It took two weeks for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMadonna rips into Trump at charity show Ex-staffer on Trump Taiwan flap: Clinton warned us this would happen Cruz: I'd rather have Trump talk to Taiwan than Cuba or Iran MORE to confirm the fears of Republicans that his entrance into the Republican White House race could hurt the GOP brand.
The real estate mogul is rocking the polls, but he’s also been engulfed in an escalating feud with Hispanics over remarks from his campaign launch, when he said Mexico was sending criminals and rapists across the border.
The GOP can’t dump Trump. In fact, right now the billionaire businessman would earn a top spot on the debate stage given his poll numbers. And that’s a worry for party veterans.
“We're now trying to grow the numbers of votes in the Hispanic, African-American communities and work on growing the amount of female voters,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, who suggested Trump is kneecapping those efforts.
“He's not hurting other candidates. He is risking the Republican brand,” added fellow Republican strategist David Payne.
Republican candidates for the most part haven’t attacked Trump over his remarks, with the exception of former New York Gov. George Pataki, a long-shot candidate who said the comments were “disrespectful” in an interview with Business Insider.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) praised Trump as “terrific” and “brash” on Fox News, adding, “I think he speaks the truth.”
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), another firebrand conservative, also defended Trump.
“I would say to Donald Trump, I appreciate the scrappiness of him. … When he’s attacked by other people, he counterattacks and plunges forward, and he delivers more facts to support the statement that he’s made,” King told host Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day.”
The comments that have caused Trump the most controversy — and won him the most attention — came at his June 16 announcement.
“When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best; they're not sending you,” he said. “They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
But while the comments hurt Trump with NBC and Macy’s, they might have helped him in the polls.
Even before he entered the race, veteran GOP voices, such as Bonjean, were worried he could hurt the party.
“He's a carnival sideshow that just sucks the air out of the room and steals the spotlight just for the simple fact that he wants to have the headlines,” Bonjean said.
“He has an ego the size of a Mack truck,” Bonjean continued. “People love watching Donald Trump because of the outlandish statements he makes. They love watching a car accident.”
Democrats have enjoyed the spectacle, with Hillary Clinton noting Trump’s remarks about Mexicans during a recent campaign appearance in Virginia.
Trump, for his part, has not backed away from the comments.
Instead, he’s attacked his former business associates, announcing a $500 million lawsuit against Univision, after the network cut ties with Trump’s beauty pageants; berating a “weak and foolish” NBC; and calling for a boycott of Macy's.
It's unclear how the broken business ties will ultimately affect Trump, who has suggested he will self-fund the majority of his campaign and regularly touts his wealth as a selling point.
Trump has claimed his net worth is around $8.7 billion, with the vast majority of his wealth coming through real estate developments — commercial properties in New York, golf clubs, resorts and other lucrative land deals. (Forbes puts hit net worth closer to $4 billion.)
Figures provided by Trump's aides show the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants were valued at $14.8 million — a fraction of 1 percent of his overall assets as of June 2014.
He also pocketed $3.2 million between 2005 and 2007 in royalties off his Macy's clothing line, according to court records cited by New York real estate website The Real Deal in 2013.
Republicans hoping to send an inclusive message in next year’s general election after being throttled by President Obama in the race for black, Asian-American and Hispanic votes aren’t happy with the direction of the conversation.
“We don't want him standing on stage with other Republicans,” Bonjean said.
And groups representing Hispanics are raising the pressure.
“The Latino community is tired of all these anti-Latino voices,” said Hector Sanchez with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, an umbrella group of organizations that urged NBC to cut ties with Trump.
Sanchez blasted “a small, extremist, reactionary anti-immigrant group” within the Republican party and called on other GOP presidential candidates to disavow Trump's remarks and for him to apologize.
“If they want to win the presidency, they need to stay away from that,” Sanchez said of Trump's remarks.
Republican strategists say Trump’s poll numbers will drop as the “circus brings down the tent” before the start of the GOP debates in August, as Payne put it.
But some warn that Trump, who launched his White House bid two weeks ago, could continue to steal away attention.