Don and Kathy Watson had driven up from Ottumwa to get a closer look at the candidate. “Why not?” Kathy Watson said. “He’s as good as anybody. . . . He’s not afraid. He’s not a politician.”

John Revak, who is in the lumber business, said he was drawn to Trump’s business experience. “He presents himself as a negotiator — and obviously he’s been successful at it — so those are big assets,” Revak said. “I think he understands how the economy works. A lot of them who are running are too much government wonky.”…

He said his strategy for taking on Islamic State terrorists would be to blow up the oil fields they control. “We should go blast the hell out of that oil,” he said, bringing many in the crowd to their feet cheering…

Asked whether student loan debt was a bubble waiting to burst, Trump said, “The country is a big fat bubble run by incompetent people, and it’s ready to burst.”

The RealClearPolitics average of five recent national polls puts him in ninth place with 3.6 percent, just ahead of former Texas Governor Rick Perry — and 1.8 points ahead of John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, meaning the chief executive of the state where the debate is being held would not have a place on the stage. Candidates at the bottom of the list have seven weeks to displace Trump, but that’s a tall order, particularly if he gets a boost after announcing his presidential bid Tuesday and hitting the Sunday show circuit with a scheduled appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.

One of the candidates likely to be left out, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, appeared to be anticipating the Trump phenomenon days before the New Yorker jumped into the race. Talking to reporters Saturday at a Utah gathering of Republican candidates and donors sponsored by Mitt Romney, Graham complained that the rules for determining participants in the first debate “reward people who have run before and celebrity.”

“I think there’s going to be a big pushback against this,” he predicted.

Mr. Trump should know he’s doing something right when the malcontents go ballistic in the press! There is no denying Donald J. Trump’s accomplishments and drive to create opportunity for every willing American to succeed. His own success is testament to the job-creating achievements made possible when one applies the courageous and tenacious pro-private sector precepts we need to fire up the economy. Trump joins a competitive field of GOP candidates that will duke it out in the arena of ideas and track records, a field representing diverse achievements. This, in contrast with the pro-big government party’s practice of merely anointing a chosen one, thus robbing voters of healthy debate.

Key to conservative’s victory is to do our own vetting of each candidate, focus on their ability to unleash America’s entrepreneurial spirit and dramatically shrink government in order to prioritize our nation’s security. That means we ignore the media’s participation in the liberals’ Pantsuit Politics of Personal Destruction. THEN, on an even playing field, in 2016 we charge forward after the radical left hears America shout, “You’re fired!”

– Sarah Palin

But, his thesis is this, and I do think it has some resonance, all of our troubles are caused by Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Saudis, and others. I am going to extract tribute from all of them. He said, Entitlements? I won’t have to cut entitlements. The Chinese will fund our entitlements. How? I’m the right, I’m the author of ‘Art of The Deal.’ Trust me. I’ll make the deal. I’ll make the Mexicans pay for the wall. I’ll make the Saudis empty their treasury to support our infrastructure. Look, this is a campaign that’s run on know-nothing xenophobia.

Trump rarely seems genuinely angry about anything. Oh, he’ll call some of the other contenders for the GOP nomination “clowns” or portray illegal immigrants as “rapists,” but the fulminations must be for show, like outtakes from his role on “The Apprentice.” Likewise, his populism is suspect: No matter what his net worth, Trump’s wallet is too fat for him to ever qualify as a populist…

“I think it’s very important to him, psychologically and emotionally, to be considered fabulously wealthy, because I think he sees it as part of a pecking order and a symbol of his arrival,” said journalist Timothy L. O’Brien in 2013, after Trump sued him for defamation for pegging the mogul’s worth at $150 million to $250 million back in 2005. (The case was tossed.) According to this reading, Trump is the product. Any diminution of the Trump product’s status puts his ego in a tight place. Any upward surge in the Trump product’s status, like a presidential candidacy with all the trimmings of cable news appearances and debates, will whisk him back to contentment. I won’t diagnose bipolarity because I don’t want to tempt a lawsuit.

Donald Trump’s big presidential announcement Tuesday was made a little bigger with help from paid actors — at $50 a pop.

New York-based Extra Mile Casting sent an email last Friday to its client list of background actors, seeking extras to beef up attendance at Trump’s event.

“We are looking to cast people for the event to wear t-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement,” reads the June 12 email, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “We understand this is not a traditional ‘background job,’ but we believe acting comes in all forms and this is inclusive of that school of thought.”

Trump could be a spoiler. Any first-choice votes he gets in national polls are points that could have gone to other candidates who do not currently meet the criteria for the first two major debates—to rank in the top 10 in national polls. If he gets another couple of percentage points in the horserace question, he could bump former Texas Governor Rick Perry and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie off the stage.

His participation could make the debates a ratings bonanza. In December 2011, about 7.5 million people tuned in to watch a Republican debate held in Des Moines, Iowa. While that is far fewer than Trump drew in his opening season on The Apprentice (its finale attracted about 28 million viewers), it is about what he’s seen lately for Celebrity Apprentice episodes. The first debate between Mitt Romney and Obama in 2012 drew a whopping 67 million viewers. When people are interested, they watch.

Trump generates a curious blend of attraction and repulsion, sometimes in the same person.  The next round of polls in the next several weeks will tell whether his announcement that he is running will do more to pull voters in or push them away.

Trump’s obvious appeal is that he’s a winner. That he gets things done. This is his trump card: That people who may not have the time or interest to study the nuances of foreign policy won’t have to. A side benefit is that we can quit worrying about things. That’s because Trump knows how to handle the Chinese/Mexicans/Iranians. (This formula doesn’t just work for foreign policy, of course, the “Trust me, I know what I’m doing” line is all-purpose.)What do you think?

This is a mentality which says, when all else fails, just hire someone who knows how to win. It happens all the time in sports; it’s the reason the Redskins hired two-time Super Bowl champion head coach Mike Shanahan. It’s the reason candidates today pay a lot of money to get advice from Ed Rollins — who managed Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984.What do you think?

There is a sense that they know some secret — and that if you hire them, things will magically happen for you. It’s far easier to just hire someone with a (perceived) track record of getting things done — and just outsource your cares to him — than it is to sweat the details.

“What’s sad is Trump is right. He is qualified,” she explained on CNN’s New Day. “He has qualifications that would make him an interesting person to run for president. I don’t know why it seems as though he’s decided not to run as a serious candidate.”

Cupp argued that Trump could convince the other GOP candidates to “start talking a little more straight” because he sounded like a “real person.”

“You’ve got to sound less like a politician. And when Donald Trump is pulling no punches and calling it like it is, even if it’s crazy, and doesn’t sound right and coherent, it might make someone like Scott Walker or Chris Christie or Marco Rubio have to sound a little less packaged,” she insisted.

But still — how did we get here? More importantly, who do we blame?

Well, I’ll start close to home: I’ll blame my fellow conservatives. There are actually some movement conservatives who’ve fallen for the Trump scam — who actually take his PT Barnum show seriously, who actually believe the man could one day become president, or (perhaps even worse) would make a good president.

But what’s even worse in the conservative camp isn’t these few deluded souls. It’s the money-driven conservative organizations who give Trump a platform, knowing very well that they’re playing a game where everybody gets suckered and the world gets worse, but they get to pocket a few extra dollars by giving Trump a speaking slot. So many of the people on the money and organizational side of the conservative movement are dedicated and tireless activists. Yet there are also many crooks who are just mooching off the others, and we need to do more to get rid of them.

2) Trump makes the real GOP candidates look good. It’s been noted that some fictional villains have better favorable numbers than some of the GOP field.  Trump is a real-life villain who doesn’t look as good as the viable GOP candidates who have, you know, been elected to the Senate or governorships and stuff. Just by comparison, Trump makes real politicians look better by comparison — even Ted Cruz is an actual seasoned politician compared to Trump. Politics is a skill, and on a debate stage with people who have done this for a living, Trump will likely do about as well as Ross Perot did debating NAFTA. And the people watching these debates will think to themselves, “I’m not sure how I feel about Bush/Rubio/Walker/Paul, but I feel a damn sight better about them than Trump.”

3) Trump offers an opportunity for GOP contenders to shine in the debates. A big problem with the GOP race to date has been the homogeneity of the candidates’ views. Oh, sure, Rand Paul has stood out a little, as has Jeb Bush, but really, debates where there are spasms of agreement are pretty boring. And since no one in a primary wants to say anything in a debate that causes irreparable harm to the eventual nominee, these affairs wind up being mostly about smaller secondary issues.

Fortunately for the rest of the field, Trump’s “views” are heterodox on a variety of policy areas such as trade. Indeed, based on one metric, Trump’s positions are the most liberal in the GOP field. This will make him the perfect punching bag in the debates. And since Trump is so widely disliked by so many GOP voters, other more viable candidates will have a real incentive to lay waste to him. Indeed, eviscerating Trump on the debate stage could be a way for a Cruz or a Paul or Christie or a Perry to stand out. This will be much more interesting and than watching everyone argue over who is the true conservative in the race.

You could sense the orifices of the RNC leadership and the GOP presidential campaigns tightening the longer Trump’s discursive announcement ran, and the more the media giggled and simpered, happy to have chosen the clown prince of the 2016 cycle. Well, he’s here now, and he’s filing, so it’s time for the GOP to get real about dealing with him. Obviously, the debates are the inflection point, so here’s some counsel on using them to contain the damage

Play your game, not his.
Trump will come in to these debates with a handful of red-meat, base-centric populist chestnuts (A border moat with lava! Drone strikes on Tijuana! Wily Chinese! Crazy Arabs! Corinthian leather! I could buy and sell God!”)…

Laugh off the haymakers.
Trump is a man who loves the snide ad hominem and he’s going to pick a vulnerability in his desired targets (expect Rubio and Bush to get zingers on immigration, Walker on experience, Fiorina on Hewlett Packard, and so on). Here’s the secret; he’s likely to only have one or two swings in him for each candidate. Roll with them, and get back on your message.

Don’t feed the monsters.
This is the greatest gift to the media and the Democrats that could imagine. They’re going to press you on Trump. They’re going to try to stir things up. Don’t even accept the predicate of their questions when his name is involved. Every interaction with Trump will ramify out into coverage that damages and diminishes every serious candidate on the stage.

The truth is Donald Trump will not be a winner so much as a spoiler. And in so spoiling the chances of others, he might drag others to hyperbole to stand out in ways that might help them in the primary, but hurt them in the general. The goal of running for President is to get elected President, not to get nominated as a party’s Presidential candidate. The candidates have to keep that in mind.

There is also a reality about Donald Trump’s candidacy that you should also not underestimate. People hate Washington, they hate politicians, and they are perfectly happy to champion a candidate who tells politicians to go to hell and provides creative directions on the path there. Donald Trump’s candidacy does not exist in a nation where people think the politicians actually care about making the country great again. It only exists in a nation of cynics who think the powers that be want to manage decline and profit from it.

Donald Trump is the disrespectful candidate for people who disrespect the process. He’ll be rude. He’ll be loud. He’ll be confrontational. And he won’t get the nomination. But along the way, he will speak to the fears and hopes of a lot of people who no longer connect with Washington or trust the government to get it right…

The people who no longer think they can win in America will side with a guy even they don’t think can win, just to watch him strike the match and burn down all they feel betrayed them. And that, ironically, can give him staying power when coupled with his money.

Perhaps the most interesting question hovering over Trump’s 2016 high-wire act is what kind of net he has installed to catch him when he inevitably finds himself in free fall. Unlike the last election, when an abnormally unappealing collection of candidates and a dissatisfied electorate conspired briefly to land Trump on top of a couple hypothetical polls, his standing in today’s race is decidedly unimpressive. One poll in April found that 62% of Republicans would not even consider voting for him. He is viewed less favorably than almost every other contender. Many polls show him sitting at around ninth place in the field.

Last time we spoke, Trump let me in on his wife Melania’s theory about his prospects. “She said, ‘You know darling, if you ever announce that you’re actually running, your polls will go through the roof,’” Trump said. “I think that might be right. A lot of people, they like me but they say, ‘I’m not gonna play this game.’ Because they think it’s a game. It’s not a game!” He repeated the rationale a few more times, and he could probably discern my skepticism, because eventually he added, “Pollsters are telling me the same thing. Professional pollsters.”

Maybe Melania will end up confounding the data journalists. But if not, Trump may soon find himself in a precarious situation. The entire ethos of his empire is premised on the notion that Donald Trump is a winner, and his critics are irrelevant, jealous, pathetic failures. How would he square that perception with reality if he flames out as a single-digit also-ran in Iowa?

Via RCP.