The latest indication that some Republicans are becoming uneasy about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidential candidacy: Conservative powerhouse Club for Growth took aim at the real-estate-tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star on Monday, labeling him “just another liberal.”
Despite considerable skepticism about whether Trump's presidential ambitions are any more than "a publicity stunt," as Club for Growth President Chris Chocola contends, party leaders appear to be growing more concerned about the possibility of a run by a man who has promised to dump $600 million of his own money into the race.
"I think it's a problem for the Republican Party," GOP pollster Linda DiVall says. "Many view Donald Trump as a not very serious candidate -- you hear the word 'circus' thrown around where he's involved -- and that's going to detract from the other candidates in the field."
The Club for Growth was derisive about the possibility of Trump's candidacy but is taking the prospect seriously enough to go on the attack.
“Donald Trump for president? You’ve got to be joking,” Chocola said in a statement that provides a point-by-point critique of Trump's positions. The club, which backs smaller government and free-market economics, cites past Trump statements in support of "universal health care" and a proposal to slap a one-time tax on individuals with a net worth of more than $10 million. Trump's plans to levy a tariff on Chinese goods makes him the "king of protectionism," the group says.
“Trump has advocated for massive tax increases that display a stunning lack of knowledge of how to create jobs. His love for a socialist-style universal health care system and his alarming obsession with protectionist policies are automatic disqualifiers among free-market conservatives," Chocola declares in the statement. "This publicity stunt will sputter and disappear just as quickly as the The Apprentice is losing viewers."
In fact, Trump's show is a success story for NBC, and network executives are concerned that a Trump candidacy could force them to cancel a season (rather than run afoul of equal-time rules), The New York Times is reporting. But the newspaper said that NBC has not made any serious contingency plans because of widespread skepticism that Trump will actually declare his candidacy.
Elsewhere, there are signs that the possibility is being viewed more seriously. The latest issue of Time includes a detailed examination of Trump's potential; his speech to the South Florida Tea Party this weekend was widely covered. Two recent polls, by CNN/Opinion Research and NBC News/Wall Street Journal rank him among the leaders in the GOP field of potential presidential contenders.
Some Republican leaders are at least willing to listen to Trump's pitch. Although Trump has been on both sides of the abortion issue, Penny Nance, CEO of the anti-abortion Concerned Women for America, is keeping an open mind.
"The presidential primary process is like a courtship of the voters," Nance said in a statement to National Journal. "For many conservatives, Donald Trump is like the middle school kid trying to ask the pretty girl to the dance. He may be awkward and a bit bumbling but yet somehow it's endearing that he asked. At this point he makes going to the dance a little more interesting.”
Appearing on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Trump took a shot at presumed Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, claiming to be “a much bigger businessman" and to have a "much, much bigger net worth" than the former Massachusetts governor.
Obama senior adviser David Plouffe shrugged off The Donald on ABC’s This Week on April 10. “There is zero chance that Donald Trump would ever be hired by the American people to do this job,” Plouffe said. But he welcomed Trump into the Republican field. “I saw Donald Trump kind of rising in some polls, and, given his behavior and spectacle the last couple of weeks,” Plouffe said, “I hope he keeps on rising.”