The man draws a crowd.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Trump Is a Godsend for Huckabee

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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The circus surrounding Donald Trump's presidential run is a big opportunity for Republicans as they prepare for their first presidential debate set for Aug. 6. This is especially true for the candidates who are trailing in the polls but may be invited to take part because they make it into the top 10.  

It's wrong to argue otherwise, let alone go as far as NBC's First Read did in saying the candidates who don't make the cut for the first Fox News forum might be better off in the Trumpless consolation debate Fox is setting up for them later. 

The Aug. 6 event will draw a far larger audience than it otherwise would have, giving Republicans collectively a chance to impress voters with their riffs on taxes, the budget, Iran and the rest of it. Yes, Trump will draw the press's attention during and after that debate. But so what? For the vast majority of Republicans, the Trump sideshow will have nothing to do with whom they support for the nomination many months down the road.

As for the trailing candidates -- whether it's Rick Perry or Mike Huckabee or John Kasich or whomever -- Trump could give them the chance to look good by comparison (as political scientist Dan Drezner pointed out a while ago). Even though each of the 10 candidates in the debate will only have a few minutes to shine, they can contrast themselves with Trump not (necessarily) by taking him on, but just by behaving decently.  

Getting noticed is the biggest challenge for candidates who aren't at the front of the pack. And the first step to getting noticed is being where people are looking in the first place.

  1. See somewhat complementary points made by John Zaller in "Monica Lewinsky's Contribution to Political Science." Of course, listening to the Republican message will only help the party if voters like what they hear -- and that's not Trump's responsibility. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net