Real-estate mogul Donald Trump’s Republican rivals aren’t quite sure what they should do to defeat him.
The businessman and reality-television star has defied all of the conventional rules of political discourse.
Gaffes, all-out assaults on his opponents and the media, and supposedly offensive statements have done little to slow him down. Poll after poll has shown him leading the GOP primary by wide margins.
However, according to a Tuesday report by Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin, Republican strategists have settled on “four distinct but overlapping” ways of reframing Trump’s candidacy to finally make him unpalatable to the party’s voters.
1. ‘Trump can’t be trusted because he is an egomaniac with a bad character.’
According to Halperin, this line of attack includes a wide swath of hits against Trump, including his two divorces, blotches in his business record, his casual statements about his own faith, and even “his compulsion to name things after himself.”
Trump has aggressively responded to some of these criticisms in the past, including going nuclear on retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the current No. 2 in Republican primary polls, after he took at slight jab at Trump’s religiosity relative to his own.
Trump has also insisted that that his business record has few, if any, stumbles and said that his businesses’ bankruptcies were just taking advantage of US bankruptcy laws.
2. ‘Trump is a liberal and unprincipled.’
Trump, a former Democrat, has given plenty of money to his former party over the years. He has also flip-flopped on abortion and backed more liberal-oriented policies in the past.
Rivals like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) have already sought to hit Trump with this line of attack.
Trump has responded by saying he gave money to Democrats to buy their support for his business ventures, by pointing to former President Ronald Reagan’s own Democratic past, and by saying it’s reasonable for people to change their opinions on some issues over years or even decades.
3. ‘Trump is not close to being fit to be a serious president or commander-in-chief.’
Halperin wrote that this anti-Trump framing could bash the Republican front-runner for his vague policy statements and the recent foreign-policy interview in which he claimed it was not yet important for him to know the leaders of major terrorist organisations or the difference between groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Trump called those “gotcha” questions.
4. ‘Trump is a politician, not a businessman/outsider.’
This line of attack would ding Trump for working within the political system for years, such as dealing with lobbyists and giving generously to various politicians. However, Trump embraces this aspect of his past and frequently brags at campaign rallies that he used to buy and sell politicians to boost his business empire.
The second major, prime-time Republican debate is Wednesday night. It’s likely at least one of the 10 other candidates onstage will seek to take Trump down a notch by using one or more of these strategies.
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