Whatever his intentions, the Donald Trump campaign is helping Jeb Bush.
I don’t know the answer to this question, but it is definitely worth asking.
I think three claims make it possible that Donald Trump is actively working to get Jeb Bush elected:
- Donald Trump, no matter what the media says about him, is not stupid. He understands how actions have consequences.
- Donald Trump has been extremely liberal in his past political positions.
- Donald Trump is helping Jeb Bush because his campaign has prevented any other conservative from gaining national recognition as the alternative to Bush.
I’m not going to argue for #1. I think Trump has said and done stupid things in the past. But the fact remains that he has survived and succeeded in the world. There is no way he could have done so if he was completely unable to cope with reality. So I think it is likely (for example) that he knows the effect his campaign is having on other candidates and that he probably won’t get the Republican nomination.
Taking the other two points in the opposite order, here is some evidence for #3 in a recent New York Times article: “Jeb Bush’s Camp Sees an Upside to Donald Trump’s Surge in the G.O.P.”
Donald J. Trump’s surge in the polls has been met with barely concealed delight by Jeb Bush and his supporters. Mr. Trump’s bombastic ways have simultaneously made it all but impossible for those vying to be the alternative to Mr. Bush to emerge, and easier for Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, to position himself as the serious and thoughtful alternative to a candidate who has upended the early nominating process.
With little indication that his support is slipping and the promise of the center stage at Thursday’s debate, Mr. Trump has essentially frozen the rest of the field.
“The longer it goes, the greater the panic is going to build,” said Alex Castellanos, a longtime Republican strategist. “And that means you may not have the luxury to flirt with an undeveloped, budding candidate. Trump has set the Republican Party on fire, and if you’re going to put that fire out you don’t have time to waste. You’re going to have to grab the biggest blanket you got and throw it, and right now that’s Jeb.”
As an aside: Castellanos is so arrogant he doesn’t even realize how offensive he is being. Donald Trump is popular because he is voicing concerns felt by the Republican base. Castellanos is saying that the Republican base is a fire and that it needs to be smothered by Jeb. That’s quite enraging.
But the story rings true. Conservative alternatives to Jeb Bush are not being heard right now due to the Trump campaign.
Which brings us to #2. Would Trump prefer Jeb Bush to win rather than a more conservative candidate? Obviously, he isn’t talking like a Jeb Bush supporter right now. But if you haven’t read Mark Horne’s post on Trump—especially his quotation of Jonah Goldberg on Trump’s political positions—you need to go consider the information provided there. Jonah has been in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens (!), socialized medicine like Canada’s system, and has praised Hillary Clinton.
Does this prove that Trumps conservative campaign is fake? No. But it does make one wonder.