Drowned Out by Donald Trump, Other Candidates Clamor for Space Onstage

NYT FDAlan Rappeport 7/27/2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 10.23.24 AM

 

Good Monday morning from Washington, where, though Congress has work to do before its August recess, its members still found time to fight among themselves. Two other deadlines are around the corner as outside fund-raising groups have to file paperwork, and the candidates await word on whether they have been invited to the debates. Toward that end, those on the brink find themselves competing with a surprise front-runner for attention.

Less than two weeks before the first Republican presidential debate, candidates are turning up the volume in hopes of getting on stage and keeping up with Donald J. Trump.

With qualification for the Aug. 6 debate dependent upon candidates’ positions in the polls, those who are languishing have been ramping up their attacks and using creative antics to grab attention.

Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky looked to ignite his campaign by setting a copy of the tax code on fire. He also attacked it with a wood chipper and a chain saw.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made the most of his recent dust-up with Mr. Trump, who gave out Mr. Graham’s cellphone number to the world, starring in a video demonstration of the ways to destroy his flip phone. (Chopping, dropping, toasting and smashing were among them.)

So why are the candidates so combustible?

“They are scrambling because of what has happened with Trump jumping into the race and distracting everybody,” said Dean Crutchfield, a brand analyst who likened the tactics to guerrilla marketing strategies that companies use. “They need to turn the volume up.”

Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, has tried to raise his profile by directly engaging with Mr. Trump, calling his candidacy a “cancer on conservatism,” that must be “clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”

Mike Huckabee turned his attention to President Obama over the weekend, invoking Holocaust imagery to criticize the nuclear deal with Iran.

“It is so naïve that he would trust the Iranians,” Mr. Huckabee said on “Breitbart News Saturday.” “By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

As the number of polls has increased, candidates like Mr. Graham, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, who cracked the top 10 in a poll released on Sunday, have routinely found themselves on the outside, looking in. Though the lineup is not set, they are nearly out of time to make a splash big enough to register.

The run-up to the debate promises to be feisty.