Republican candidates find ways to use Trump to their advantage
Donald Trump may be causing headaches for many Republican candidates, but some have figured out a way to harness the maverick billionaire businessman to their advantage.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has led the way by highlighting areas where he agrees with Mr. Trump and then using the Republican presidential front-runner to get more attention for himself — such as when Mr. Cruz invited Mr. Trump to a rally to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.
Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, called it a smart move. “None of you people would have covered it otherwise,” he told reporters at a forum this week hosted by National Review.
Bobby Jindal, meanwhile, is using insults to try to lure Mr. Trump into a one-on-one food fight, which the Louisiana governor hopes will raise his own profile as the press covers the brash Mr. Trump in yet another scuffle.
“You have to be able to do it all in a presidential campaign, push and articulate policy, to distinguish yourself from the other candidates, and when you see something happening like the Trump phenomenon, where you have a candidate who is bad for conservatives, bad for the party and bad for the country, you have to be able to stand up and confront it,” said Timmy Teepell, Mr. Jindal’s campaign manager.
Mr. Jindal gave a scathing news conference this month at the National Press for candidates who are not polling as high as Mr. Rubio.
“If you’re not engaging Trump, you risk completely falling out of the conversation,” Chip Englander, campaign manager for Rand Paul, said at the National Review forum Monday.
Mr. Trump has been pushing the Republican Party into areas where many candidates prefer not to be. He has helped force immigration to the top of the issues for many Republican primary voters and sent fellow candidates scrambling to recalibrate their own stances.
That played out particularly poorly for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who suffered a series of embarrassing immigration-related stumbles, including a flipflop on the issue of birthright citizenship.
Mr. Walker took aim at Mr. Trump Monday as the governor withdrew from the presidential race, calling on fellow candidates to also consider dropping out so “voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner.”
Republican insiders fear the effect Mr. Trump is having.
“He just doesn’t care how this ends for the GOP, only for Trump,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican consultant. “He’s got a hard base that loves it, but that hard base is about 9 percent of the general election model. At a time when the GOP should be proposing a forward-looking, optimistic vision of the post-Obama era, he’s locked a lot of the field into a doom-and-gloom theme of decline.”