Imagine if you have spent years, if not decades, building your political profile. Now you are eager to take the big leap and run for President only to have Donald Trump suck out the air of an already competitive race. You gather together your braintrust and try figure out how to stop the rise of The Donald. You are up against a real estate mogul and reality TV personality with unmatched name recognition and funds whose campaign has been embroiled with controversy from day one with a statement about Mexicans that one might say was not worded properly or too broad of a statement on one group of people. The business ties that were severed and the death threat by escaped drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman did nothing to tame The Donald or diminish his poll numbers.
You are clearly not the only candidate fretting over Trump. The attacks have been mounting for a while by your fellow candidates and political pundits on the right who have already voiced their dismay over how the "brand is being ruined" by the antics and rants of a candidate who has questioned John McCain's Vietnam military service, released Senator and fellow candidate Lindsey Graham's private cell number, You would think that should tank his numbers, think again. So now you really begin to wonder, do I stand a chance in a crowded field with such a dominating force like Trump?
So pop quiz, hot shot: What do you do?
Well first of all, it's still six months to the Iowa caucu,s so there is plenty of time and debates to turn things around. In order to understand Trump's rise, you need to understand the nation's rage against the establishment elite of both major parties. According to a CNN/ORC poll, only 30% of the country feel like their views are being represented in Washington vs. 40% who don't feel that way. When you break that down by partisan lines, 52% of Republicans don't feel that they have a voice in D.C. (that's is almost double the national average) in contrast to 27% for Democrats (slightly lower then the national average). So the first step is to make sure you and your policy agenda and message (at least seem like they) are fully lock, stock, & barrel with the average American before you worry about Trump. The "Trump Bump" is, by and large, a result of him being perceived as "a refreshing voice and is not beholden to the lobbyists in D.C."
So craft a campaign platform, that's important especially when Mr. Trump, who has no issues tab for his website. Sure he ''tells it like it is'' but seems to struggle with telling us how exactly he plans to solve it.
Second, understand why Donald's obnoxious tone and the playground tactics vis-a-vis his rivals not only doesn't seem to limit his rise in the polls, but rather they actually help him with the average pissed off blue collar voter. Hate to break it to you, but there are lots of folks in our base that feel that Lindsey Graham "had it coming" when Trump revealed his cell number to the public. Calling Trump to resign portrays you as helpless and desperate. Furthermore, like attempting to bar him from the first debate, for which he qualified in accordance to the RNC rules, only angers those who already hate the micromanagement that put them in Trump's camp in the first place. It also gives Trump the sense of importance he craves, and the support he needs. An attack on Trump gets perceived as a direct attack by the power elite in Washington. All you do is embolden the Trump base that you might not need in a primary, but you definitely need them to turn out in November should you be successful in gaining the GOP nomination.
Third, you can always point out his past record on almost every issue where he stood on the other side. Heck, the guy couldn't get enough of the Clintons, who showed up to his third wedding. In 2004, He identified himself mostly as a Democrat. My point is you have enough material that you don't have to react to every comment that comes from the Trump peanut gallery. You only end up feeding his drive for fame and it gives him something to rile up the crowd.
Notice that I didn't use the word "crazies", John McCain.
I, like many, appreciate your service, but you do us no favors by stooping to Trump's level unless you are ready to out-perform him when it comes to insults, which is highly unlikely. Don't call a known "jackass" a "jackass", unless you want that "jackass" to prove to you what a real "jackass" he can be.
Fourth, understand that you are reaping what you had sown. We all knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into with having The Donald on board, not vetted at all or forced to explain his past statements. We just assumed he was on our side. I suppose we were desperate for star power. As long as he was only supporting candidates, both party officials and grassroots Tea Party groups were kissing his ring, thereby being mutually responsible for his rise in the party.
So let’s just end the blame game with a deep gaze into the mirror in front of us. Campaigns are dirty, Donald is even dirtier. The problem is not his style, it's substance and consistency he lacks.
Finally, implement your plan. Just you wait and see how that plays out in the debates when Trump doesn't get to talk on and on about himself without being very specific on how he will solve the problems he has articulated with colorful rhetoric. Stick to your message and stay out of political mudslinging. If anything, you can point to Trump's dodgy record and proclaim that we have the right to know where he stands on issues and how he plans to solve them.
Above all else: Stay cool. Stay focused. Stay vigilant. And stay classy. Do this, and you too can survive the "Trump Bump".