Rivals Can No Longer Ignore Donald Trump’s Long Shadow

Maggie Haberman 8/21/2015NYT FD

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.41.00 AMGood Friday morning. Even on vacation, President Obama seeks to reassure on-the-fence supporters of the Iran nuclear deal that he will take a hard line in enforcing it. And as Donald J. Trump continues to drive both the polls and the news cycles, the ripples extend to his rivals’ camps as they can no longer base their response on simply waiting for him to go away.

As the dust from the first Republican presidential primary debate has settled, one fact has become as glaringly bright and clear as a golden hotel sign: Mr. Trump is not going away.

With the issue of illegal immigration as his energy source, Mr. Trump has not only survived any fallout from the Fox News debate, he has thrived. So Republicans are increasingly forced to find ways to respond, either by acting more like him (such as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas), or by acknowledging his power but respectfully disagreeing, like Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio.

Then there’s Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who has seen his poll numbers fall since the debate, and who in the last two days has tried challenging Mr. Trump head-on. But that was after Mr. Trump stuck a rhetorical knife into Mr. Bush’s craw, describing him as “low energy” in New Hampshire.

Mr. Trump’s emphasis on immigration also took a violent turn in the last two days, as two men were charged in an attack on a homeless Hispanic man in Boston. One of the accused is reported to have cited Mr. Trump’s views as an inspiration. Mr. Trump responded by calling his supporters “passionate,” but he did not denounce the act.

Where Mr. Trump has a potential vulnerability is with social conservatives, and Mr. Bush has tried to remind people of Mr. Trump’s past as an abortion rights-supporting Democrat. But such arguments, or any others, have so far been unable to slow Mr. Trump’s mummylike creep forward.