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Despite Donald Trump's repeated touting of his Wharton diploma, the school has declined to comment to various news organizations about the famous alum.

Credit: Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump’s rapid advancement in national polls has pundits and voters wondering whether the business magnate’s campaign for president can galvanize Republican voters, or whether his short-term burst of popularity will fade.

In a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released on Tuesday, Trump, a 1968 Wharton graduate, led the crowded pack of Republican candidates for president with support from 17 percent of those surveyed. The poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points leaves Trump at a statistical tie with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who polled second among Republican candidates with 14 percent support.

This marks a stunning rise for Trump, considering nearly 65 percent of likely Republican primary voters held an unfavorable view of him in May, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll. That number dropped to 40 percent, per a Post poll released this week.

Trump, 69, has attracted controversy since his June 16 presidential announcement for saying of Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

He added, “And some, I assume, are good people,” but his comments already set off a wave of criticism from Mexican-American citizens and businesses.

NBC, the network airing Trump’s popular reality-television show, “The Apprentice,” severed its ties with him on June 29, citing “the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants.”

The station had rebuked Trump’s comments in a statement days earlier but, under heavy criticism from Hispanic organizations, eventually decided to end their relationship with him.

Trump, meanwhile, doubled down on his controversial comments in an interview with Fox News after his announcement, expressing a desire to force Mexico to build a wall across their American border by marking up the price of any products they export to America unless they cooperate.

“Mexico is not our friend,” Trump said in the interview.

A week after Trump’s presidential announcement, Univision, the Spanish-language broadcast station, said they would not air the Miss USA or Miss Universe beauty pageants — both owned by Trump. Making good on his threat to retaliate, Trump filed a $500 million suit against Univision for breach of contract and defamation.

Other business partners, including the Professional Golfers Association, ESPN and NASCAR, also cut ties with him. The fallout didn’t seem to bother Trump all that much.

“The disassociation of ESPN and NASCAR with the Trump Organization was covered by the press in headlines all over the world as though it was a major setback for me. Really? What were the losses?” Trump said in a statement released last week.

Trump reasoned that he could collect the deposits placed by these organizations to use his hotels and golf courses, rent the space out to another vendor, and “get two fees instead of one.”

Trump repeatedly defends his economic acumen with his Wharton diploma as a major credential.

“I’m, like, a really smart person,” Trump said in a speech last week. “I went to the Wharton School of Finance.”

Wharton does recognize Trump as one of its 125 Influential People in the first 125 years of its history. In a profile on their website, Trump was described as “the best known brand name in real estate.”

Despite continued blowback from his business partners, Trump formed a rally last week at the epicenter of immigration controversy: Arizona.

In a nearly hour-long speech, Trump decried sanctuary cities, rival Jeb Bush and President Obama’s negotiating ability.

“We can’t be great if we don’t have a border,” Trump said to the assembled crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Other speakers included Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., an outspoken immigration critic, whose department was found guilty of the systemic racial profiling of Latinos and was mandated by a U.S. District Court in February to include body cameras on his officers.

Trump’s candidacy is a conundrum for the Republican National Committee, which while cognizant of the need to attract more Latino voters, is unwilling to openly antagonize Trump lest he run as an independent in the general election and siphon votes away from the Republican nominee.

The Washington Post reported that RNC chairman Reince Priebus spoke with Trump on July 8 for “nearly an hour on the phone” to ask him to “tone down his inflammatory comments about immigration ... .” With few formal powers to control Republican candidates, Priebus and other party leaders must wait nervously to see the longitudinal effect of Trump’s controversial campaign.

They may not have to wait very long.

Fox News is hosting a debate on Aug. 6 between the top 10 Republican candidates per national polling. Trump will likely be in that field, putting his braggadocio center-stage next to the other candidates.

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