As Republican White House hopefuls prepare for the first official GOP presidential debate, most of the attention – good or bad – will go to Donald Trump over what he will, or won’t, say.
As for politics, however, the real interest isn’t what Trump ultimately does on the Cleveland debate stage Thursday night, but who will benefit the most from the sideshow known as “The Donald.”
Anyone who has given the subject any thought knows Trump won’t be the eventual nominee, but whoever does will have no one else to thank but Trump for being a “shield.”
In the latest by political cartoonist Bill Day, that person could be Jeb Bush.
Trump’s recent notoriety (to put it kindly) gives the Florida governor several reasons to cheer.
Primarily, as Routh Dourthat of The New York Times notes, Trump’s sudden rise offers Bush the contrast he needs in the eyes of the public. The two most famous people in the race are diametrically opposed: unconventional and brash, versus establishment and thoughtful. This distinction increasingly makes Bush look like the safe bet for Republicans nervous over Trump’s rise to the A-list.
The more Trump’s antics ramp up, the less attention – from both voters and donors – will be lavished on other, more plausible contenders. That makes Donald Trump, and not Jeb Bush, the primary target.
After a few early missteps in the campaign, including a bungled answer on how he would have handled Iraq as president, Bush could use a break, perhaps to regroup for Round 2.
Trump offers Jeb a much-needed respite, as well as a shield from the barrage of attacks sure to come out of the largest Republican presidential field in history.
So, during this week’s debate, all eyes – and a few “arrows” from the other candidates – will be aimed squarely at Trump.
And that should be just fine with Jeb Bush.