Many know Donald Trump as a shrewd businessman, real estate mogul, and magnetic television personality. Since the launch of his 2016 Presidential bid, "The Donald" has taken on a new nickname: "Teflon Don."
Nothing sticks to him, and nothing can touch him. Despite a spat of controversial comments directed at illegal immigrants, GOP rivals, and even members of Fox News, Trump maintains a sizable lead over his GOP rivals. A post-debate CNN/ORC poll of Iowa caucus voters shows Trump leading with 22 percent, an eight-point margin over closest rival Ben Carson.
What's behind Trump's appeal? His vague, yet fantastical political agenda, and aggressive, "schoolyard" verbal tactics are unlike those of any presidential candidate in recent memory. The funny thing is, those qualities seem to be exactly what is driving the "Teflon Don's" popularity among conservatives this election cycle.
Trump's main appeal lies in his unfiltered rhetoric and unwavering defense of his statements. His willingness to speak his mind, no matter what the consequences, has piqued the interest of even the most casual of American news junkies. Trump called illegal immigrants "rapists," questioned Senator John McCain's status as a war hero, and gave out GOP rival Lindsey Graham's phone number on national television. The word "apologize" doesn't exist in Donald Trump's vocabulary, unless of course he's insisting that he won't apologize.
Whereas these inflammatory actions might sink other candidates' White House hopes, they only seem to buoy Trump's. Perhaps this is due to his status as a political outsider, a designation he flaunts nearly every chance he gets.
"Politicians are all talk and no action," he told CNN's Chris Cuomo last week on New Day, "I'm the opposite."
Trump is a breath of fresh air for those who want a brash, honest voice untainted by the political institution. His confident, grandiose speeches invigorate his supporters, who are largely dissatisfied with the political establishment and obsessed with "taking their country back." He comes off as a fearless leader who isn't afraid to throw some punches if need be.
This pugnacious nature comes out in Trump's widespread criticism of current U.S. affairs. His scathing critique of immigration policy has become the defining issue of his campaign. Yet, when pressed on possible solutions, he speaks in generalities. Who can forget his bold plan to build a wall across the U.S./Mexico border, which the Mexican Government will pay for? Or his pledge to fine Mexico $100,000 for every immigrant who crosses the border illegally? Trump makes these promises, yet offers little, if any, specifics that might make these policies appear more tangible. He also calls Obamacare "a complete disaster" and promises to replace it with "something terrific." He also says the key to defeating ISIS is to "knock the hell out of them" by taking their oil.
It's clear that Trump is using the angst of the Republican Party to his advantage, and won't go down without a fight. However, perhaps "Teflon Don" isn't as untouchable as he seems. Since his controversial remarks about illegal immigrants in June, Spanish television station Univision terminated their contract with Trump, refusing to air his "Miss Universe Pageant." Following his mocking of John McCain's war record, fellow GOP candidate Rick Perry called for Trump to drop out of the race.
The latest war of words is the now-infamous dustup with Fox News anchor and GOP debate moderator Megyn Kelly, who pressed Trump on his history of making sexist remarks toward women. Trump fired back at Kelly with his infamous "blood" comment. Trump is currently polling at 15 percent among women voters in Iowa, second to Carson's 20 percent. If Trump doesn't do some damage control, this number may fall further in the coming months.
The larger issue is whether Trump's supporters believe that his bombastic rhetoric will sit well with foreign leaders. If he can't take a tough question from a reporter in a debate, that doesn't exactly bode well for negotiations with someone like Vladimir Putin. It seems as though Trump's supporters are glossing over these concerns by focusing on the sheer charisma of his convictions.
Trump's popularity may be epitomized by the old adage "it's not what you say, but how you say it." With over a year until the general election, this sideshow seems entertaining right now. However, as the primaries draw closer and Trump's critics demand more of the specifics of his agenda, the Teflon may wear off, and no amount of Pam Cooking Spray will help.