Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFirst lady slams Trump's birther comments Eric Trump: Took 'courage' to avoid Bill Clinton's infidelity in debate The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE was supposed to be dead and buried by now.
The political class and pundits have been predicting Trump’s political demise since his now-infamous speech launching his presidential bid last June, when his description of illegal immigrants as rapists and other criminals provoked a media backlash.
Instead, Trump’s blunt message of American exceptionalism and his distance from the political establishment continue to strike a chord with grassroots conservatives, who are fed up with the status quo in Washington.
Here are seven times the political class leaped to write the Trump campaign's obituary, only to be proved wrong.
Trashing George W. Bush in South Carolina
It’s no coincidence that Jeb Bush is trotting out his brother, former President George W. Bush, to give him a boost in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s primary.
George Bush remains beloved there, and the state is credited with rescuing his 2000 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
But at the Republican presidential debate in Greenville on Saturday night, Trump unleashed his most aggressive takedown yet of the Bush legacy concerning terrorism and the war in Iraq.
Trump made the case that President Bush did not keep the nation safe because 9/11 happened under his watch. He went further, saying that the Bush administration knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but invaded anyway.
The remarks provoked backlash from some quarters, with conservatives pointing out that Trump’s claims about the weapons of mass destruction put him in the company of liberals from Code Pink to Michael Moore.
“This is uninformed left-wing claptrap,” conservative columnist Marc Thieessen wrote.
“If there is any state where such rantings should backfire on Trump, it is South Carolina.”
But Trump’s bombastic and fiery performance only appears to have boosted him in the eyes of conservative primary voters in the state.
Two polls released out of South Carolina on Tuesday found Trump with a strong double-digit lead over the field.
It didn’t take long for Trump’s candidacy to spiral into controversy.
At his launch speech in June, Trump warned about illegal immigrants crossing the Southern border.
They’re “bringing crime, they’re rapists,” and “some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said.
The controversy took on a life of its own and continues to hang over the race.
Corporations severed ties with Trump, and the real estate mogul was roundly rebuked by many in his own party, who worried the remarks would turn off the Hispanic voters the party is seeking inroads with.
Less than a month later, Trump would seize his first lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls.
About one month after calling illegal immigrants rapists, the newly minted GOP front-runner denigrated the military service of Sen. John. McCain (R-Az.), who was once a prisoner of war in Viet Nam.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in July. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Trump refused to apologize for the remarks, which were overwhelmingly condemned by conservative figures in the media, Trump’s rivals, and McCain’s colleagues on Capitol Hill.
The remarks drew countless headlines questioning whether this would finally put an end to Trump’s unlikely run.
Less than a month later, Trump would open up a two-to-one lead over the next closes GOP contender in the national polls.
Trump versus Fox News and Megyn Kelly
Donald Trump has gambled big in taking on conservative media behemoth Fox News and one of its most beloved and respected anchors, Megyn Kelly.
Trump feels he was treated unfairly by Kelly at the first GOP presidential debate, when she challenged him on past remarks that were derogatory towards women.
Several days later, Trump responded with another remark that many viewed as derogatory toward women.
“You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump said.
That comment provoked influential conservative pundit Erick Erickson to disinvite Trump from a GOP presidential forum he was hosting. Erickson and others predicted it would finally lead to Trump’s demise.
Instead, Trump has continued to bash Kelly and Fox News with the kind of vitriol that most Republicans save for the mainstream media. Trump even skipped the final GOP debate before Iowa because Kelly moderated.
Trump has instead found other outlets to get his message out, leaving his rivals and critics to marvel and complain at his media mastery.
In early December, shortly after the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, Trump proposed barring all Muslims from entering the country.
The proposition was met with derision from those who said it was an impossible proposal, and anger from those who said Trump was racist and a xenophobe.
The remarks were also viewed cynically by some, who viewed it as a ploy by Trump to dominate the media cycle at a critical juncture in the race.
But it hasn’t damaged Trump yet, and it instantly put him to the right of the rest of the GOP field on immigration and the terror threat.
At a forum in Iowa over the summer, Trump said he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness – an act that’s one of the core tenets of Christianity.
Many believed the admission would doom him in Iowa, where evangelical voters make up a strong majority of conservative caucus-goers.
But Trump stuck to that claim in subsequent interviews.
His lack of fluency on evangelical matters was mocked by some, but more than 45,000 Iowans voted for Trump on caucus day, the second most in history only to Ted CruzTed CruzFunding bill rejected as shutdown nears Cruz: Clinton 'tired' and 'formulaic' during debate The Trail 2016: Fight night MORE, who won.
He now holds a double-digit lead ahead of the South Carolina primary – another state with a strong contingent of evangelicals.
Commander in chief test
The Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, which left more than 100 dead, and the subsequent terror attack San Bernardino, Calif., the worst on U.S. soil since 9/11, were supposed to boost the contingent of GOP candidates with foreign policy experience.
Many Republicans believed the terror attacks would be a sobering reminder to those entranced by Trump’s spectacle about the seriousness of being president.
Jeb Bush began pitching himself as the steady-handed executive and policy wonk.
Marco RubioMarco RubioSenators express 'grave concerns' about ObamaCare 'bailout' Obama nominates ambassador to Cuba Rubio praises Marlins pitcher José Fernández on Senate floor MORE, one of the party’s foremost national security hawks, pointed to his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Donald Trump said he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and his polling numbers went up.