After months of dismissing Donald Trump's campaign as a bad joke, Republican Party leaders have realised that American voters might be deadly serious about electing the television entertainer to the White House.
Mr Trump is still leading the pack with 35 per cent of support from Republican voters, the same lead he held before his comments on Monday that Muslims should be banned from the US.
On Saturday Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal demanded that Mr Trump withdraw from the presidential race for his ban comments, calling the Republican a disgrace "to all America". Mr Trump replied that the Saudi prince was “dopey”.
"Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our US politicians with daddy's money," he said. "Can't do it when I get elected."
Mr Trump's supporters remain loyal, despite worldwide condemnation of their candidate.
Donald Trump listens to the crowd cheer during a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa Photo: Bloomberg
At a hotel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, last week where Mr Trump had come to speak to members of a police union, they held up slogans and yelled their support for the nominee.
Jon Basset, 61, a former airman in the US Air Force and now a rock music DJ, came to see Mr Trump dressed in his military uniform. "This is not about racism," he said. "I would never support a racist or a hater. But we are in a state of war right now. I would say ban all immigration. I like him for the straight talk and the no political correctness."
John Washburn, 59, an attorney, also characterised the country as being at war. As "large parts of the Middle East are controlled by Isil,” he said, “Mr Trump's comments make sense."
With less than two months to go before the start of the election process for the Republican nominee, the panic is clearly beginning to mount. At a recent meeting of Republican officials, they searched for a strategy that could defeat the frontrunner.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meets supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa Photo: REUTERS
“It is fair to say these elected Republicans were apoplectic at the thought of Trump being their nominee,” Larry Sabato, an American pollster who attended the meeting.
The popularity of Mr Trump and other “outsider” candidates has opened such deep fissures within the party that, for the first time in recent American political history, the primary elections may fail to produce a nominee.
"What you’re seeing is the Party bracing for a potential ‘Hunger Games’ scenario where you have a different person win each of the first four primaries and they all have the resources to slug it out until the convention,” Stuart Stevens, a former adviser to Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, told the Washington Post.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa Photo: Scott Morgan/Reuters
As the demographics in the United States change, with birthrates of racial and ethnic minorities far exceeding those of non-Hispanic whites, Republicans have watched their traditional constituency shrink before their eyes.
"It is fair to say these elected Republicans were apoplectic at the thought of Trump being their nominee"
Larry Sabato, American pollsterRead more