Via RCP, a nice frame for this morning’s data crunch from BuzzFeed: From Monday to Friday of last week, “Trump” was said on the air more than a thousand times combined by CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, hundreds of times more than “Clinton” was. Care to guess which of the three networks mentioned him most often? Right — MSNBC, with more than 400 alone. CNN was next and then Fox, exactly what you’d expect given how useful Trump is to each of the three networks’ respective agendas. The lefty outfit wants to make him the face of the party, partly because they think he can be used to further alienate Latinos from the eventual GOP nominee next year and partly because they see Trumpmania as proof that the Republican base cares more about breezy anti-immigrant rhetoric than it does about conservative principles. He’s a twofer for them.
The question for Christie and the rest of the field is how much denunciation is enough. If they don’t criticize him, Democrats will squeal that they’re condoning what he said with their silence; if they do denounce him, they’re feeding the Trump brushfire with more oxygen — and they’ll get no credit from the left for their denunciations. What’s the right balance? Christie’s annoyed response to Fox here is one answer. Team Jeb is also trying to find a balance — although they’re not unhappy about how this has played out so far:
Having established a foothold at the head of the field, Trump’s presence in the race — and his ability to dominate media coverage — could prove beneficial to Bush.
“It’s taking the oxygen out of the field from the other 15 [candidates], because the only two with name ID are Bush and Trump,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign…
“His 24-7 media click bait is basically making it so the only other name being mentioned is Bush, which is actually helping Bush. Turn on the TV, turn on the radio, there is not another name being mentioned other than Scott Walker’s in Iowa,” O’Connell added.
“The advantage that Bush gains from Trump is it makes clear that Bush ain’t Trump,” said Rich Galen, a GOP strategist. “I think Trump’s helping Bush because he’s establishing him as a legitimate contender.”
Excellent point. Tea partiers are hurting themselves twice over by flirting with Trump, first by denying votes to a more credible conservative like Ted Cruz and second by turning the race, albeit temporarily, into a de facto “Bush versus Trump” battle o’ the brands. If, two months from now, the polls have Bush and Trump neck and neck at, say, 30 percent apiece, it’s a potential disaster in the making for righties. Trump’s support will eventually splinter but Bush’s might not. That’s what’s really driving Christie’s frustration here, I think — he’s not worried that he might have to catch Trump in the polls eventually, he’s worried that he’ll have to catch Jeb, and this Bush/Trump war is making that harder for him. Makes me wonder if Team Jeb, even more so than grassroots righties, is rooting hard for a bravura Trump performance at the first few GOP debates. The longer the Bush/Trump dynamic dominates the race, the better off Jeb is.
Exit question: Remember that Reuters poll from over the weekend showing Bush and Trump in a virtual dead heat for the lead nationally? Did you happen to catch who was in third place in that poll? Yep, it was … Chris Christie at 9.5 percent. In fact, if you check the crosstabs for likely primary voters, you’ll find Christie at 12 percent, within three points of Bush. I’m going to assume that’s an outlier, but make a note of it just in case the next national poll also shows some Christie movement. There have got to be some centrist “anyone but Bush” votes out there.