12 sure-fire ways to torpedo your campaign -- unless you're Trump

Story highlights

  • Donald Trump has taken heat for comments about immigrants and women
  • But none of the criticism has really stuck

(CNN)Donald Trump has consistently courted controversy -- and defied political gravity -- as he steamrolled his way to the Republican nomination.

In just the last week, Trump has attracted media scrutiny for untoward comments he's made about women and for allegedly impersonating his own publicist and then lying about it.
    Either of those alone would be enough to torpedo the campaign of any major candidate running for public office.
    But not Trump.
    Here are 12 things that would likely kill a presidential campaign for those not named Donald J. Trump.
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    1. Launch bid by naming Mexican immigrants 'rapists'

    Trump's campaign didn't slowly wade into controversial territory -- it was born there.
    Delivering his announcement speech at Trump Tower in June 2015, Trump did not mince words.
    "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," Trump said. "And some, I assume, are good people."
    Trump also asserted the Mexican government is in fact "sending" its criminals into the United States -- the first in a long line of unsubstantiated claims Trump has pushed on the campaign trail.
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    2. Claim a POW who was tortured isn't a hero

    The dust had barely settled on his comments about undocumented immigrants before Trump kicked up another firestorm by arguing that Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was "not a war hero."
    "I like people that weren't captured, OK?" Trump said of McCain, who endured more than five years of torture at the infamous North Vietnamese "Hanoi Hilton" prison.
    While Trump was of fighting age during the Vietnam War, he repeatedly sought out -- and received -- student and medical waivers to avoid the military draft.
    Trump faced stiff criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in the wake of his comments, but still, he sustained his lead in the polls.
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    3. Link your opponent's father to the assassination of JFK

    Trump has even peddled in conspiracy theories during his presidential campaign.
    Most notably, Trump suggested -- on the day of the Indiana primary -- that then-rival Ted Cruz's father was connected to JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, citing an unsubstantiated photo and report in the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer.
    "His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being, you know, shot," Trump said on Fox News, as polls opened in Indiana.
    The next day, with Cruz out of the race and his path to the nomination cleared, Trump admitted that he floated the report without believing it: "I don't believe it, but I did say, 'Let people read it.' "
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    4. Play 'my wife's hotter than yours' with an opponent

    Even Trump has called this one a "mistake."
    Amid a feud with a super PAC opposing his campaign, Trump directed his fire at Cruz's wife, Heidi, by retweeting an unflattering photo of her alongside one of his former supermodel wife.
    This came after Trump leveled a veiled threat to "spill the beans" about Heidi Cruz after a super PAC ran an advertisement using semi-nude images of Melania Trump. The super PAC had no connection to Cruz's campaign.
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    5. Suggest the U.S. can never default because 'you print the money'

    Candidates for president typically avoid using words like "if," "economy" and "crashed" next to each other in the same sentence. And they also don't promote policies that would cause massive inflation.
    But Trump did both in a matter of days.
    "I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal," Trump said in an interview on CNBC, a statement that many economists called dangerous, arguing that it could undermine the U.S.'s stalwart creditworthiness.
    Defending his remarks days later on CNN, Trump argued that the U.S. would never default on its debt anyway.
    "First of all, you never have to default because you print the money," Trump said, floating a policy idea that would lead to massive inflation in the U.S. if implemented.
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    6. Propose a temporary ban on members of the world's second largest religion

    Trump in December proposed a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what's going on."
    The proposal was just the escalation of the controversial rhetoric and policy proposals aimed squarely at Muslims that Trump already employed as he addressed the problem of radical Islamist terrorism.
    Trump had already previously called for the U.S. government to run surveillance in U.S. mosques and suggested Muslim-Americans should be registered in a national government database.
    And then in March, Trump bluntly claimed to CNN's Anderson Cooper: "I think Islam hates us."
    But just last week, Trump said his call for a temporary ban was "just a suggestion."
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    7. Mock women's looks and brains while running for president

    Trump claimed his GOP primary rival Carly Fiorina was too ugly to be elected, telling Rolling Stone magazine, "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?"
    He's aimed the brunt of his unsavory comments about women at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who during the first GOP debate challenged the billionaire on his misogynistic comments about women.
    He retweeted a tweet calling Kelly a "bimbo" and suggested her tough questioning during the GOP debate was linked to her menstruation when he said she had "blood coming out of her wherever."
    Trump has insisted he meant "ears and, or nose."
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    8. Mock women's looks before running for president

    Trump cultivated an image for himself as a quintessential New York playboy and used the media to brag about his sexual exploits and desirability and to debate the worthiness of various women.
    Appearing repeatedly on Howard Stern's radio talk show, Trump often crudely rated women on a scale of 1 to 10 and discussed his sexual proclivities, including whether oral sex was important to him.
    Trump has used a range of words to describe women he's disagreed with, such as Rosie O'Donnell and Arianna Huffington, including "fat pig," "slob" and "dog."
    "Don't forget, I was never going to run for office," Trump has said in his defense.
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    9. Impersonate your own nonexistent publicist to brag -- and then lie about it

    The New York billionaire has long been known for his branding genius and his successful use of the New York tabloids to cement his image as a successful and desirable business mogul.
    He had also long been known to have responded to media requests under the assumed names of John Barron or John Miller.
    And in a recording leaked to The Washington Post last week, the voice of "John Miller" can be heard talking up Trump's encounters with various women, including Madonna, and the fact that he is doing "tremendously well" financially.
    Trump had previously owned up in court documents to using the aliases, but he denied being the "John Miller" captured in the recording.
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    10. Say you want to punch a protester in the face

    Trump has repeatedly mocked and demeaned protesters who interrupt his rallies, but he went a step further during a February rally in Las Vegas.
    "I'd like to punch him in the face," Trump said of a protester there.
    "In the old days," he added, protesters would be "carried out on stretchers."
    But it wasn't the first time Trump -- who now tells supporters not to hurt protesters at his rallies -- has condoned violence at his rallies.
    "Maybe he should have been roughed up," Trump said of a Black Lives Matter protester who was tackled, kicked and punched at his rally in Birmingham, Alabama last fall.
    Two protesters were assaulted at separate rallies by Trump supporters in March as they were escorted out of the arenas where the rallies were held.
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    11. Mock a disabled reporter

    Trump took some heat in November after he appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a chronic condition that limits the movement of his arms.
    "Now the poor guy, you've got to see this guy: 'Uhh, I don't know what I said. I don't remember,'" Trump said during a rally as he flailed his arms awkwardly.
    But it did nothing to quell his overall momentum.
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    12. Refuse to release your tax returns

    "It's none of your business," was Donald Trump's response when ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos pressed Trump to reveal his effective tax rate.
    Breaking with decades of tradition in U.S. presidential politics, Trump has refused to publicly disclose his tax returns -- leaving unanswered questions about his tax rate, charitable contributions and annual income.
    Trump's latest line of response -- after first saying he was working on getting his tax filings ready for release -- has been to insist that he will release his taxes only once the federal government completes its audit of his taxes.
    But now that Trump's tax filings going back to 2009 are under review, it's a near certainty that Trump's taxes won't be available to the public before the November general election, as long as Trump sticks to that line of reasoning.