Tough talking wins Donald Trump support

Muslims in New Jersey Image copyright AFP

Donald Trump is not an elected official, he's not even the Republican nominee for the presidential race, so his proposal to ban Muslims from entering America doesn't actually mean a thing in practice.

It is not US policy. It has never been US policy. And I'd bet my life's savings that it will never be US policy.

It's tempting to dismiss it as pure showmanship, a bid by Mr Trump to simply up the campaign outrage stakes and win himself both a lot of attention and a few extra points in the polls.

You can almost imagine someone on the campaign wondering, "now, what can we say to shock them this time!"

This is, after all, just the latest in a string of hardline comments that have slammed immigrants and Muslims.

But this statement is more extreme, and it has set off howls of outrage, including from fellow Republicans, and it is worth examining, for several reasons.

Firstly, Mr Trump's statement - loudly cheered by his supporters at a rally - says something about the state of the American electorate.

Trump is the Republican party's frontrunner, by a long way, and he's got there in part by saying things like this.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Trump's pledge was greeted by wild cheers

Yes, his supporters like his celebrity, but it's also his tough positions that have endeared him to sufficient numbers of Republican primary voters to get him to the top of the polls.

And remember, this is not a uniquely American sentiment - you have to wonder what Marine Le Pen makes of Mr Trump's latest plan.

Secondly, the response of his fellow Republican candidates is very telling. Governor Chris Christie was the first hopeful to come out and criticise Mr Trump's would-be ban.

In a radio interview shortly after the statement was released, Mr Christie called it ridiculous.

Marco Rubio called the plan outlandish.

Jeb Bush said Mr Trump must be "unhinged" for making such a remark.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called on all the candidates to condemn Mr Trump and even Ted Cruz, Texas senator and the man nipping at Mr Trump's heels in recent Iowa polls, said this wasn't his policy.

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Media captionDonald Trump maintained a significant number of Muslims hate Americans

After previous divisive remarks, the Republican candidates have often been reluctant to criticise the frontrunner. Not this time.

You have to wonder, come the general election, whether the nominee will be judged in part on how he responded to Mr Trump's statement today.

That is, if the nominee is not the man who wants to ban all Muslims from entering America.

Finally, watch the fallout closely.

So far, every time political commentators have predicted that an "outrageous" comment by Mr Trump meant he had finally gone too far, the voters seemed to think otherwise and his much vaunted poll numbers just went higher.

It will be interesting to see what happens this time.

I, for one, have learned the folly of making predictions when it comes to Mr Trump's political future.