Trump adds a showier presence to GOP field
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. firstname.lastname@example.org Times staff writer Kurtis Lee in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
“POLITICIANS are all talk, no action,” Donald Trump said.