President Barack Obama, dipping his toe into the 2016 waters for the first time at length Monday morning, hit on a key trend developing among the Republican Party’s crowded, 16-person presidential field.
Obama talked specifically about former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who had invoked imagery of the Holocaust when discussing his opposition to the US and world powers’ deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Obama suspected ulterior motives.
“And so when you get rhetoric like this, maybe it gets attention,” Obama said, “and maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines.”
Mr. Trump, of course, is real-estate magnate Donald Trump, who has courted a media frenzy since he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination a little more than a month ago. He has dominated headlines while rocketing up polls, sapping up attention from the other candidates in the process.
The result: Those other candidates appear to be trying break through the noise by saying or doing rather outrageous or otherwise extraordinary things.
Some are taking it to Trump directly. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), for instance, has spent a good portion of his time on the campaign trail ripping into Trump and exchanging social media barbs. In a speech last week, Perry raged against Trump and compared him to a “cancer” on conservatism.
Then there was US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), whose personal cell-phone number Trump revealed at a rally in Graham’s home state last week. Graham responded by creating video with IJReview in which he tested out different methods to destroy his phone.
The Graham campaign promptly blasted out the video and asked his supporters: “Want to know what happens when Donald Trump reads your phone number live on national television?”
Then there have been candidates who have deployed attention-grabbing stunts. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has been languishing in the middle of GOP primary polls, and the outside so-called super PACs supporting him raised only a disappointing $US5 million total.
But Paul’s campaign managed to generate a few headlines last week when it released a video in which he used, among other things, a chainsaw to literally shred the US tax code:
Finally, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has lost a significant amount of support from Trump’s rise. Many observers consider Cruz’s moves to cosy up to Trump an attempt to secure Trump’s support base if his candidacy eventually flames out.
Cruz has been known for his penchant of taking on the Washington “establishment.” It’s that same sentiment, polls have revealed, that has drawn GOP voters to Trump. Perhaps looking to remind the base that rallied around him of this, Cruz took to the Senate floor last Friday and leveled an extraordinary blindside against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). He compared McConnell’s leadership to that of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and said McConnell had told a lie to his face.
Cruz’s words were blasted by members of his own caucus, and his fellow members reprimanded him on Sunday by refusing to bring up his amendment up for a vote.
“This is what he does. He’s got no long term strategy. It’s just burn the bridges as he sees them,” one Democratic Senate aide told Business Insider.
But Huckabee stole still more of the non-Trump spotlight on Sunday, when he declared in a published interview that with the Iran deal, Obama was “tak[ing] the Israelis and march[ing] them to the door of the oven.”
Within about two hours of Obama’s rebuke, Huckabee’s campaign had blasted out a fundraising email: “Obama directly attacks me.”
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