GOP Strategists To Jeb Bush: Treat Donald Trump With Kid Gloves

Jeb Bush needs to walk a fine line in responding to Donald Trump’s attacks, Republican strategists say, and avoid going toe-to-toe with the brash New Yorker.

They say getting into a “food fight” with Trump would diminish Bush, the two-time Florida governor who is a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

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.

Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric has made Bush look more presidential by comparison, strategists say, even as it has prevented lesser-known candidates from grabbing a share of the spotlight.

Pundits and guests on CNN mentioned Trump’s name 239 times over a 24-hour span from July 8 to July 9, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

Stories about Trump are also dominating news coverage online, with sites featuring several stories about him on a daily basis.

“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.

GOP strategists say Bush will continue to benefit from Trump as long as he doesn’t get dragged too far off message in responding to his digs.

“The question is whether Bush can keep the car between the two white lines, because chances are Trump’s comments are going to get more incendiary,” O’Connell said. 

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy