Donald Trump has picked up quite a bit of support from nativist, right-wing elements in the Republican Party's base, but there's another group that's even more pleased to see Trump's strong standing in GOP polls: Democratic officials.
If the DNC had scripted the last month or so, the party probably would have come up with a scenario that looks quite a bit like the one we've seen. A Republican carnival barker would use racially charged, xenophobic rhetoric, which would propel him into the GOP's top tier, pushing minority communities even further from the Republican Party. All the while, the GOP would find itself on the defensive, and more serious candidates would struggle to gain traction.
Some have joked that Trump might secretly be a liberal Democrat, engaging in ugly antics in order to make Republicans appear ridiculous.
But for some, it's actually not a joke. The Miami Herald reported yesterday:
Miami is a hotbed for phantom candidates, complete with four federal criminal convictions in two separate cases to prove it. So perhaps it's no surprise that a local Republican congressman thinks Donald Trump's bid for the GOP presidential nomination could be a similar ploy. Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, whose district saw two phony candidates run in a pair of elections before he took office, has taken to Spanish-language media to suggest that Trump's campaign could be a Democratic scheme to hurt the Republican Party.
The freshman congressman published a tweet the other day -- which has not been deleted -- in which Curbelo noted his "theory" is that Trump is "a phantom candidate."
In a radio interview, the Republican lawmaker added, "I think there's a small possibility that this gentleman is a phantom candidate. Mr. Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were at his last wedding. He has contributed to the Clintons' foundation. He has contributed to Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious."
In reality, of course, it's not suspicious at all. Trump has few core convictions, so the fact that he's made political contributions to Democrats is hardly surprising. He's even acknowledged his varied history of donations in recent campaign appearances.
The fact that some Republicans aren't entirely sure whether Trump's candidacy is on the level is, however, a rather striking testament to the quality of his message. When some are genuinely curious whether a candidate is a clownish performance artist, that says quite a bit about the presidential hopeful.
Curbelo's theories notwithstanding, Trump is not part of a conspiracy. The challenge for Republicans is coming to terms with his ability to gain support within the GOP, not looking for ways to blame Democrats for his recent success.