‘The Don­ald’ steal­ing the spotlight

Repub­li­can ri­vals seething as Trump’s an­tics grab media, vot­ers’ at­ten­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

The cover car­toon on this week’s New Yorker of­fers an apt vis­ual metaphor for the early phase of the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion: Don­ald Trump flam­boy­antly belly-flop­ping into a pool, clear­ing out ev­ery­one else. He did it again Tues­day. The real-es­tate mag­nate man­aged to soak up the at­ten­tion on a day that, un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, would have be­longed to a more-ex­pe­ri­enced, less-os­ten­ta­tious po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

The pop­u­lar gover­nor of ar­guably the most im­por­tant state in U.S. pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics, John Ka­sich of Ohio, had just an­nounced his bid to seek the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

But Ka­sich, who won 86 of Ohio’s 88 coun­ties in a land­slide re-elec­tion bid, risked im­me­di­ately be­ing drowned out by the latest Trump cannonball.

This one in­volved Trump hand­ing out the cell­phone num­ber of a United States sen­a­tor and ri­val can­di­date, Lind­sey Graham, to ba­si­cally the en­tire world.

Re­sent­ful at be­ing re­ferred to as a “jack­ass” by Graham, Trump told a cam­paign rally the South Carolina sen­a­tor had begged him a few years ago to be in­tro­duced to friends at Fox News and had given Trump his num­ber.

Trump re­sponded by ap­ply­ing two of the life-lessons laid out in the adu­la­tory au­to­bi­ogra­phies he’s writ­ten with ti­tles like, “The Art of the Deal,” and “Think BIG and Kick Ass.”

One in­volves do­ing out­ra­geous things to get at­ten­tion. The other is to al­ways get re­venge. He did both Tues­day.

Dra­mat­i­cally pulling out a sheet of pa­per, Trump said: “And I found the card (with Graham’s num­ber). I don’t know if it’s the right num­ber. Maybe it’s an old num­ber … Give it a shot,.

And with that Trump read it out. Graham was promptly in­un­dated with calls, which mostly went straight to voice­mail.

A Repub­li­can hawk on for­eign pol­icy but con­sid­ered a mod­er­ate on other is­sues, Graham had sparred with Trump over his re­marks about illegal Mex­i­can im­mi­grants and was out­raged over Trump pok­ing fun at Sen. John McCain’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a pris­oner of war.

Polls show the pub­lic­ity-grab­bing bil­lion­aire atop the Repub­li­can field, although an ex­ten­sive sur­vey has yet to be con­ducted since the McCain in­ci­dent.

A po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist has at­tempted to ex­plain the Trump phe­nom­e­non. Many observers have sug­gested his coarse tongue and illegal-im­mi­grant-trash­ing have en­deared him to a size­able au­di­ence.

But John Sides of­fers another ex­pla­na­tion: the media at­ten­tion. Sides co-au­thored a book on the 2012 pres­i­den­tial race, “The Gam­ble,” that de­scribes a three-phase cy­cle in the life of a pri­mary can­di­date: Dis­cov­ery, scru­tiny and de­cline. It uses ex­ten­sive data to show how the Her­man Cains, Rick San­to­rums and Newt Gin­griches of that elec­tion saw their pop­u­lar­ity soar with heavy, mostly pos­i­tive, news cov­er­age only to have those gains evap­o­rate when the sto­ries got tougher.

For now, other can­di­dates in this cy­cle are be­ing pre­vented from frol­ick­ing in that happy first phase of public dis­cov­ery. Sides sug­gests the re­al­ity-TV-star­ring mogul has drained lots of the at­ten­tion from the pool.

Repub­li­can ri­vals cer­tainly hope so. A spokesman for Graham lamented some of the things not be­ing dis­cussed while Trump hogs the con­ver­sa­tion.

“Be­cause of Trump’s bom­bas­tic and ridicu­lous cam­paign, we aren’t talk­ing about Obama’s hor­ri­ble deal with Iran or Hil­lary Clin­ton’s plans to con­tinue Obama’s failed na­tional se­cu­rity agenda,” Chris­tian Ferry told CNN.

AP PHOTO

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Don­ald Trump speaks at a cam­paign rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tues­day.

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