Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

For Donald Trump the entrepreneur, it was a damaging week. Two major television networks severed ties, Macy’s dropped his clothing line and Carlos Slim, the even richer Mexican tycoon, ended a joint venture with him.

But for Donald Trump the inveterate showman and Republican challenger for president, the week was a triumph as he climbed in the opinion polls and dominated media coverage, despite the backlash against his decision to condemn Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug traffickers.

“Wow, Huffington Post just stated that I am number one in the polls of Republican candidates,” the brash billionaire bragged as the week closed, citing the liberal media outlet that has been a platform for many of the strongest attacks on him. “Thank you, but the work has just begun!”

Mr Trump was touting his first place in an average of 105 polls. Of the 14 candidates who have declared, Trump topped the field with 13.6 per cent support to 13.3 per cent for Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and son and brother of two past presidents.

The property mogul, reality television star and beauty pageant owner with the most flamboyant comb-over in public life may seem like a caricature and a political joke.

But the Republican hierarchy is not laughing as he rides an anti-establishment populist tide, shooting from the hip with his overheated rhetoric. They are concerned not because they think he has a chance of securing the nomination but because they fear he could influence the election by scarring the party’s reputation.

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“Donald Trump is like watching a roadside accident,” Ari Fleischer, a former spokesman for George W Bush, told Politico. “Everybody pulls over to see the mess. And Trump thinks that’s entertainment. But running for president is serious. And the risk for the party is that he tarnishes everybody.”

Source: Republicans cast turmoil as Donald Trump rides the populist surge – Telegraph