The Big Questions: Trump and the GOP ’12 Pack

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Mark Halperin’s answers in this week’s TIME.

What is Donald Trump doing to the GOP field?
Turning it upside down. Trump’s sudden surge to the top of several national horse-race polls has left his rivals dazed and confused. His iconic persona; global fame; big, swinging pocketbook; and unerring sense of self-promotion have sucked up airtime and oxygen. Trump is generating so much grass-roots excitement that he has added staff to handle the ringing phones and is collecting hundreds of thousands of e-mail addresses from callers begging him to run. If Trump has not been particularly specific or consistent on policy issues, neither have his potential rivals.

Who is suffering most from Trump’s gambits?
The Donald’s rise has dented Mitt Romney’s claim that he is the best businessman in the race and the Republicans’ undisputed front runner. The mogul’s no-holds-barred verbal assaults on President Obama have made even the bilious Newt Gingrich seem mild and discursive. And Trump is dominating the dialogue on his terms: GOP potentials and even Obama have been obliged to comment publicly on his clout and his views.

Can the others borrow anything from Trump’s bag of tricks?
Trump has gotten a lot of mileage out of his demand for access to the President’s birth certificate. It’s not clear, however, that his mix of Fifth Avenue populism and aggressive nationalism can be copied. But his brusque repudiations of China and Saudi Arabia, his demand that the U.S. stop playing the patsy and his assessment of Obama’s presidency as the “worst ever” touch a nerve in GOP circles. Rivals can cadge the substance; re-creating Trump’s singular style is impossible.

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