Donald Trump is doing Republicans a big favor right now.
Right now, GOP presidential contenders could be engaging in a too-early brawl with one another, sullying everyone and causing intramural divisions that would require a too-long period of making up after the nominee is chosen. (Don’t think the divisions would last long in a race against Barack Obama? Consider the sour GOP grapes that persisted in last year’s Senate races in Delaware and Alaska, costing the Republicans one potential pickup of a seat and nearly a safe one as they were struggling to gain a majority in that chamber.)
Instead, The Donald is taking up all the oxygen– dominating the 2012 storyline with a hint that he could run as a Ross Perot-like independent if he doesn’t get the nomination, just a day after presumed front-runner Mitt Romney took his first official step toward getting in the race.
And my guess is that’s just fine with the other Republican candidates. Or at least, it should be.
Sure, contenders like Tim Pawlenty are expending a lot of energy right now to boost their name recognition, and might like to get in on the exposure Trump is receiving.
But Trump is getting attention right now for one of the same reasons he’s perhaps the best-known businessman in America: He’s willing to make the big splash, even if it’s risky. Bringing up the issue of Obama’s birth certificate; talking about running as an independent, when in all likelihood the most he could do is match Perot’s vote totals in 1992 (and, as in that case, throw the race to the Democrat) — these are the positions Trump is using to get attention. Neither Pawlenty nor Romney nor anyone else wants to make that kind of splash.
If a little less TV time means fewer chances for the rest of the field to say things they end up regretting, or having to take back or flip-flop on, so much the better for them.
There is still plenty to time to take back the spotlight from Trump. Were Trump a more traditional or respectable candidate — Perot was quirky, but at least he hadn’t steered multiple businesses into bankruptcy — it might be dangerous to let him get too comfortable in the limelight. But I just can’t imagine many voters going to the ballot box and thinking, I’m voting for Donald “Ivana/Marla/Casinos/Reality TV/Hair” Trump to be president of the United States. I really am. So, I don’t think they have to worry too much about that.
And because Trump is such a persona of his own, and only recently affiliated with Republicans, I don’t think the attention he’s getting will reflect poorly on the party as a whole or its eventual nominee — the way Sarah Palin, for instance, can have a polarizing effect for the Republican brand in some quarters.
“Trump 2012″ may or may not be good for the national political discourse, but I don’t think it’s bad for the rest of the GOP field.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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