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July 21, 2015

How Trump Is Affecting The GOP Field

A rich businessman with a history of not supporting Republicans while holding liberal positions on things like immigration and big government health care schemes combined with a propensity to say head shaking things. But enough about Mitt Romney, this is about Donald Trump.

A new poll is out showing Trump up to almost 25% "support." I put support in scare quotes because, he's not going to get 25% in any actual contest. 6+ months or so out from Iowa and New Hampshire and he's not leading in either state. So let's not even pretend this is about winning.

That's not to say that he's not having an impact. So here's a look at how I see him affecting each of the other candidates. We'll start with those least affected by Trump up to the most affected (either positively or negatively).

First, the group of candidates he's not having any impact on because no one cares about them...Huckabee (5th among evangelicals in Iowa? Go back to Fox Huckster), Kasich, Santorum, Jindal (which I think is a shame), Pataki, Graham.

Next are candidates who should be in the no-one cares about bin but might have escaped that hell if not for Trump:

Ben Carson. Raised a lot of money for his consultants but found the "outside guy people thought was a conservative but really has lots of liberal policy positions" suddenly filled by Trump. Carson wasn't going anywhere but Trump has ended his 15 minutes of fame earlier than it would have otherwise.

Carly Fiorina. She's the candidate everyone likes and wondered why she wasn't doing better while they supported someone else. She did a lot of dirty work early on to grab attention by saying things about Hillary no one else would. People wanted to get her on the stage instead of Trump but his rise has pushed him into the big leagues for now and left her and her pitch as the successful in business candidate in the dust.

Chris Christie. He consigned himself to irrelevancy by not running in 2012 and spending the next few years sucking up to Obama and non-GOP voters by attacking conservatives. Remember how he attacked House conservatives over delaying Sandy pork, er, relief? And then kept quiet while Harry Reid sat on it and Obama dithered over disbursing it. He wanted to run up the score in his reelection bid. Well he did that but at the cost of alienating actual GOP voters.

He's now running as the "I don't care about your feelings, I'm going to tell it like I see it" guy. Sounds familiar, huh? Trumped!

Scott Walker. So far there doesn't seem to much either way here. As he's the front runner in Iowa, a state he basically needs to win to have a shot at the nomination, he might be helped somewhat by Trump sucking up all the air from other candidates who might rise up to challenge him there. So far though it's mostly a push.

Rick Perry. He should be at the top of this list with the also rans who have no chance but he's breaking with the pack by hitting Trump the hardest, first on Trump's language on Hispanics and now on McCain. I doubt it's enough but when you're stuck in a dark basement with others it helps to be the only one who might have a flashlight to help you find the stairs.

Marco Rubio. He's a lot like Walker in that there's no direct overlap with Trump but unlike Walker, he needs to pick up the pace and get in the fight. Trump's early success is keeping the talk away from things like Iran, Cuba and "the future", which is where Rubio wants the fight to be.

Of course anything that brings immigration and amnesty to the fore is likely to hurt Rubio. He cratered with GOP voters after the Senate passed the Schumer-Rubio-McCain-Reid-Obama amnesty bill. As the issue faded he managed to recover but having it front and center can't be a help to him.

Ted Cruz. This is more of an on the come bet. Cruz is the anti-Perry when it comes to Trump. He's made nice and refused to attack Trump. His strategy seems to be that at some point the Trump bubble will burst and those voters will have to go somewhere. He's positioning himself to be that somewhere. The problems with this plan is I doubt the Trump support moves as a block and as I said, I don't think it's as big as it appears.

All that said, Cruz is a second tier guy at best. If he can capitalize on the eventual Trump flame-out (and Trump doesn't go independent and take a lot of this angry base vote with him), Trump will have had a yuggeee impact on Cruz's campaign.

Rand Paul. Haven't heard much from him lately, have you? Not sure if that's by design or not but I think it helps him. Paul's launch went very well for him ("go ask Debbie Wasserman-Schultz about abortion") but then it devolved into NSA! all the time. Also, he's a prickly guy and he wasn't wearing well. Add to that having a tough time raising money and an inability to find a Super-PAC sugar daddy.

Aside from giving him a break and a chance to reset, Trump helps Paul by taking a lot of the heat that would have been directed at him. Guys like Christie, Graham, Rubio and even Walker were going to go hard after Paul. They either wanted to get a piece of his libertarian leaning base or make their bones with the establishment and hawkish wings by using Paul as a punching bag. Trump has come in to take a lot of that attention and heat.

Paul, like his dad, is better in small doses. There's a "I like him until he goes one step too far" quality with him. Now he can use his allotted 37 seconds of debate time to sound reasonable. He won't be subject to as many attacks and won't have to respond to them. That should give him a chance to build on his existing base.

Jeb Bush. Everything helps Jeb. He's going to be the nominee after all. Trump will keep all would be annoyances down for Jeb. He won't engage Trump and he'll just float above it all.

In the end the biggest service Trump will do for Jeb is scare GOP voters. After a summer and possibly fall (not sure Trump lasts that long as a factor), the moderate majority of the GOP voters will have been scared out of their minds by the kooks and their fevered "find a conservative" flirtations. Jeb, with all his Bush baggage, will seem safe, comfortable, familiar and most of all, electable. They will run to him like a long separated lover runs to their returning partner. There he will stand, waiting to embrace them and lead them to their tragic but inevitable death.

Seriously, it's going to be Jeb. He's what the GOP does. For all the talk of the crazy conservatives running the GOP look at who it nominates for President or elects to run things when they have congressional majorities. It's just the way it is, Trump or no Trump. In the end The Donald will simply play his part in delivering to Jeb his birthright as a Bush...the GOP nomination.

Added: Did I mention Perry is running against Trump? I think I did. Because he really is....

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posted by DrewM. at 10:25 AM

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