Trump's Republican critics pushing for GOP-backed takedown

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Don't expect Democrats to take down Donald Trump. If the GOP's baffled establishment wants to dismiss their party's billionaire presidential front-runner, it appears they'll have to do it themselves.

Quietly pleased the brash real estate mogul and reality TV star has become the face of the modern-day GOP, Democrats who specialize in opposition research are holding their fire. Some leading Republicans, meanwhile, have grown increasingly concerned by Trump's staying power, leading to fresh calls for an organized takedown campaign to protect the party's image heading into 2016.

SEE ALSO: How serious is Donald Trump? His campaign lacks one essential tool

"At some point, the things he says go from being 'crazy old Donald Trump' to defining — this is how Republicans think and feel. And that's dangerous," said Katie Packer, who served as 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney's deputy campaign manager.

Packer says there is "some rumbling" about a well-funded anti-Trump campaign and offered a wake-up call to Republicans who assume Trump's candidacy will ultimately collapse. "Folks have to remember that lead changes don't just happen," she said. "Something causes them to happen."

Trump represents exactly the kind of party standard-bearer Republican officials wanted to avoid after a disastrous 2012 election in which minority voters — Hispanics in particular — overwhelmingly abandoned the GOP.

The Republican National Committee concluded in a postelection study the party must adopt a more welcoming and inclusive tone on immigration. Yet Trump's candidacy is built upon his disdain for immigrants who are living in the country illegally, whom he has repeatedly referred to as dangerous criminals who must be deported en masse.

Democrats couldn't be happier.

They're collecting reams of negative information about Trump's business background. Leading groups such as the Democratic-allied research firm American Bridge have dispatched staff to New York, New Jersey and Delaware in recent weeks to examine Trump-related bankruptcy cases, Security and Exchange Commission filings and the many lawsuits to which the litigious Trump has been a part.

But they're not planning to release any of it anytime soon. They want Trump around as long as possible.

"The longer Donald Trump is high-fiving Jeb Bush and forcing (Sens.) John McCain and Rob Portman to say they'd back him in a general election, the more he's making clear the Republican Party's priorities, and how out of touch they are with American values and middle-class families," said American Bridge spokesman Ben Ray.

Instead of attacking Trump, the Democratic National Committee is trying to paint the rest of the GOP field with his brush. The party has released a series of Web videos casting Trump's positions as representative of his competitors, including one in which Trump is shown high-fiving Bush, the former Florida governor.

Notable moments from Trump's 2016 campaign:

81 PHOTOS
Donald Trump's 2016 campaign
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Trump's Republican critics pushing for GOP-backed takedown
CHARLESTON, WV - MAY 05: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during his rally at the Charleston Civic Center on May 5, 2016 in Charleston, West Virginia. Trump became the Republican presumptive nominee following his landslide win in indiana on Tuesday.(Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, gestures to attendees during a campaign event in Evansville, Indiana, U.S., on Thursday, April 28, 2016. Trump said he's campaigning hard to win Tuesday's presidential primary in Indiana and that if he prevails, his party's nomination contest will be 'over.' Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a town hall meeting on March 14, 2016 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa , Florida. Trump is campaigning ahead of the Florida primary on March 15. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH- MARCH 13: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses his campaign supporters during a campaign rally at the Savannah Center March 13, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Trump continue to campaign before Ohio March 15th primary day. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night event at the Mar-A-Lago Club's Donald J. Trump Ballroom March 15, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump won the state of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich won the state of Ohio. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
HICKORY, NC - MARCH 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, talks with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, during a campaign rally at Lenoir-Rhyne University March 14, 2016 in Hickory, North Carolina. The North Carolina Republican primary will be held March 15. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, IL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pulls Alex Stypik from a crowd of supporters to show off his shirt during a rally at the Central Illinois Regional Airport on March 13, 2016 in Bloomington, Illinois. The Trump campaign cancelled a recent rally in Chicago after learning hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. Illinois voters go to the polls on March 15. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL - MARCH 08: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up his book after holding a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on March 8, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida. Trump is projected to win the Republican Presidential primaries in Mississippi and Michigan. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - FEBRUARY 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally held in the TD Convention Center in Greenville, SC on Monday Feb. 15, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets people as he visits a polling station as voters cast their primary day ballots on February 9, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. The process to select the next Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates continues. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a rally February 8, 2016 in Manchester, NH. US presidential candidates, including billionaire Donald Trump and under-pressure Democrat Hillary Clinton, criss-crossed snowy New Hampshire in a final frantic bit to win over undecided voters before Tuesday's crucial primary. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLDERNESS, NH - FEBRUARY 7: Patrons reach out for photos and signatures from republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as he greets people after speaking at a campaign rally at Plymouth State University in Holderness, NH on Sunday Feb. 07, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at Farmington High School, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Farmington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JANUARY 26: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally on January 26, 2016 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigration sheriff from Maricopa County, Arizona, today announced his support for Trump's presidential bid. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, left, endorses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally at the Iowa State University, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
WINTERSET, IA - JANUARY 19: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum on January 19, 2016 in Winterset, Iowa. Trump received the endorsement of Aissa Wayne, John Wayne's daughter. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves to supporters after meeting with volunteers at the local Pizza Ranch restaurant, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, in Waukee, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump stands on the stage before the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JANUARY 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The sixth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top seven candidates, and another for three other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Flynn Center of the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - Emmy Award-nominated 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight (11:35 p.m. - 12:41 a.m., ET), packed with hilarious comedy bits and features a diverse lineup of guests including celebrities, athletes, musicians, comedians and humorous human interest subjects. The guests for Wednesday, December 16 included Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and musical guest Gary Clark Jr. (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) DONALD TRUMP, JIMMY KIMMEL
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - DECEMBER 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests at a campaign rally on December 21, 2015 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The full-house event was repeatedly interrupted by protestors. Trump continues to lead the most polls in the race for the Republican nomination for president. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - DECEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guest gathered during a campaign event at the International Air Response facility on December 16, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona. Trump is in Arizona the day after the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he is introduced during the Sunshine Summit conference being held at the Rosen Shingle Creek on November 13, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. The summit brought Republican presidential candidates in front of the Republican voters. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to a reporter's question in the spin room following the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. AFP PHOTO / JOSHUA LOTT (Photo credit should read Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Donald Trump attends a press conference for the release of his new book 'Crippled America' at Trump Tower on November 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a press conference during a event to launch his new book 'Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again' at Trump Tower on November 3, 2015 in New York. Donald Trump published a book about the ills of America to another media frenzy Tuesday, signing copies for fans, insulting his rivals on the campaign trail and telling Americans to elect him president. 'Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again,' offers the everyday reader his take on the problems facing the country and why they should elect him to the White House to fix them. AFP PHOTO/Kena Betancur (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters during a rally, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015 in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Jason Hirschfeld)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks out from his car window as he leaves after speaking at a town hall meeting at the Atkinson Country Club in Atkinson, N.H., Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
RICHMOND, VA - OCTOBER 14: Republican presidential candidate and front-runner Donald Trump walks out on stage during a campaign rally at the Richmond International Raceway October 14, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. A New York real estate mogul and reality television star, Trump is now in a statistical tie with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson in a Fox News survey of likely Republican voters released Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a cap that he signed for a supporter during a rally at the Expo Hall of the Richmond International Raceway on October 14, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - OCTOBER 14: Republican presidential candidate and front-runner Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally at the Richmond International Raceway October 14, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. A New York real estate mogul and reality television star, Trump is now in a statistical tie with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson in a Fox News survey of likely Republican voters released Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to give a speech outlining his vision for tax reform at his skyscraper on Fifth Avenue on September 28, 2015 in New York City. Under the plan there would be four tax categories, with people earning less than $25,000 per year paying 0% tax. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 23: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the media before a campaign event September 23, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier today, Trump tweeted 'FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won't be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future.' (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets had been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a national security speech aboard the World War II Battleship USS Iowa, September 15, 2015, in San Pedro, California. AFP PHOTO /ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds his pledge during a news conference, at Trump Tower in New York, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Trump ruled out the prospect of a third-party White House bid and vowed to support the Republican Party's nominee, whoever it may be. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, center, stops to take a photograph with Jim Tranz, of Port Charlotte, Fla., as he walks with a crowd during the final round of play at The Barclays golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Edison, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, second left, applauds play as he walks with a crowd during the final round of play at The Barclays golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Edison, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, greets attendees during a rally at Grand River Center in Dubuque, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. President Barack Obama's top business ambassador dismissed Trump's call for a wall along the Mexico border, saying the U.S. is focused instead on expanding business with one of its biggest trade partners. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A woman with her baby shows excitement when the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets them after he speaks at a campaign pep rally, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
MOBILE, AL- AUGUST 21: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump introduces Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) Mobile during his rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on August 21, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama. The Donald Trump campaign moved tonight's rally to a larger stadium to accommodate demand. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks during a campaign pep rally, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
UNITED STATES - August 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets fairgoers as he visits the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, August 15, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets fairgoers while campaigning at the Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage and touring the fairgrounds. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets the crowd at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks to the media after arriving by helicopter at a nearby ballpark before Trump attended the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears before addressing a GOP fundraising event, Tuesday, Aug, 11, 2015, in Birch Run, Mich. Trump attended the Lincoln Day Dinner of the Genesee and Saginaw county Republican parties. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump flashes the thumbs-up as he arrives on stage for the start of the prime time Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
AYR, SCOTLAND - JULY 30: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump visits his Scottish golf course Turnberry on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland. Donald Trump will answer questions from the media at a press conference where reporters will be limited to questions just about golf. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Presidential contender Donald Trump poses for the media during the third day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, Saturday, Aug. 01, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump drives a golf buggy during his visits to his Scottish golf course Turnberry on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland. Donald Trump answered questions from the media at a press conference held in his hotel. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Presidential contender Donald Trump, right, does a high five with Jonathan Lynch, during the second day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, Friday, July 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
FILE - In this July 25, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Trump, widely believed to the be the wealthiest American ever to run for president, is nowhere among the ranks of the country’s most generous citizens, according to an Associated Press review of his financial records and other government filings. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Donald Trump greets supporters, tourists and the curious after taping an interview with Anderson Cooper at a Trump owned building in mid-town Manhattan on July 22, 2015 in New York City. Trump, who is running for president on a Republican ticket, has come under intensifying criticism for his behavior on the campaign trail. The billionaire's most recent comments on Senator John McCain's war record in Vietnam have resulted in almost universal criticism from fellow candidates. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
LAREDO, TEXAS - JULY 23: Republican Presidential candidate and business mogul Donald Trump talks to media from his car wearing a, 'Make America Great Again,' hat during his trip to the border on July 23, 2015 in Laredo, Texas. Trump's recent comments, calling some immigrants from Mexico as drug traffickers and rapists, have stirred up reactions on both sides of the aisle. Although fellow Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has denounced Trump's comments and his campaign in general, U.S. Senator from Texas Ted-Cruz has so far refused to bash his fellow Republican nominee. (Photo by Matthew Busch/Getty Images)
LAREDO, TEXAS - JULY 23: Republican Presidential candidate and business mogul Donald Trump talks to the media at a press conference during his trip to the border on July 23, 2015 in Laredo, Texas. Trump's recent comments, calling some immigrants from Mexico as drug traffickers and rapists, have stirred up reactions on both sides of the aisle. Although fellow Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has denounced Trump's comments and his campaign in general, U.S. Senator from Texas Ted-Cruz has so far refused to bash his fellow Republican nominee. (Photo by Matthew Busch/Getty Images)
AMES, IA - JULY 18: Republican presidential hopeful businessman Donald Trump fields questions at The Family Leadership Summit at Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. According to the organizers the purpose of The Family Leadership Summit is to inspire, motivate, and educate conservatives. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks before a crowd of 3,500 Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 11: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump spoke about illegal immigration and other topics in front of an estimated crowd of 4,200. (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses as he speaks before a crowd of 3,500 Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a rally before a crowd of 3,500 Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Donald Trump gestures while speaking surrounded by people whose families were victims of illegal immigrants on July 10, 2015 while meeting with the press at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, where some shared their stories of the loss of a loved one. The US business magnate Trump, who is running for president in the 2016 presidential elections, angered members of the Latino community with recent comments but says he will win the Latino vote. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles as he leaves after speaking at a news conference about immigration, Friday, July 10, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Donald Trump gestures while speaking surrounded by people who's families were victims of illegal immigrants on July 10, 2015 while meeting with the press at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, where some shared their stories of the loss of a loved one. The US business magnate Trump, who is running forpPresident in the 2016 presidential elections, angered members of the Latino community with recent comments but says he will win the Latino vote. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06: Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with reporters after speaking to members of the City Club of Chicago, Monday, June 29, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Real estate mogul Donald Trump announces his bid for the presidency in the 2016 presidential race during an event at the Trump Tower on the Fifth Avenue in New York City on June 16, 2015. Trump, one of America's most flamboyant and outspoken billionaires, threw his hat into the race Tuesday for the White House, promising to make America great again. The 69-year-old long-shot candidate ridiculed the country's current crop of politicians and vowed to take on the growing might of China in a speech launching his run for the presidency in 2016. 'I am officially running for president of the United States and we are going to make our country great again,' he said from a podium bedecked in US flags at Trump Tower on New York's Fifth Avenue. The tycoon strode onto the stage after sailing down an escalator to the strains of 'Rockin' In The Free World' by Canadian singer Neil Young after being introduced by daughter Ivanka. His announcement follows years of speculation that the man known to millions as the bouffant-haired host of American reality TV game show 'The Apprentice' would one day enter politics. Trump identifies himself as a Republican, and has supported Republican candidates in the past. But in his announcement speech he did not explicitly say if he was running for the party's nomination or as an independent.AFP PHOTO/ KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: (L-R) Eric Trump, Lara Yunaska Trump, Donald Trump, Barron Trump, Melania Trump, Vanessa Haydon Trump, Kai Madison Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Donald John Trump III, and Ivanka Trump pose for photos on stage after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)
Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 6/16/15 Donald Trump announces his Candidacy for President of The United States of America at Trump Tower. (NYC)
PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 11: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump spoke about illegal immigration and other topics in front of an estimated crowd of 4,200. (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Business mogul Donald Trump gives a speech as he announces his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/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)
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)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Business mogul Donald Trump arrives at a press event where he announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Business mogul Donald Trump arrives at a press event where he announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump greets supporters at a campaign rally in Clive, Iowa, U.S., September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures to supporters as he departs a campaign rally in Clive, Iowa, U.S., September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Clive, Iowa. A war of words over Donald Trumpâs âdeplorablesâ is intensifying as Republicans and Democrats fight to score political points over Hillary Clintonâs charge that millions of the New York billionaireâs supporters are racist, sexist and homophobic. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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"Trump may be running for president, but his ideas are running the party," says one DNC video entitled the "Retrumplican Party."

Republican officials have been careful not to attack Trump publicly for fear he may leave the party and launch an independent candidacy — despite winning from him a pledge not to do so. But there was evidence of Republican concern during a recent private gathering of top donors to the Republican National Committee at Washington's Mayflower Hotel.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz, whom Trump has criticized personally, asked a group of roughly 100 donors to raise their hands to indicate support for various candidates. Just one person did so for Trump, which prompted moans across the room, according to two people inside who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the private gathering.

Luntz then showed a series of video clips of Trump, including the reality television star's criticism of women and past support for Democrats. Many donors believed they were watching a rough cut of prospective anti-Trump ads, according to the people in the room.

"They were very engaged in the idea that somebody has to do something, or Donald Trump will destroy the party," said one of the people who attended the meeting of the donors and was in the room.

Luntz told The Associated Press that he regularly uses video clips during presentations and did not suggest to the gathering the material would be used against Trump.

"They may look at the video and say, 'Aha, there's something there,'" Luntz said of the donors, explaining that he intended only to highlight the key talking points of the 2016 election.

Meanwhile, as the Republican establishment crosses its fingers that Trump fails, the real estate mogul is attacking the party's other 2016 prospects one by one. Trump has engaged in a particularly aggressive war of words with Bush, once considered the party's front-runner.

Most of the campaigns of his rivals fear that any efforts to confront Trump directly could backfire and energize his anti-establishment supporters. Even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker didn't use Trump's name when exiting the race and calling on the party to rally against his potential ascendance to the GOP nomination.

Bush allies have gone further than most, with one recently describing Trump as a zombie candidate — suggesting that, with no realistic path to the presidency, he's already dead politically but doesn't know it.

Republican strategist Stuart Stevens countered that zombies on television don't die on their own: "Never saw one commit suicide," Stevens tweeted. "Takes killing."

Photos from the first GOP debate:

31 PHOTOS
GOP Main Debate 9/16/2015
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Trump's Republican critics pushing for GOP-backed takedown
Republican presidential hopefuls, (L-R) South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Rick Santorum, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, real estate magnate Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, arrive on stage for the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California on September 16, 2015. Republican presidential candidates collectively turned their sights on frontrunner Donald Trump at the party's second debate, taking aim at his lack of political experience and his sometimes abrasive style. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates businessman Donald Trump, left, and Scott Walker, right, both speak as Jeb Bush, listens during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential hopefuls (L-R), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee , Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, real estate magnate Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and former CEO Carly Fiorina, listen as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (C) speaks during the Presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California on September 16, 2015. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump stepped into a campaign hornet's nest as his rivals collectively turned their sights on the billionaire in the party's second debate of the 2015. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: : Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Marco Rubio take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and John Kasich take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SIMI VALLEY, CA-SEPTEMBER. 16: Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, and Donald Trump both speak during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Rick Santorum, George Pataki, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) , U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stand onstage during the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie responds to a question as questioners Dana Bash, center, and Hugh Hewitt, right, look on during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump reacts during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. After a friendly round of introductions, the second Republican presidential debate quickly plunged into clashes that shifted from policy to the personal, with more politically experienced insiders trying to gain an advantage against the front-runner at center stage: Donald Trump. Photographer: Max Whittaker/Pool via Bloomberg
SIMI VALLEY, CA-SEPTEMBER. 16: Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, center, gestures as Donald Trump, left, and Scott Walker look on during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, looks on as Ben Carson speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie (R) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump (L) and Jeb Bush take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, September 16, 2015. Republican presidential candidates collectively turned their sights on frontrunner Donald Trump at the party's second debate, taking aim at his lack of political experience and his sometimes abrasive style. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, left, speaks as Marco Rubio looks on during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
SIMI VALLEY, CA-SEPTEMBER. 16: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, left, and Donald Trump talk before the start of the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
2016 Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., and Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, walk on stage during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. The main debate of the top 11 GOP contenders in the polls follows the 'kids' table' debate of candidates who didn't make the cut. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential hopefuls, (L-R) retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, real estate magnate Donald Trump, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, arrive on stage for the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California on September 16, 2015. Republican presidential candidates collectively turned their sights on frontrunner Donald Trump at the party's second debate, taking aim at his lack of political experience and his sometimes abrasive style. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie, right, John Kasich, center, and Carly Fiorina enter the stage prior to the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks with reporters after the presidential debate at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second of presidential debates(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
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