Bombastic presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to dominate social media as his controversial stand on Mexican immigrants continues to garner headlines and drive conversation.

 According to Zignal Labs, the Washington Post’s analytics partner, 48 percent of all the conversation about 2016 – across social  and regular media – was about The Donald last week.

The real-estate mogul had more than 1.9 million total mentions on social, traditional and broadcast media from June 30 to July 6. By comparison, the candidate who received the next highest number of mentions, Hillary Clinton, had  less than half that at 448,000.

Donald J. Trump‘s views on immigration have drawn bipartisan condemnation but his surprisingly strong poll numbers are evidence that he is touching a nerve with a subset of the Republican party

While Change.org petitions have been instrumental in pressuring companies to sever their business ties with Mr. Trump, he also has his share of supporters. A spokesman for Change.org said that about 15 percent of the Trump-related petitions on its website back him, the most popular being “Support Donald Trump Against Illegal Immigration.”

Mr. Trump’s Facebook page is also proving to be fertile ground for support, with his posts gathering thousands of comments from people cheering him on.

“It’s about time someone tells it like it is!” wrote Maggie Haren. “The libs hate this because the Obama Sheeple are not supposed to be hearing this stuff.”

Donald Trump is pushing back against reports that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus voiced concerns to him about the billionaire’s tone when talking about undocumented immigrants during a Wednesday phone call.

Trump instead told CNN on Thursday the call had a “congratulatory” tone — but conceded that Priebus suggested he “tone it down a little bit.”

“He did say, ‘you know, you could keep it down a little bit, but you can’t change your personality and I understand that.’ It was really a nice call, a congratulatory call,” Trump told CNN.

Trump said Priebus congratulated him on his surge in the polls, telling Trump that he’s “literally not seen anything like this.”

“Trump is just dominating the race right now, he’s sucking the air out of this thing,” said Thomas M. Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia. “Our candidates are all being forced to react to his comments.”…

Some Republicans, according to three people briefed on the debate planning, have nudged Fox to clarify its broad requirement that candidates file “all necessary paperwork.” They are said to be seeking a specific reference to the personal financial disclosure that presidential candidates must submit to the Federal Election Commission within 30 days of beginning their candidacies, the theory being that Mr. Trump would be unwilling to disclose his full worth…

Privately, Mr. Borges has been even more pointed in conversations with Mr. Priebus and other party officials, pleading for some sort of intervention over Mr. Trump.

Mr. Priebus is said to be sympathetic to Mr. Borges’s complaints, but party officials say he is unwilling to step in publicly to confront Mr. Trump. Even if he were, it is unclear what he could to do persuade Fox to keep Mr. Trump off the air. It is the networks, not the Republican National Committee, that determine which candidates appear in debates.

Every available option seems to make things worse. If party leaders fail to confront him aggressively, then his noxious brand of anti-immigrant rhetoric could poison the GOP brand. Go after him too hard, however, and they risk handing him the kind of made-for-TV mud fight that his campaign thrives on…

The only thing more painful than Trump dominating weeks of news in the primaries might be Trump playing an active spoiler in the general election.

“I don’t know which negative is larger,” one Republican strategist told msnbc. “I think there is definitely a chance that he decides to run as an Independent. The flipside is how do they control him inside the party? What do they even have to threaten him with?”…

“Now is the time for the party and candidates to go on the offensive every time Trump deviates from the party platform, norms and decency,” Bradley Blakeman, a former political adviser to President George W. Bush, told msnbc. “We should assist in his political demise by speaking up and not sitting back each and every time he goes off the reservation.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is clearly tired of talking about rival presidential candidate Donald Trump…

“I’ve already stated my views about Donald Trump,” he said. 

With some light prodding, Bush said he wouldn’t be drawn into a “food fight” with someone who won’t win the election. 

“I’m done. I’m through. I gave my views. I just think that we need to be much more hopeful and optimistic about our ideology,” he continued. “We should focus on that and not get into a food fight that only brings energy to someone who I doubt will be president and is not a constructive force for our party.”

After all, as Trump is demonstrating, reaching double digits in early polls of a 17-candidate field isn’t about getting people to like a candidate. If a candidate can make the entire campaign a referendum on himself, then even if he loses by a lopsided margin, the 10 or 12 percent who do approve of him will place him among the polling leaders. That won’t help him in 2016, when voters take the whole thing more seriously, but it’s enough to get into the top 10. 

Any candidate who doesn’t make the cut loses an opportunity to spark a public-opinion rally. Even worse, party actors may use the polling cutoff as an excuse to narrow down the list of contenders they are actively considering. That could spell the end for several of them. 

So Trump is just doing what he was invited to do. It’s the muted behavior of the other candidates, the ones who aren’t running naked through the streets, that’s more of a puzzle. As Ed Kilgore notes, however, they probably still have time to say or do something dramatic to draw attention to themselves.

His new boast that Latinos will vote for him was therefore seen as delusional by many Latinos. “Trump’s comments that he would win the Latino vote are laughable,” Luis Miranda, Political Communications Consultant, Democratic Strategist and former Obama White House spokesperson, told me via e-mail.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of he National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), added: “I have yet to see any candidate win the Latino vote through insults and racist comments.”

Pablo Manriquez, DNC Hispanic Media Director, said via-email: “Trump win the Latino vote? Ha! As Mexicans say, ‘No mames!’(slang for don’t joke.) Neither Trump nor his party has any spine when it comes to immigrant relief. Trump is just the GOP’s anti-immigrant flavor of the month. Ultimately, son todos iguales (they are all the same.)”

Miranda criticized other Republican presidential candidates who have taken so long to weigh in on Trump’s “deplorable language.” He said that it suggests Republican politicians are still comfortable “playing to the ugliest elements of their base.”

Yes, back in 2012, weeks after Mitt Romney last the election, Trump spoke to Newsmax and, well, said all this:

“Whether intended or not, comments and policies of Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates during this election were seen by Hispanics and Asians as hostile to them, Trump says.

“’Republicans didn’t have anything going for them with respect to Latinos and with respect to Asians,’ the billionaire developer says.

“’The Democrats didn’t have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it,’ Trump says. ‘They didn’t know what the policy was, but what they were is they were kind.’”

I realize that if you’re a Trump fan right now, energized by his in-your-face combativeness with the media and anyone who disagrees with him, I’m unlikely to change your mind on his qualities as a GOP presidential candidate.

But let’s take Stephen Covey’s advice to “begin with the end in mind” — presumably that is conservative governance — and recognize that to achieve that, we need a Republican president. And as much as Trump may be rising in the polls of the GOP primary . . . let’s take a look at his numbers head-to-head against Hillary Clinton:

CNN: Clinton 59 percent, Trump 35…

I suspect none of this will be persuasive for the Trump fans; the thinking seems to be, “If you can’t see why this man needs to be our next president, you’re a hopeless idiot.” (Funny how fan bases tend to emulate the figure of adoration.) Both the candidate and his fan base aren’t all that interested in building a path to enough delegates and 270 electoral votes. They mostly want to rant.

No major candidate has yet shown him or herself willing to face a mud wrestling match with one of the world’s great mud wrestlers (a spectacle that would drown out not just a substantive message, but pretty much every other political story imaginable), nor risk incurring a potential multimillion dollar negative TV ad campaign fueled by Trump’s billions or his wrath on the debate stage. And once he’s brushed off the blow, he’ll head straight to Twitter and to his welcoming friends on FOX News and inform an audience that has enjoyed him for years, just what a loser you are…

Some restive and concerned Republican donors and some commentators (including Charles Krauthammer and Pete Wehner) are calling for the current crop of candidates, and the GOP more generally, to stand up to Trump, even making noise about barring him from the formal debates next month, despite the fact that Trump’s current poll standing would qualify him for entry. Concern has risen high enough that the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, called Trump on Wednesday, urging him to tone down his rhetoric on immigration…

Which makes Trump a bigger target than ever. Possibly, the calculus of attacking him is changing. The risks are huge for anyone who makes a frontal assault, a full repudiation that goes beyond just challenging Trump on his immigration comments, a truly epic mud war. But a candidate who undertook it might be seen as both a party savior and pillar of strength, definitely prepared to be an Oval Office occupant. Even Bill Clinton might be impressed. Will any of them seize the moment?

Conservatives who have grown tired of Republican politicians playing defense can’t help but admire Trump’s moxie. As Mark Halperin recalls, Trump is adhering to an old Bill Clinton adage which says “candidates have a better chance to win over voters by being strong and wrong than by being right and weak.” This is bad news for Republicans, because Trump is both strong and wrong.

He also seems to have nothing to lose — or, at least, he doesn’t fear losing anything. He has no fear of losing his reputation or his political career. He has no shame. This, coupled with his aforementioned qualities, makes him incredibly dangerous. And appealing.

As I’ve long lamented, modern conservatives conflate anger with ideological purity. Donald Trump is a documented liberal on fiscal and social issues, who has donated money to Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. But because he talks tough about illegals — and because he says mean things about Obama and Hillary — he has become what passes for a solid conservative in the tea party era.

So what do Republicans about him? I’ve come to the conclusion that they should view this more as an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah” moment than as a problem. It won’t be easy to take Trump down in a debate (for all the reasons described above) but campaigns are about passing tests. Sometimes you’ve got to slay a dragon on the way to the promised land. And frankly, if you can’t take down Trump, maybe you don’t deserve to be the nominee…

Let’s consider candidates representing the poles of the establishment-grass roots spectrum of the party, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz.

Why would Bush want to take on Trump? The mogul is presumably not poaching many voters from him and instead is suppressing the candidates on the populist right. So this isn’t really Bush’s problem.

How about Cruz? It is indeed a problem for him, as Jim Geraghty wrote the other day. Trump is fishing in his pond, and doing it with a hand grenade. If Trump just gets, say, 10 or 15 percent in Iowa, it could be very damaging for the Texan. 

But it would be foolish of Cruz to frontally take on Trump at the moment because: 1) Cruz can’t afford to alienate Trump supporters he will need to win over; 2) Cruz’s brand is based on taking courageous stands and, for now, Trump is a symbol of anti-establishmentarian courage for some conservatives; 3) Trump is presumably at his zenith or near it, and it never pays to try to take on someone at the height of his strength, unless you have no choice; and, finally and relatedly, 4) Cruz should have faith that his candidacy is built to last in ways that Trump’s isn’t. 

[Cruz] then turned to Donald Trump’s comments, arguing, “I got to note, as you know, in this past week, a whole lot of Republicans have run out of their way to smack Donald Trump because he had the temerity to actually speak out about the danger of illegal immigration. And I’ll tell you, we need to solve this problem, and not engage in this doublespeak where we don’t acknowledge the real threats that we face in this country.”

Cruz further declared, “I am proud to stand with Donald Trump. I like him and respect him. And let me point out, there’s a reason why so many Republican 2016 candidates are attacking Trump. Because they haven’t been speaking out on the need to secure the border. Many of those 2016 candidates have been vocal advocates of amnesty, which only increases illegal immigration. I think we need to stand with the working men and women. I think we need to stand with legal immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. That’s the way our system is supposed to work.”

So here is a hint for the other men and women running for President. If you want to tap into what Trump is getting, you do not have to be bombastic. You do not have to resort to hyperbole with every statement. But you do have to do something Republican candidates are loathe to do. You have to run against the Republican Party.

That is, frankly, why Trump is doing so well. Republicans in Washington look at polling that shows how they are disliked and their advisors whisper in their ears that they need to be more like Barack Obama. Actually, conservatives hate the Washington GOP more than Democrats hate the Washington GOP. Further, conservatives see too many self-styled conservatives go to Washington and puke all over themselves getting along with the other side.

Combat Trump by running against not just Barack Obama, but Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) N/A% and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 61% too. Those of you who are consultants for some of the camps are queasy just thinking of that. And that, my friends, is your problem. You’re thinking “my candidate might have to work with these guys one day.” Donald Trump is thinking “you’re fired.” So you’re . . . well . . . think of another “F” word.