For Democrats, Donald Trump amounts to a kind of divine intervention.

With the Republican Party on an urgent mission to woo Latino voters, one of its leading presidential candidates has been enmeshed for two weeks in a nasty feud over his inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.

“They’re bringing drugs,” Trump said in his campaign announcement. “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

The comments – and more since – have prompted an uproar among Latino groups and a series of nasty break-ups between Trump and various corporate partners. His outlandish rhetoric and skill at occupying the national spotlight is also proving to be dangerously toxic for the Republican brand, which remains in the rehabilitation stage after losing the 2012 presidential race.

Despite – or perhaps because of – such antics, the flashy real estate mogul with a big bank account and an even bigger ego has rocketed into second place in national polls and in the early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats, meanwhile, are eager to make Trump the face of the Republican Party, which is momentarily leaderless with a disparate presidential field and no clear front-runner.

“I am a person of faith – and the Donald’s entry into this race can only be attributed to the fact that the good Lord is a Democrat with a sense of humor,” exulted Paul Begala, adviser to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC boosting Clinton’s candidacy.

In Iowa, Trump is tied for second behind Scott Walker with 10 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University survey. In New Hampshire, a CNN-WMUR poll had Trump in second place behind Jeb Bush with 11 percent.

He also comes in second behind Bush in a new national CNN/ORC poll.

Trump, who claims to be worth $9 billion, has staked out populist ground, railing against the impact of illegal immigrants, particularly from Mexico, on the economy and vowing to “build a great wall on our southern border.” That message, along with promises to restrict Chinese imports and other protectionist measures, could resonate with white, blue-collar male voters.

Trump also has stood by his remarks tying immigrants to crime.

“I like Mexico. I love the Mexican people. I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over. And they’re bad. They’re really bad,” Trump said last weekend on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “You have people coming in, and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists, and they’re coming into this country.”

Leading the Democratic charge to tie the Republican Party to Trump is Clinton. Notably, she does not mention Trump by name – perhaps hoping to associate his views with the other 15 declared or likely Republican candidates.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Trump’s comments were “not helpful” to efforts to reach more diverse voters. But, he added, “we don’t get to pick and choose who runs, who doesn’t.”


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