Donald Trump did not back down from controversial statements he made about immigration from Mexico, telling reporters Friday that his comments were taken out of context, and repeating his statements that Mexico is sending people to the U.S. that “Mexico doesn’t want.”

Trump spoke at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills after meeting with families of those killed by undocumented immigrants.

“People came into the country illegally and killed their children. And it’s a very, very, sad thing what’s happening with our country … And nobody wants to talk about it,” Trump said. Trump also referenced the high-profile killing of a woman in San Francisco allegedly by an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times in the past…

“No one really listened to us, our story really wasn’t heard,” said Sabine Durden, whose 30-year-old son was killed by a driver who was an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala three years ago. “When I heard Mr. Trump, I started screaming,” she said. “Finally, someone who had the guts to say what millions are thinking.”

Donald Trump, who became the center of attention in the race for the 2016 Republican U.S. presidential nomination with his denunciation of illegal immigrants from Mexico, has vaulted into a virtual dead heat with Jeb Bush atop the field, a Reuters-Ipsos poll released on Saturday showed.

Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, had the support of 15.8 percent of respondents in the online poll of self-identified Republicans compared to 16.1 percent for Bush, a former Florida governor.

They were followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at 9.5 percent, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at 8.1 percent, surgeon and author Ben Carson at 7.2 percent and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 5.8 percent.

However, given a choice of three candidates – Bush, Trump or Florida Senator Marco Rubio – Bush had a comfortable lead at 42 percent among the respondents in the Reuters-Ipsos Republican poll, compared to 28.4 percent for Trump and 20 percent for Rubio.

After weeks of criticism — and rising poll numbers — in the wake of controversial remarks on immigration, Donald Trump brings his spotlight to Arizona, a longtime hotbed of border security debate.
 
The Republican presidential candidate is joining forces at a rally Saturday afternoon with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an immigration hardliner who has said illegal aliens in his jurisdiction can expect a “free ride to jail.”…

“Trump’s touched more than a nerve. He’s connected to a zeitgeist,” Steve Deace, a conservative radio host, told The Hill of Trump’s resonance with right-wing voters.
 
“[His immigration stance] is not always eloquently worded, but it is the spirit of what most of the GOP base actually thinks,” he added.

In his speech, Trump plans to single out several campaign opponents by name. People familiar with Trump’s prepared remarks said he intends to go after former Florida governor Jeb Bush for having said many immigrants come to the United States out of an “act of love”; to cast Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) as a typical politician for once trying to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, a priority of President Obama’s; and to accuse former Texas governor Rick Perry of being weak and unable to secure his state’s border with Mexico…

Sam Nunberg, a Trump adviser, said Trump’s goal is to be a conduit for Republicans who feel like outsiders within their own party, especially on immigration.

“His persona is a mix of Ross Perot and Ronald Reagan,” Nunberg said in an interview Friday. “A successful businessman disliked by the elites, a natural communicator, and someone who speaks for and is part of the conservative base.”

Trump has risen from petty distraction to campaign sensation, rising near the top of national and early-state polling on the backs of his universal name recognition, a platform appealing to the GOP fringes, and a steady stream of inflammatory comments.

This has led campaigns and Republican leaders to rethink their response to Trump. Initial efforts to ignore him have failed, daily denunciations of him have only increased his visibility, putting him into first place in the GOP field according to one online-only poll sponsored by YouGov and The Economist. A candidate that many Republicans long courted for his megaphone and populist following now threatens to tar the larger party with comments about rapists and criminals flooding over the southern border…

“The first rule of politics when you’re in a hole is to stop digging,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said at the Atlantic Council on Wednesday. “Someone needs to take the shovel out of Donald Trump’s hands.”…

One strategy that is growing in favor is to treat him like any other candidate, and using his well-documented record of inflammatory, contradictory, and unorthodox statements against him.

Republican politicians love to talk about issues that…

A) …Are hot with the top hat and monocle set at the Chamber of Commerce.

B) …Were big when Reagan was in office 25+ years ago.

C) …Are cave-ins to liberal demands.

When Donald Trump talked about illegal immigrant crime, he tapped into a powerful issue that wasn’t even on the radar of most Republicans in Congress. Not only was he right about all the crime coming over the border, it’s an issue that has been percolating under the surface for a long time (See 7 Horrible Crimes Committed in America By Illegal Aliens from May of 2014). It’s also something that puts Democrats on the defensive since they’re the ones demanding that we refuse to enforce our current immigration laws. If Democrats had just obeyed the laws on the books, how many Americans would be alive today? How many American women have been raped by illegal immigrants because Democrats are stopping the border patrol from doing its job? How many American children have been needlessly molested?

When Trump talks about that issue or not just building a wall, but forcing Mexico to pay for it since it’s encouraging its citizens to break our laws, he’s hitting pay dirt. When he says countries like Saudi Arabia should pay America for defending them, it’s music to the ears of a lot of Americans. Given that we’re running a deficit every year, shouldn’t we at least be having a real discussion about whether we’re getting enough bang for our buck out of our foreign aid and overseas military spending? The American people would certainly love to have that discussion. So where has the Republican Party been on these issues and why did it take Donald Trump to get people talking about them?

I truly, honestly, and with all my heart and mind think Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters are making a yuuuuuuge mistake. I think they are being conned and played. I feel like a guy whose brother is being taken advantage of by a grifter. I’m watching helplessly as the con artist congratulates him for taking out a third mortgage…

You seem to think he’s an immigration hardliner, and he’s certainly pretending to be. But why can’t you see through it? He condemned Mitt Romney as an immigration hardliner in 2012 and favored comprehensive immigration reform. He told Bill O’Reilly he was in favor of a “path to citizenship” for 30 million illegal immigrants:

“Trump: You have to give them a path. You have 20 million, 30 million, nobody knows what it is. It used to be 11 million. Now, today I hear it’s 11, but I don’t think it’s 11. I actually heard you probably have 30 million. You have to give them a path, and you have to make it possible for them to succeed. You have to do that.”

Question: Just how many rapists and drug dealers did Donald Trump want to give green cards to?…

Eventually, I suspect, this will be the cause of his undoing. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about conservatism, and at some point he will say something that even his biggest fans will recognize as a damning revelation about the real man beneath the schtick. The only question is whether he implodes before or after he does permanent damage to the GOP’s chances in 2016.

Via RCP.