Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) team sees presidential rival Donald Trump as a “godsend” to Bush’s campaign, The New York Times reported Sunday night.
As Trump, a well-known real-estate mogul, dominates media headlines and most of the primary polls, a number of Republican candidates have been visibly frustrated and have seen their support dip.
But Bush appears to be a notable exception.
The Times’ Jonathan Martin reported that Bush’s campaign thinks Trump is hurting some his rivals — notably Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — more than Bush.
“Privately, Mr. Bush’s top strategists, who have become increasingly fixated on halting Mr. Walker, believe that Mr. Trump is nothing short of a godsend,” Martin wrote. “Trump is drawing support from voters — blue-collar, less-educated, more conservative — who are unlikely ever to support Mr. Bush but are essential to Mr. Walker’s candidacy.”
Some polls support that argument. As Business Insider noted last month, several notable non-Bush Republicans have seen their numbers slide since Trump’s entry into the race.
However, Walker has generally maintained his first-place position in Iowa. And a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out Sunday found Walker narrowly ahead of Bush nationally for the No. 2 position behind Trump.
Bush nevertheless still stands to at least partially benefit from the widespread interest in Trump’s candidacy. Thanks to his brother and father, who both served as president, Bush does not need the news media to boost his name recognition. Some of his lesser-known rivals, however, would very much like a share of the media spotlight.
“While some people are hearing about one candidate all the time, very few people know that I’ve offered a tax code [where] you can fill out your tax return on one page,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said of Trump on CNN last week. “So if I had a billion-dollars worth of advertising and every network going gaga over that, you know what, I think we could get ours to rise also. But there’s going to be time for that.”
Bush supporters additionally believe that his even-keeled style contrasts well with Trump. The real-estate magnate’s approach to the campaign trail has featured controversial statements, off-the-cuff insults toward his rivals, and what some believe are unsubstantiated and unrealistic policy proposals like demanding Mexico pay for a wall along the US border.
“The longer it goes, the greater the panic is going to build,” GOP strategist Alex Castellanos told the Times. “And that means you may not have the luxury to flirt with an undeveloped, budding candidate. Trump has set the Republican Party on fire, and if you’re going to put that fire out you don’t have time to waste. You’re going to have to grab the biggest blanket you got and throw it, and right now that’s Jeb.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) concurred with Castellanos’ point about Trump.
“He’s really created a firestorm here. Because he is such a controversial character, and an interesting one at that, it’s taken away opportunities for an awful lot of others to break through,” Hatch told the newspaper. “[Bush] comes across as the one guy you can rely on.”
For his part, Trump is openly dismissive of both Bush and the idea that his candidacy could somehow help Bush.
“Nobody believes that. The one that least believes that is Jeb Bush, believe me,” Trump said during an MSNBC interview last month.
He reiterated that point in a tweet Monday morning responding to the Times’ story:
Trump has also expressed bewilderment that Bush is even coming close him in the polls.
“The poll just came out and I’m tied with Jeb Bush,” Trump said during a July campaign rally. “And I said, ‘Oh that’s too bad. How could I be tied with this guy? He’s terrible. He’s terrible.'”
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