By many standard measures, his candidacy is doomed. He is willing to offend key constituencies that could hurt his long-term political standing, such as Latinos and those who favor comprehensive immigration reform rather than Trump's harsh approach. He turns off centrist voters with his extreme statements, his angry demeanor and his massive ego. His business background may present a ripe target for opposition researchers seeking examples of an all-consuming desire to make money for himself rather than help the public. This is the same critique that damaged 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a wealthy investor who lost the general election to Democratic President Barack Obama.
SEE: Donald Trump through the years:
Donald Trump through the years
Trump: Serious candidate or sideshow?
Real estate developer Donald Trump annouces intentions to build a $100 million dollar Regency Hotel. (Photo by John Pedin/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 02: Donald Trump with Alfred Eisenpreis, New York City Economic Development Administrator. Sketch of new 1,400 room Renovation project of Commodore Hotel. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - 1980: Donald Trump and Ivana Trump attend Roy Cohn's birthday party in February 1980 in New York City. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 26: Donald Trump stands behind architect's model of City Hall Plaza. (Photo by Frank Russo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Donna Mills and Donald Trump during 1983 Annual American Image Awards at Sheraton Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Portrait of real estate mogul Donald John Trump (b.1946), smiling slightly and facing to his right, 1983. New York. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)
New York real estate magnates Steve Ross, right, and Donald Trump, left, announce agreement, Thursday, August 1, 1985 in New York, to merge the Houston Gamblers and the New Jersey Generals United States Football League teams. Ross heads a group of investors that last week agreed to buy the troubled Houston franchise. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)
Real estate magnate Donald Trump poses in front of one of three Sikorsky helicopters at New York Port Authority's West 30 Street Heliport on March 22, 1988. (AP Photo/Wilbur Funches)
Ivana Trump and Donald Trump during Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks Fight at Trump Plaza - June 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Donald Trump and his wife, Ivana, pose outside the Federal Courthouse after she was sworn in as a United States citizen, May 1988. (AP Photo)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 4: Billionaire Donald Trump and his wife Ivana arrive 04 December 1989 at a social engagement in New York. (Photo credit should read SWERZEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Shown in photo is Donald Trump, Nov. 20, 1990. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Billionaire developer Donald Trump, right, waits with his brother Robert for the start of a Casino Control Commission meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., March 29, 1990. Trump was seeking final approval for the Taj Mahal Casino Resort, one of the world's largest casino complexes. (AP Photo)
Developer Donald Trump, center, is flanked by super middleweight champion Thomas Hearns, left, of Detroit, and Michael Olajide of Canada at a news conference in New York Thursday, Feb. 15, 1990. The three announced the super middleweight title bout at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort at Atlantic city, N. J on April 28.(AP Photo/Timothy Clary)
Real estate magnate Donald Trump and his girlfriend Marla Maples are seen at the Holyfield-Foreman fight at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., April 19, 1991. (AP Photo)
Donald Trump and Daughter Ivanka Trump during Maybelline Presents 1991 Look of the Year at Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 7: Donald Trump touches 07 April 1993 Marla Maples stomach to confirm published reports that the actress is pregnant with his child. The two arrived for Maples appearance in the Broadway musical 'The Will Rogers Follies'. (Photo credit should read HAI DO/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: US business tycoon Donald Trump(C) enters the PLaza Hotel in New York past supporters 21 December 1994. Hundreds of supporters showed up at a news conference where Trump denied a New York newspaper report that the Sultan of Brunei had bid 300 million USD to buy the Manhattan hotel. (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE--This is a 1994 file photo of Donald Trump. Trump said Wednesday, Oct. 23, 1996 he has bought the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen beauty pageants from ITT. ``It's a done deal,'' Trump said in a telephone interview. ``It's a very, very great entertainment format. It gets very high ratings, it's doing very well and we'll make it even better.'' Trump declined to say how much he paid. Asked if a New York Post source was correct in saying the deal was worth tens of millions of dollars, Trump replied, ``Why not? (AP Photo/Jim Cooper)
FLUSHING MEADOWS, UNITED STATES: Donald Trump and his girlfriend Celina Midelfar watch Conchita Martinez and Amanda Coetzer 07 September at US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY. AFP PHOTO Timothy CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Christine Whitman during Opening of New Warner Bros. Store in Trump Plaza Casino at Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
In this June 7, 1995 file photograph, Donald Trump is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after taking his flagship Trump Plaza Casino public in New York City. Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., based in Atlantic City, New Jersey, filed for Chapter 11 protection on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey. Trump and his daughter Ivanka resigned from the company's board Friday, Feb. 13, 2009, after growing frustrated with bondholders. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens,File)
Celine Dion, husband Rene, Donald Trump & Ivanka Trump (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
Entrepreneur Donald Trump watches an undercard fight as an unidentified companion whispers into his ear before the start of the Mike Tyson versus Francois Botha bout at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday, Jan. 16, 1999. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
Developer Donald Trump holds an umbrella as he walks Saturday, Nov. 9, 2002, to the 11th green of the Ocean Trail Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Trump plans to turn the beleagured golf club into a world class course. Trump intends to close on the golf club by December and hopes to begin improvements by January. He could reopen the course, 20 miles south of Los Angeles, as early as June. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Entrepreneur Donald Trump (L) and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Sharpton's National Action Network Convention April 5, 2002 in New York City. The group aims to further the development of civil rights. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and his girlfriend Melania Knauss attend the Marc Bouwer/Peta Fall/Winter 2002 Collection show February 14, 2002 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. (Photo by George De Sota/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 06: WBC Kampf im Schwergewicht 2003, New York/Madison Square Garden; Vitali KLITSCHKO/UKR - Kirk JOHNSON/CAN; Donald TRUMP als Zuschauer (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Donald Trump stands on the sidelines before the start of the AFC divisional playoffs between the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans on January 10, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Temperatures have reached as low as 7 degrees in the Foxboro area. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
US tycoon Donald Trump arrives to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, on February 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 10: Donald Trump speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. The annual NRA meeting and exhibit runs through Sunday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Real estate mogul and billionaire Donald Trump attends Golf legend Jack Nicklaus' Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda March 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Trump announed on March 18 that he has launched a presidential exploratory committee. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Businessman Donald Trump speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Developer Donald Trump displays a copy of his net worth during his announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump gives a thumbs up before boarding his campaign plane to depart from Laredo, Texas, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
AYR, SCOTLAND - JULY 30: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump visits his Scottish golf course Turnberry with his children Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland. Donald Trump answered questions from the media at a press conference. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Trump is more of a lightning rod than ever. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another presidential candidate, attacked Trump Sunday as a "wrecking ball" who could badly damage the GOP with the Hispanic community.
"To all the candidates who think that Donald Trump is telling the truth, I think you have lost your way," Graham told CNN. "As to the Republican party, if we do not reject this way of thinking clearly, without any ambiguity, we will have lost our way. We will have lost the moral authority, in my view, to govern this great nation."
But former business executive Carly Fiorina, another GOP presidential candidate, told ABC News that Trump "taps into an anger that I hear every day. People are angry that a common-sense thing like securing the border or ending sanctuary cities is somehow considered extreme. It's not extreme. It's common sense."
So far Trump is doing relatively well in the polls. The latest Reuters-Ipsos survey finds that Trump is in a virtual first-place tie with former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, with 16.1 percent of self-identified Republicans supporting Bush for the GOP nomination and 15.8 percent backing Trump.
What his critics often overlook is that Trump is exploiting an anti-status quo sentiment that regularly manifests itself in national politics. He is willing to say things that other candidates won't – a straight-talking quality that many Americans admire. He is at war with the Obama administration, which many Republicans like. And he is willing to take on members of the GOP establishment, such as Bush, a tactic which many conservatives and tea party activists support. He refuses to back off from his characterization of illegal immigrants from Mexico as "rapists" and other sorts of criminals, which pleases hard-liners on the immigration issue.
All this was on display last weekend as Trump gave a fiery speech in Phoenix in which he called for a get-tough policy not only on immigration but in negotiations on trade and on other issues. He said he was seeking to mobilize the "silent majority" – a phrase popularized by President Richard Nixon in 1969 – to "take back" the country.
Trump is playing a clever political game, at least for now. He is getting huge amounts of media coverage and his name identification is through the roof. This means he is almost guaranteed a place in the first GOP presidential debate, sponsored by Fox News next month. Fox officials say they will limit the main event to the top 10 candidates in public opinion polls conducted just before the encounter, and Trump is very likely to qualify. This will get him even more publicity.
As I have written in this space before, Trump is one of a series of anti-status quo figures over the years who developed strong followings with attention-getting comments even though none was elected president. They included businessman Ross Perot in 1992; consumer advocate and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000; segregationist George Wallace in the 1960s and 1970s; segregationist and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond in 1948, and Huey Long in the 1930s. A precursor group was the "Know Nothings," also known as the American Party, a movement that opposed Catholics and immigrants and gained a strong following in the 1850s.
But Trump mania is not likely to last when GOP voters begin to really focus on the race early next year. Trump "is dominating news coverage, rising in polls (which are relevant at this stage only as the entrance ticket to the early debates), and fascinates Democrats and worries Republicans," writes long-time GOP strategist Ed Rollins on Facebook.
"....My counsel is relax, take a deep breath and watch what happens as the real campaign begins in the months ahead....As the most widely known candidate in the [Republican] field and probably the best salesman, he will be a force. But the customers are the voters and in the end they will make a choice of someone they respect, and they will choose who they want to carry the Republican banner into battle. I don't think Trump survives the process, so let's not get hysterical about what he says or does....It's a long game. And frontrunners often falter and crash. When they fall and crash they often don't stop till they hit cement! Again relax. One man is not the Republican party."
Having covered presidential campaigns since 1984, I think Rollins is correct. Trump is very likely to crash and burn as a GOP candidate. He may then run as an independent or third-party candidate in 2016 if he is willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money. But given his extreme rhetoric, his tendency to further polarize people, and the fact that a third-party or independent presidential candidate faces nearly insurmountable obstacles to winning the White House, it is likely to be a losing cause.