WASHINGTON DC: Donald Trump is a billionaire real estate tycoon with bravado to spare, a former reality television star who says winning is everything — and has his sights set on one of the biggest prizes on Earth.
To his fans, the Republican frontrunner is the definition of American success, the cut-throat tycoon who can magically fix all that ails a nation no longer sure of its place in the world, and home to an increasingly frustrated white working and middle class.
To his critics, he is a racist demagogue or, at best, a buffoon with an orange perma-tan and wild hair who would either hand Hillary Clinton the presidency — or lead the world into unmitigated catastrophe.
Now, the most important victory of Trump’s fledgling political career is at hand, having all-but-seized the Republican Party mantle in one of the more extraordinary rises in the history of US politics.
What is clear is that Trump isn’t interested in following the traditional political playbook.
He insults women, Mexicans, Muslims, virtually everyone who crosses his path — including all 16 rivals for the party nomination.
He branded Jeb Bush “low-energy,” badgered “Little Marco” Rubio and relentlessly attacked Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted.”
And yet Trump’s tell-it-like-it-is bluntness, defiance of political correctness and disdain for the Washington establishment struck a chord.
He promises to build a wall on the Mexican border, deport millions of illegal immigrants and stand up to China to “Make America Great Again.”
Jetting from rally to rally in his Boeing 757, he is treated like a rock star, sucking up as much TV coverage as the other candidates combined. Over the past year Trump has been provided with nearly $2 billion in free air time, according to a New York Times study.
Early in the campaign the question was: Can Trump translate his poll numbers into votes?
After an opening loss to Cruz in Iowa, Trump gained a head of steam that made him unstoppable, besting rivals in early states New Hampshire and South Carolina, snatching seven of 12 contests on March 1, and dominating in the last seven states including Indiana which voted Tuesday.
The question now becomes, how will Trump fare in the November election?
“I’ll bring people together,” he insisted this week.
Donald Trump was born June 14, 1946 in Queens, New York, the fourth of five children.
His father Fred was a wealthy real estate developer and son of German immigrants. His mother Mary was from Scotland.
Boisterous and unruly, young Donald was packed off to New York Military Academy, a private boarding school near West Point, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business in 1968.
He worked for his father, who made money building and operating middle-income apartments in New York’s outer boroughs. But Queens and Brooklyn were never going to be enough for The Donald.
He shot off to big-league Manhattan, snapping up some of the country’s flashiest real estate, riding the wave of Reaganomics and coming to embody the swanky extravagance of the 1980s.
His true wealth is up for dispute. Trump told the Federal Election Commission he has more than $10 billion. Forbes insists it is no more than $4.5 billion.
But there is barely a corner of Manhattan that the Trump Organization hasn’t conquered with luxury buildings. Its portfolio of hotels, golf courses, casinos and luxury estates straddles the world, from California to Mumbai.
He has written several best-selling business books and cemented his fame by starring in NBC reality series “The Apprentice,” which spawned “The Celebrity Apprentice” — until the network dumped him for offending Mexicans.
There were other business flops along the way. Four times between 1991 and 2009, his casino and hotel projects on the East Coast went bankrupt.
Best known until then for his three marriages, media stunts and for whipping up a frenzy over Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Trump’s White House bid was initially met by mirth.
But within weeks he sat atop the polls in a crowded Republican field, and there he remained. No matter who he insults, his admirers only love him all the more.
He called Mexican immigrants rapists and implied that a Fox News anchor asked him difficult questions because she was menstruating.
He sparked international condemnation when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Hours before winning Indiana primary and knocking Cruz out of the race, he made the astonishing allegation that Cruz’s father Rafael was linked to president John F. Kennedy’s assassin.
And yet millions remain smitten by a man who promises he can translate personal success into a better country at large.
Previously a Democrat and an independent, Trump has ditched once-liberal views on gun control and abortion, lurching to the right and alienating moderate Republicans.
Trump has five children: three with his first wife Ivana, whom he divorced in 1992; a daughter with second wife Marla Maples; and a son with current wife Melania, a Slovenian-born model.