Trump has risen from petty distraction to campaign sensation, rising near the top of national and early-state polling on the backs of his universal name recognition, a platform appealing to the GOP fringes, and a steady stream of inflammatory comments.
This has led campaigns and Republican leaders to rethink their response to Trump. Initial efforts to ignore him have failed, daily denunciations of him have only increased his visibility, putting him into first place in the GOP field according to one online-only poll sponsored by YouGov and The Economist. A candidate that many Republicans long courted for his megaphone and populist following now threatens to tar the larger party with comments about rapists and criminals flooding over the southern border.
“The first rule of politics when you’re in a hole is to stop digging,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said at the Atlantic Council on Wednesday. “Someone needs to take the shovel out of Donald Trump’s hands.”
And many of Trump’s rivals are gearing up to do just that.