats, GOP operatives say.

The Trump call to block Muslims from the U.S. abutted — and then overtook — criticism that Obama’s White House address about fighting the Islamic State was weak. Questions about Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state have faded.

“Donald Trump is a massive walking, talking in-kind donation to former Secretary Rodham Clinton,” said Liz Mair, a GOP strategist who is trying to raise money to curb a Trump rise. “Media focus on him, and the type of focus more specifically blocks other candidates who could better compete against her from getting any attention whatsoever.”

In New Hampshire, Sheryl and Mark Poor say they are tired of Trump.

The Manchester couple hasn’t settled on a 2016 candidate, and attended a Bush rally this week to learn more about him. That was hard to do with all the questions about Trump, Sheryl Poor said.

“I’d like to see Donald Trump go,” she said. “He doesn’t have the finesse, and he’s going to upset the world.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

St. Leo University Florida presidential poll out shows Donald Trump with 31% — Marco Rubio 15% — Jeb Bush 14%

Donald Trump continues to lead in the GOP presidential race in Florida, according to a new poll released on Wednesday by St. Leo University Polling Institute.

The NYC businessman is at 30.6 percent, up nearly 5 percent points from a similar survey conducted in October. Marco Rubio is in second place with 15 percent, a drop of over 6 points over the past two months. Jeb Bush is at 14.3 percent, a drop of 1 percent since October.

Ben Carson slips to fourth place with 10.9 percent, compared to 14.7 percent in October. And Ted Cruz is now at 10.2 percent in the poll, up from 4.9 percent in October.

It should be noted that only 147 Republicans were contacted in this survey. Overall, 531 Floridians were polled by the institute from November 29 to December 3, 2015; a national survey of 1,007 adults was conducted in parallel during the same time frame. The margin of error for answers from the above subgroup is plus or minus 8 percentage points.

On the Democratic side, it’s not much of a contest at all. Hillary Clinton gets 58.8 percent of the vote to Bernie Sanders 26.9 percent. The margin of error on Democratic likely voter responses was plus or minus 7.5 percentage points. The subgroup numbered 160.

When asked who would be the best candidate would “likely mount the strongest and most effective effort against terrorists worldwide while protecting Americans at home?” the winner was Trump, with 25.2 percent support. Clinton was a close second with 22.8 percent. No other candidate received more than 10 percent support.

However, Clinton leads every Republican in the survey, and would also win in a three-way race with Trump running as an independent.

  • Clinton, 48.9 percent, vs. Trump, 41.2 percent.
  • Clinton, 48.9 percent, vs. Rubio, 41.2 percent.
  • Clinton, 51.2 percent, vs. Carson, 39.1 percent.
  • Clinton, 47.3 percent, vs. Bush, 37.9 percent.
  • Clinton, 53 percent, vs. Cruz, 34.7 percent
  • Clinton, 55.2 percent, vs. former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina, 29.7 percent.

Three-Candidate Presidential Race Projections from Florida

Likely voters in Florida were also asked whom they would choose if there were a three-way presidential ballot with Trump running an independent candidacy, with Clinton running on the Democratic ticket, and with each of the major current Republican candidates emerging as the party nominee. In all scenarios, the results broke in Clinton’s favor, shown below in descending order:

  • Clinton, 47.5 percent; Fiorina, 12.9 percent; Trump, 30.7 percent.
  • Clinton, 46 percent; Cruz, 21.3 percent; Trump, 26 percent.
  • Clinton, 45.5 percent; Carson, 20.3 percent; Trump, 27.7 percent,
  • Clinton, 44.8 percent; Rubio, 21.8 percent; Trump, 28.2 percent.
  • Clinton, 41.8 percent; Bush, 19.1 percent; Trump, 33.4 percent.

Donald Trump plans visit to majority-Muslim kingdom of Jordan

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to visit the majority-Muslim kingdom of Jordan at the end of December, The Associated Press has learned. The disclosure came one day after Trump’s controversial proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States to protect the nation from Islamic terrorism.

Trump’s visit to Jordan would take place as part of his trip to neighboring Israel, which he previously disclosed during an interview last week with the AP. It was not immediately clear whether Trump would meet personally with King Abdullah there, but his campaign told U.S. government officials he wants the meeting.

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to questions about the trip.

The U.S. government was making preparations based on Trump’s plans. Trump has Secret Service protection for his safety.

Trump was widely criticized over his proposal this week to prevent all Muslims from visiting the U.S., although he clarified his idea Tuesday to say that he would allow foreign Muslim leaders to visit.

Jordan is among the United States’ staunchest allies in the Persian Gulf region and its military has regularly flown bombing missions against the Islamic State group. Jordan is also home to massive refugee camps for more than 600,000 Syrians who have fled the fighting in neighboring Syria. In February, a Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot, Lt. Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, was brutally burned to death inside a cage after his F-16 jet crashed over Syria.

Trump’s Republican rival, Ben Carson, visited two camps for Syrian refugees in the Jordanian desert two weeks ago with no media coverage. Carson afterward praised Jordan for its generosity toward the refugees but said none should be brought to the United States.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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