A new poll puts real estate mogul Donald Trump in second place in the GOP presidential field, just behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and tied with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Among Republican primary voters, Romney leads with 21 percent, followed by Trump and Huckabee, who each garnered 17 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stood at 11 percent and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin got 10 percent.
So, could Trump really be the GOP nominee?
Let's take a look at what the numbers really mean – and don't mean.
The results say as much about the rest of the field as they do about Trump. About half of the field is basically unknown to all but the most highly engaged Republican voters. It's no surprise that the two men tied for second place both have their own TV shows.
Second, there's real ambivalence among Republicans about the current crop of GOP candidates. And the late start (or more accurately, the lack of a start) for the GOP primary means that these candidates haven't had a chance to define themselves and engage the electorate.
Finally, the race for the nomination is not a national contest. It's fought state by state. How Trump plays in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will be more important than how he polls among the broader Republican electorate.
Can Trump really do the kind of retail politicking needed to win over voters in these states? And, what happens when Trump has to actually answer questions about his business dealings, personal life and views on issues?
Campaigning on TV is the easy part. Eating a pork chop on a stick while sweating in the August heat at the Iowa State Fair or slogging through snow drifts to kiss babies and shake hands in New Hampshire is a whole different ball game.
Trump has been jumping on the "birther" bandwagon recently, repeatedly raising questions about whether President Obama was actually born in the United States and calling on the president to release his official birth certificate.
"He spent $2 million in legal fees trying on to get away from this issue, and if it weren't an issue, why wouldn't he just solve it?" Trump said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday. "I wish he would because if he doesn't, it's one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in the history, period. You are not allowed to be a president if you're not born in this country. Right now, I have real doubts."
Trump said he has hired investigators in Hawaii to get to the bottom of the birth certificate issue, which he called "one of the greatest cons in the history of politics and beyond."
"I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding," Trump added.
During the 2008 presidential election, the Obama campaign released a "certification of live birth," which is a shorter document that carries the same legal weight as the long one. But that hasn't satisfied those in the "birther" movement who continue to press for more proof.
To push his point, late last month Trump released a copy of his official birth certificate issued by the New York City Department of Health to ABC News. It shows that "Donald John Trump" was born June 14, 1946 in Jamaica Hospital in Queens.
Trump previously considered presidential bids in 1988 and again in 1999, but eventually decided not to run both times. This time around critics remain skeptical about his intentions, speculating that he is just trying to garner favorable publicity for his many media and business ventures.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed skepticism ove a Trump presidential candidacy during an interview Wednesday with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer.
"Donald's a really good friend of mine. I don't know that Donald really wants to be president," he said.
"We've spoken about it, and all I can say to you is that, you know, I'll believe it when I see it," Christie said. "I think he likes what he does. I think he likes building things. And I think he likes being on TV, and you know, he does that well."
Referring to Trump's hints about running, Christie added, "I wouldn't call it stunt, but I think he's very outspoken and... he loves to be on the stage and to express his opinions."
Even so, Trump has scheduled speaking appearances in two important early nominating states -- Iowa and New Hampshire -- in June, the same both he has said he will announce his decision about the 2012 race.