Love him or hate him, we can’t stop talking about Donald Trump.
Every speech, every gaffe and every tweet made by the billionaire businessman is given as much coverage as terror attacks and gets replayed endlessly throughout the media’s echo chamber.
The vast majority of the coverage The Donald receives is negative — to put it nicely. A lot of it borders on downright histrionic hatred for the man. And that hate comes from the left and the right.
In spite of all the rage, Trump’s polls number only continue to rise — proving that there may be no such thing as bad press. All the while the media has embraced Trump-mania, the rest of the heavily crowded Republican field is barely noticed.
Besides Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, hardly any of the other candidates are receiving any press at the moment. And neither Bush nor Walker are getting anywhere near the insane level of attention Trump receives for any given tweet or utterance.
In short, Trump is sucking up all the precious media oxygen.
That’s one reason for the bubbling animus against Trump on the right and within the Republican Party. The other reason is his message which many consultants and observers wholeheartedly believe is tarnishing the GOP brand.
So it’s understandable that some candidates now want to make their mark as the anti-Trump guy. Egged on by a media that ceaselessly warns that The Donald will destroy all chances of future inroads with Latinos and destroy the Republican Party, Rick Perry and a few others have decided that they want to face off against the real estate mogul mano a mano.
While this strategy may seem like a good idea for a struggling campaign to do, it might backfire in the end.
Sure, there doesn’t seem to be any other way to get the press to mention the forgotten hopefuls unless it has something to do with Trump.
There’s also the fact that, besides the few frontrunners, the other dozen Republicans are scrambling to up their poll averages to get into the first national debate — both literally and figuratively. Only 10 candidates will be allowed into the first primetime debate, and admission will be determined by who are the top 10 contenders in the polls.
That redline has candidates resorting to desperate tactics. For example, Rand Paul released a bizarre ad on Tuesday featuring the Kentucky senator hacking and burning the tax code.
Rick Perry, in a hail mary bid to ensure he gets into the first debate, made an entire speech Wednesday denouncing Trump. Declaring Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” the former Texas governor lashed out against the mogul’s “nativism” and his “mean-spirited politics.”
While the mainstream media thinks this kind of speech is a good thing, it’s not going to go over well with key demographics who actually vote in Republican primaries.
Many within the GOP and the media want somebody to take Trump out of commission. The logic here is that by going toe-to-toe with The Donald in speeches and accusatory rhetoric that the mogul menace will be vanquished — like a monster from a slasher movie.
But, unfortunately for those many candidates hoping to defeat Trump, the attacks work about as well as bullets did against supernatural slashers. Every hit piece and every rage spiral only seems to strengthen the billionaire’s candidacy and solidify his support. As evidence, a quarter of Republican voters now support The Donald despite all the negative press and inflammatory comments.
The reason why is probably due to Trump’s bravado, strong statements on immigration and no-apology policy. For a party base that is so used to its leaders apologizing and caving in to the left’s demands — particularly on immigration — the businessman-cum-politician is a welcome respite.
Thus, hitting Trump for what he says becomes an attack on the part of the base that has embraced the TV star. Going on the war path against The Donald, for better or for worse, is likely going to alienate voters that any candidate not named Jeb Bush will need to secure the nomination.
It’s especially not good for Perry, a man trying to paint himself as both a border warrior and a fierce Trump opponent. While the former governor may cite his prior work on the matter, he said in 2007 that the idea of a border fence was “idiocy.” And Perry’s last presidential run featured him telling Republicans who oppose the Dream Act that they “have no heart.” (RELATED: Have The Glasses Changed Rick Perry’s Stance On Amnesty?)
Needless to say, it could be very easy for The Donald to skewer Perry on a debate stage as another face of the hated establishment. (Plus, the guy who couldn’t name three government departments likely won’t do well in a debate with a TV star who’s mastered the art of extemporaneous speech.)
Not only will it anger voters a Republican will need to win the 2016 race, attacking Trump will not get the desired brownie points from the mainstream media. When candidates came out of the woodwork to condemn the billionaire for his Mexican rapist comments, the media lashed out at those same candidates for waiting so long to do it.
The most a candidate can hope from the left and the media is lukewarm golf claps — which is exactly the reaction Perry received for his over-the-top screed against the master of the polls.
For Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie — candidates who are aiming for the more establishment wing of the party — attacking Trump is a no-brainer and won’t be the factor that kills their presidential aspirations. All three seem to be bypassing the base anyway in their respective campaign strategies.
For everyone else, they’re going need to appeal to at least some of Trump’s base if they hope to become the party’s pick for 2016.
The best way to peel from The Donald’s burgeoning support is not to pick a fight that the Trump opponent will likely lose. The way to win over the base is to prove that your as much of an unapologetic fighter as Trump tries his hardest to portray himself as.
The base is tired of seeing the party cave on issues like immigration and apologize for every offense the left finds, well, offensive. The base is tired of party leadership going against their constituents’ interests and giving President Obama supreme authority to negotiate shady trade deals. The base is, frankly, tired of capitulation and defeat.
They want a fighter, a champion for their causes. They don’t want a dull technocrat to condescendingly berate them for being too extreme. They want to win.
If Republicans not named Donald J. Trump wants to win their vote, they should start showing some courage and demonstrate their willingness to address the base’s interests.
Barack Obama has spent his last seven years in office steamrolling over Republicans and advancing his base’s interests.
There’s no reason a conservative shouldn’t be able to do the same.