Despite the controversial remarks defining his campaign, Donald Trump is no longer just an irrelevant, comical buffoon who spews ignorant statements. Last week, he won 35 percent of Republican votes in the New Hampshire primaries, which makes a point — he’s now a relevant and influential GOP front-runner, one who has elaborated little on complicated matters related to the presidency. As many of his fellow candidates have pointed out, Donald Trump isn’t to be taken lightly anymore.

Illustration by Owen Thomas.
Illustration by Owen Thomas.

When Trump announced his campaign for presidency in June 2015, few followed his platform. According to Gallup, only 25 percent of Americans regarded him as a serious candidate. Right off the bat, he called immigrants from Mexico “rapists and criminals.”

He later defamed Megyn Kelly, anchor of “The Kelly File” on Fox News, in the first Republican debate for being “too hard” because she had “blood coming out of her wherever.” This is just one of the many misogynistic remarks Trump has made toward women like The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The more Donald Trump talks, the more he exposes his delusional vision of world politics. He believes coercing the Mexican government into paying for and building a wall will solve the immigration crisis with our southern neighbors. He thinks the November 2015 Paris attack could have been avoided if Parisians openly carried firearms. In more recent rants, Trump believes our nation will be safer if Muslim immigrants are banned.

The most conservative Republicans predicted his election timeline would last no longer than a month. Yet nine months later, Trump is the GOP front-runner, and more than half of the Republican party views him as a serious candidate.

So how did he did he get this far?

Any American-born citizen who is 35 or older and has lived in the States for at least 14 years can run for president. Remember Vermin Supreme? He ran in 2012 and promised to bring zombie apocalypse awareness and ponies to every American citizen. However, candidates like Vermin aren’t covered by the media for their political aptitude, rather their senseless, hilarious propaganda. Vermin was harmless with no real support — his race for presidency was dismissed as a mere publicity stunt.

Trump’s bid for presidency started out in a similar way. His announcement seemed like a call for attention. His previous stances on political issues, like demanding Obama’s birth certificate, had news stations covering him as a celebrity, not a legitimate candidate. And of course, the democratic candidates were assured Trump’s run was not going the distance. Despite his wealth and popularity, attention would shift back to the serious GOP members once election season officially began.

But that didn’t happen. The constant media coverage and the negative attention propelled Trump to a position as a serious candidate for president.

“Trump is way better at the Internet than anyone else in the GOP which is partially why he is winning,” tweeted Daniel Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior advisor of communications. Trump’s outrageous sound bites are increasingly share-worthy on social media platforms and appeal to voters who don’t normally engage in politics.

Trump’s combined 10 million Twitter and Facebook followers have established an empire of uninformed Americans who stay updated via Trump’s infamous live-tweet sessions.

But the sole reason Trump is consistently topping in the polls is  that many Americans have found a voice through his radical politics. Without looking in depth at the policies brought forth, Trump’s impulsive, often inappropriate comments have collected a wealth of supporters. Around half are within the ages 45-64. His xenophobic rhetoric supports a skewed interpretation of American nationalism: that America will become great again through racist policies and meddling in the affairs of other countries. What the media and pundits see as jokes and slander, a substantial amount of supporters see as real solutions to both domestic and global issues.

Trump thrives on media coverage, but that’s not to say hindering coverage will effectively drown his presidential campaign. The fact is that Trump’s controversial statements overshadow critical analysis of his policies. After last year’s Paris attack, which ISIS shooters allegedly conducted, Trump was one of the few Republicans who spoke heavily in favor of completely banning Muslim-Americans. Supporters were frightened by a hypothetical attack on our homeland and some found solace in Trump’s harmful words.

Trump has the audacity to be blunt with his intentions, no matter how radically immoral, and that is refreshing to some American voters. However, his supporters are the only fuel behind his campaign for his presidency other than his wealth. Inevitably, fans will become disillusioned and once his support drops even slightly, his name will not reach the ballot in November.