After largely sitting on the sidelines for the first summer of the 2016 Presidential campaign, rival candidates are preparing to unleash a wave of attacks on improbable frontrunner Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, predicted frontrunner Jeb Bush, whose polling seems to have stalled, launched his first direct attack on Trump. “Mr. Trump doesn’t have a proven conservative record,” Bush said. “He was a Democrat longer in the last decade than he was a Republican. He has given more money to Democrats than he’s given to Republicans.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whose polling in the race has been dropping, recently began airing a new ad in Iowa and New Hampshire, attacking Trump for saying that he would “identify more with Democrats” back in 1999. The 16-year old interview footage is paired with ominous, foreboding music.
Just a few weeks ago, professional Republican strategists predicted that Trump would already be heading for the exits. Almost 60 percent said he would bow out of the race before the end of the year. One strategist, who, remember, is paid cash money for supposed political acumen, said he was simply “the flavor of the month.”
It is clear that the other Presidential campaigns are no longer trusting that sage guidance. Trump, whose campaign has been surrounded by controversy, both contrived and self-inflicted, since he announced his candidacy has already defied political logic. Inexplicably, for many, he seems to gain support with each alleged scandal.
The challenge for Trump’s rivals is that so much of the negative information about Trump may be already “baked into the cake” for voters. He has been an outrageous public figure for more than three decades. It is hard to imagine what new information can be unearthed to will prevent him from being a significant force in the primaries.
Trump’s advantage is that he is currently aligned with the voters’ views on a number of issues, irrespective of his past positions. Voters’ current anxieties and frustrations, which are far greater than most politicians in DC seem to realize, will, ahem, trump hypothetical disagreements with him on issues in the past.
Worse, for a candidate like Bush, is that Trump’s pitch is that he has become more conservative due to recent events, while Bush has become more moderate.
In his second inauguration as Governor of Florida in 2003, Bush said, “There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings [state government buildings] around us empty of workers; silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill.”
Earlier this year, however, Bush urged Congress to extend his brother’s No Child Left Behind law, crafted largely by former Sen. Ted Kennedy to increase federal involvement in education.
“Now, all states participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of high-quality tests known as the Nation’s Report Card,” Bush wrote. “The results give us an apples-to-apples comparison among states. Annual testing and reporting also force states to confront their failures, especially the substandard education often offered to disadvantaged children.”
Voters may be more concerned with where Bush’s policies are now, rather than where Trump’s policies used to be.
That, ultimately, is for voters to decide. With the other Republican campaigns sticking to the conventional campaign calendar, and the usual, traditional messaging, the primary will likely intensify as the Labor Day grills are packed away.
We can only sit back and enjoy the late-year fireworks.