The initial concern surrounding Donald Trump's presidential campaign was that he would qualify for the debate stage, denying a slot that would otherwise go to a more serious candidate. But yesterday offered a vivid example of the effect Trump is having on the campaign: he's dominating the Republican conversation in ways that do the GOP no favors.
Here, for example, was Sen. Ted Cruz
(R-Texas) on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday:
"I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn't want to address that. The Washington cartel doesn't believe we need to secure the borders. The Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty is wrong and I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it. He has a colorful way of speaking. It is not the way I speak. But I'm not going to engage in the media game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans."
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee
(R) was asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether Trump's anti-Mexican comments have hurt the Republican Party?
"Well, I say some things very differently. I say every night, I get on my knees and thank God I'm in a country people are trying to break into, rather than one they're trying to break out of."
Former Sen. Rick Santorum
(R) was asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" for his reaction to Trump. The Pennsylvania Republican said he doesn't agree with Trump, but added:
"I think Donald points to a very important thing, which is we have a serious problem of illegal immigration in this country that is undermining American workers.... So while I don't like verbiage he's used, I like the fact that he is focused on a very important issue for American workers, and particularly illegal immigrants in this country."
Not to put too fine a point on the story, but when one person is effectively controlling the political news cycle and dictating one party's conversation, it looks quite a bit like this.
And while it's likely this won't continue for the rest of 2015, we shouldn't necessarily expect the chatter to disappear soon, either. Trump will continue to make outrageous comments, which will generate another round of stories, which will lead to more questions for his Republican rivals
There was a point in 2003 when Howard Dean was riding high and reporters pressed his Democratic rivals to respond to everything Dean said and did. In one memorable New Hampshire press conference, John Kerry was heard complaining
, "Dean, Dean, Dean...." exasperated by the focus on the former Vermont governor.
I half-expect someone from this year's Republican field to start saying, "Trump, Trump, Trump...." sometime very soon as the businessman and former reality-show host sucks up all the political oxygen.