Trump adds a showier pres­ence to GOP field

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Kath­leen Hen­nessey

WASHINGTON — The Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial field has a CEO, a doc­tor, three sen­a­tors and one sen­a­tor-doc­tor. On Tues­day, Don­ald Trump be­came its first re­al­ity TV star.

In hour­long re­marks from Trump Tower in New York, the wealthy real es­tate devel­oper said, “The U.S. has be­come a dump­ing ground for ev­ery­body else’s prob­lems.”

“Politi­cians are all talk, no ac­tion — noth­ing is go­ing to get done,” he said. “Our coun­try is in se­ri­ous trou­ble — we don’t have vic­to­ries any­more.”

Democrats leaped at the chance to use Trump as an ex­cuse to tweak the other GOP can­di­dates. His en­try “adds some much-needed se­ri­ous­ness that has pre­vi­ously been lack­ing from the GOP field, and we look for­ward to hear­ing more about his ideas for the na­tion,” the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee said in a state­ment.

The can­di­dates vy­ing to be pres­i­dent in­clude some who have joined the race for the same rea­sons ag­ing sit­com stars put on their danc­ing shoes and learn to tango. They know they have lit­tle chance of win­ning, but even los­ing could be good for their ca­reers.

“You have a cat­e­gory of peo­ple who ex­ist in that fuzzy space where celebrity and pol­i­tics meet in our cul­ture. You’ve seen, in­creas­ingly, a num­ber of those can­di­dates run­ning,” said Steve Sch­midt, a Repub­li­can strate­gist.

The party’s front-run­ners — for­mer Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker or Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Florida, for ex­am­ple — don’t fall into this group. Some in the sec­ond tier — Carly Fio­r­ina and Sen. Lind­sey Graham of South Carolina — are viewed as angling for po­si­tions in the next Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The sheer num­ber of can- di­dates has cre­ated prob­lems for Repub­li­can of­fi­cials. Four years ago, the largest de­bates in­cluded eight par­tic­i­pants. This year, the party has strug­gled to find a way to limit the cast to 10 — with the knowl­edge that some, like Trump, who come with high name recog­ni­tion, could push aside lesser-known but more sub­stan­tive hope­fuls like Graham.

As Mitt Rom­ney did four years ago, this year’s strait­laced can­di­dates must learn to run along­side less pre­dictable coun­ter­parts.

In his state­ment Tues­day, for ex­am­ple, Trump said he would build a wall on the bor­der with Mexico.

“And I would have Mexico pay for it,” he shouted.

He also took a strong shot at Bush, who an­nounced his can­di­dacy Mon­day. Trump jabbed him for sup­port­ing Com­mon Core, the na­tional ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards, and for back­ing immigration re­form — two is­sues that have hurt Bush’s stand­ing with GOP con­ser­va­tives.

“How the hell can any­one vote for this guy?” Trump said.

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee em­pha­sized the up­side to the can­di­date surge. The field is full of qual­ity can­di­dates, spokes­woman Al­li­son Moore said.

“We have a neu­ro­sur­geon, ma­jor CEOs, ac­com­plished gover­nors and sen­a­tors — all are highly tal­ented peo­ple and ca­pa­ble of de­feat­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton,” Moore said.

The rea­son Repub­li­cans seem to have at­tracted more non­tra­di­tional can­di­dates than Democrats may be a func­tion of tim­ing. The rise of so­cial media and dig­i­tal fundrais­ing has co­in­cided with three con­sec­u­tive open races for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

“More peo­ple are run­ning now, frankly, be­cause so­cial media al­lows you to launch a cam­paign with­out the funds in the bank or the or­ga­ni­za­tion on the ground,” said Lee Ed­wards, an ex­pert on the con­ser­va­tive move­ment at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion. He be­moaned the rise of can­di­dates who seem more con­cerned about their bank ac­counts than ide­ol­ogy or party pol­i­tics.

“Some of these can­di­dates are bank­ing on ex­po­sure through things like the de­bate. But also, just be­cause they are can­di­dates, this will, frankly, ad­vance their own ca­reers. We know that if so-and-so is a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date he can charge a higher fee for speak­ing, for an ar­ti­cle or for a book con­tract.”

The power of con­ser­va­tive media also may play a role. Con­ser­va­tive ra­dio and Fox News have wel­comed some media-savvy also-rans with open arms and big pay­checks. The model here is for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee, whose failed bid in 2008 made him a house­hold name, at least in Repub­li­can parts of the coun­try, and landed him a show on Fox News. (Huck­abee’s show ended in Jan­uary, when he an­nounced he was ex­plor­ing another run for pres­i­dent.)

Trump fits into a dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory, Sch­midt noted.

“Pol­i­tics has al­ways had its show­men, and Don­ald Trump is a show­man,” he said. kath­leen.hen­nessey@latimes.com Times staff writer Kur­tis Lee in Los An­ge­les con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Richard Drew As­so­ci­ated Press

“POLITI­CIANS are all talk, no ac­tion,” Don­ald Trump said.

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