Mackinac Island — Donald Trump “continues to defy gravity,” pollster Steve Mitchell told the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference gathered here this weekend.

Mitchell — a participant in Saturday’s Pundits and Pollsters panel moderated by Ingrid Jacques, The Detroit News’ deputy editorial page editor and columnist — noted his latest poll gave Trump 26 percent of the vote, followed by Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson with 21 percent, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina at 12 percent and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 11 percent.

Trump’s continued dominance is a problem for the GOP, said Katie Packer, a Washington, D.C.- based strategist who worked for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

“Mitt Romney is a gentleman,” she said. “The party who nominated Mitt Romney four years ago is not going to nominate a rude, boorish sexist.”

Packer dismissed Trump’s so-called straight talk as the ramblings of a crank.

“He says he tells it like it is,” she said. “So does every grumpy old white man in every diner in America.”

West-Michigan-based Republican operative Greg McNeilly predicts Trump will be out of the race before the first primary voting begins in January.

“Donald Trump is all about brand management,” McNeilly said. “He has to leave before he dimishes his brand. He can’t have his brand associated with losing.”

The growing popularity of Fiorina, the only one of the top four candidates on the island this weekend, is a direct result of her strong debate performance, the panelists agreed.

“She’s a debate sorceress,” McNeilly said. “She turned everything thrown at her into magic.”

California-based GOP consultant Jamie Roe told the state party members Republicans have to present a more positive and inclusive tone if they hope to win in 2016.

“It’s about message and messenger,” Roe said. “We have to talk to people we don’t usually talk to. We haven’t been explaining conservatism in places that matter.”

There was agreement that Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is beatable, if Republicans nominate the right candidate.

“America always votes for presidents they like. Hillary Clinton is not likeable,” Packer said. “There’s an opportunity if we can nominate a candidate who is a real contrast to her.”

In response to a question from Jacques of whether Joe Biden will get in the Democratic nomination race, the panel seemed to think the vice president would make the jump and soon.

“Joe Biden will not only get in the race, he will ultimately be the nominee,” Mitchell predicted.

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