The paradox of Donald Trump’s bombastic presidential campaign is that his rise may ultimately benefit the rival he has attacked most vociferously.
With his rambling and belligerent speech in Phoenix last Saturday, Trump signaled again that on the sprawling list of targets that inspire his antagonism, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ranks near the bulls-eye. “If you people go with Bush,” Trump insisted flatly during the speech, “you are going to lose.”
And yet, while he is creating some risks for the nominal front-runner, many Republican analysts predict that Trump eventually could prove more asset than obstacle to Bush’s bid for the party nomination. “If you were a total evil-conspiracy theorist, you’d think the Trilateral Commission got Trump to run because … it helps Jeb more than anybody,” says longtime Republican strategist David Carney.
The surge of interest in Trump could threaten Bush in one important respect: by radicalizing opinion within the party on immigration issues where Bush has taken a relatively moderate position.
But Trump’s ascent could inadvertently help Bush, both by providing him a foil in the immigration debate, and also by dividing the populist conservative voters who are least likely to ever support an establishment favorite like the former Florida governor.