Matthew Continetti at the Free Beacon gets it exactly right about the appeal of The Donald:
A brash showboat and celebrity, self-promoter and controversialist, silly and mocking, a caricature of a caricature, Donald Trump is no one’s idea of a serious presidential candidate. Which is exactly why the radical middle finds him refreshing. Not an iota of him is politically correct, he plays by no rules of comity or civility, he genuflects to no party or institution, he is unafraid of and antagonistic toward the media, and he challenges the conventional wisdom of both parties, which holds that there is no real cost to illegal immigration and to trade with China.
Trump’s foreign policy, such as it is, is like Perot’s directed not toward Eurasia but our southern border. Unlike Perot, whose campaign emphasized the twin deficits of budget and trade, Trump has taken on illegal immigration from Mexico, fighting with both the identity politics left and the cheap labor right, with both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Like Perot too he has seized the public imagination, masterfully exploiting the media’s craving for ratings and for negative portrayals of Republicans, turning CNN into TNN, the Trump News Network, the finest and most exclusive cable channel on air.
Trump would enjoy press coverage no matter what he ran on. But the fact that he has chosen, perhaps unwittingly, illegal immigration to be his cause makes the coverage all the more polarizing, visceral, contentious, spiteful. He dared say what no one of his wealth and prominence ever says—that illegal immigration is not limited to DREAMERs and laborers and aspirational Americans, that it is not always, as Jeb Bush put it, an “act of love,” that also traversing our southern border are criminals, rapists and narcotics traffickers and human smugglers, displaced souls from illiberal cultures who carry with them not only dreams but nightmares, bad habits, and other costly baggage. That his poor phrasing was sickeningly confirmed in early July, when an illegal immigrant who had been deported several times shot Kathryn Steinle dead in broad daylight on a San Francisco pier, only strengthened Trump’s connection to the radical middle. So did the drug lord El Chapo’s escape from prison soon after Mexico received an extradition request from the United States.
Donald Trump will never be president of the United States; conservatives understand that. Nor is he a conservative; conservatives understand that as well. But he is a battering ram, whose crockery smashing can have a salubrious outcome if only conservatives understood that, too.