THE BLOG
07/27/2015 12:21 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2016

Trump's Gift to Hillary: Rest and Extra Prep Time!

reuters

This past weekend the noise over the Clinton State Department emails erupted again as Senate hearing dates were announced. But, ironically thanks to Donald Trump, the average American's response was, "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." And think about it: When had you last heard about Benghazi, or Clinton Foundation campaign contributions, or State Department emails? About a month ago.

Why? Because in the last month Donald Trump has just about sucked all of the air out of the 2016 presidential campaign in a way that has helped Hillary and hurt the overall Republican chances in the fall elections -- next year's fall elections, not this year's -- another problem we as the people need to do something about -- with or without the media's help.

I referred to Trump hurting the other Republican candidates, but actually in the end he may wind up helping Gov. Jeb Bush. Trump might help Bush as long as most of the country, Democrats and Republicans, feel that in the end Trump will not get the Republican nomination.

If that remains true and the campaign plays out that way, then Jeb Bush is likely to be seen as the best consensus candidate Republicans have to replace Trump when his candle flames out, and Republicans at that point would likely see Bush as their best chance to actually win in November. But this scenario works only if you see Trump's candle flaming out -- if the flame stays lit all the way to the convention and he goes there with a major portion of delegates, then all bets are off. And for Democrats, a Trump third party run is like winning Boardwalk and Park Place in monopoly.

But the other Republican candidates -- particularly Scott Walker and the second tier candidates in polling like Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal and, yes, surprisingly even Gov. Chris Christie (as most expected him to be doing much better in polling) -- have had no chance to get their campaigns on track as Trump as commandeered all of their oxygen and they simply cannot make progress with even Republican base voters.

Meanwhile, just over a month ago, Hillary was being dogged every day with questions on the emails and follow-ups on Benghazi and on the Clinton Foundation. And she was stumbling on some of the responses. Then Donald Trump appeared on the scene and in the ensuing next month, you barely heard a question or comment on those issues that were dogging Clinton every day on the campaign.

Hillary will still have to answer more fully questions about all three topics, even if much of it appears to be lacking in substantive merit, and even though a Republican-led Senate committee essentially exonerated her and the State Department of deliberate negligent behavior in the Benghazi matter.

But a month ago, she did not look like she was comfortable and confident with her responses to these daily barrage of questions, and Donald Trump has essentially given Hillary a full month to regroup, formalize her responses, and get a break from the barrage of media and congressional questions in a way that allowed her to relax a bit and come out stronger just in time for the hearings. That is truly a gift that only Donald Trump could have given Hillary, and we'll see if she is able to demonstrate that the "rest and relaxation" period Trump gifted to her will have been of benefit.

And on the Democrat side, even Bernie Sanders has been impacted by the Trump vortex sucking up all the political air, as without Trump, Sanders would have been able to command much more coverage during this past month than he has -- and even with his favorable numbers being fairly high (his perception as the honest and truthful grandfather in the race helps soften his strong leftist rhetoric as a self-proclaimed Socialist), Sanders still would have preferred to have some of that Trump-dominated political air blowing his way this past month rather than another way.

And speaking of "high favorable" ratings, let's not let the media lead voters astray on that issue. High unfavorable ratings do not necessarily mean a candidate is unelectable.

At this moment, regardless of what the circumstances are, the two leading top polling candidates for the Democrats and the Republicans are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And another interesting statistic? Both of these candidates also lead their party at the top of the "unfavorable" rating polls. And in 2004, George W. Bush had very high unfavorables, and he won re-election that year. Voters can have an unfavorable view of a candidate and still vote for that candidate if they are angry enough or frustrated enough -- and that certainly describes many of the Trump voters.

And we can't ignore the demographic issue either -- which has actually worked in Donald Trump's favor during the primary campaign, although it will absolutely hurt Republicans in the general election -- another Trump gift to Hillary.

The fact is, Republicans were going to have a tough time in 2016 because of the nation's demographic changes which now have resulted in almost a majority of young voting age Hispanics now being "US born" citizens, which presents an entire spectrum of problems for Republican base voters.

So when Trump attacked "illegal immigrants coming over the border," the other Republican candidates hemmed and hawed and were wishy-washy on attacking Trump on this issue because they didn't want to alienate any of the Republican base, a base that really was looking for exactly the kind of candidate and campaigning that Trump was providing.

But this withdrawn, unsure approach to Trump's immigration stance (Marco Rubio had already regretted taking a pro-immigration stance once before and he seemed intent on not getting berated twice) led to an environment that allowed Donald Trump not only to define himself and what his message was, but also enabled him to define the other Republican candidates in a way that helped him and hurt them politically.

Instead of attacking Hillary on Benghazi as he had been doing for months, Senator Lindsey Graham was reduced to doing cell phone commercials to counter public readings of his cell phone number to an audience of angry voters. Rand Paul tried to reclaim the stage with a chainsaw display, and plans may be in the works for some of the one-digit polling candidates on the Republican side to get together and form a vocal choral group to go on tour and gain attention -- and there are certainly enough one-digit polling candidates to have a full choir.

Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich -- all of these candidates have "informational" issues they have to overcome but they can't get any real attention among either the media or the voters because Trump simply won't let them. With regard to the Republican field, President Obama made comments about domestic politics in a press conference in Sudan this week, and he made a comment about Mike Huckabee's criticism of him, and the rest of the president's comments in this area were responding by name to Donald Trump. That's bad news for the other Republican candidates and good news for Hillary.

And in criticizing Donald Trump for his comments about John McCain not being a "hero," former Texas Governor Rick Perry said that Trump "lacked the leadership and moral strength required to be Commander in Chief," but then he also said, "and until Mr. Trump apologizes for these statements, he won't have these qualities. Oh, I get it: If Trump just apologizes then all of a sudden these traits, which take a lifetime to acquire a reputation as having, will reappear as part of Mr. Trump's character.

Some readers may ask, Where's your criticism of Hillary? First, I don't need to add to that criticism here -- that's the whole point of the piece.

Up until a month ago, all you heard every day was criticism of Hillary with lead-in titles and article headlines such as 'Where are Hillary's emails?,' 'Did Hillary botch Benghazi?,' 'Were Clinton Foundation contributions legal?,' 'Is Hillary's campaign stalled?,' 'Can She Still Win?,' etc.

But then Donald Trump comes to Hillary's rescue (not deliberately as this past weekend he referred to her as a "criminal"), and you haven't heard any of the above lead-in charges for over a month, and it gave Hillary time to re-group and reposition and, above all, rest a bit and recharge for the next assault, coming soon in the Senate.

And so for Republicans, Donald Trump's presence has been like an internal firing squad. For Democrats, and specifically for Hillary Clinton, it's been a nice gift!

Carl Jeffers is a Los Angeles based columnist, TV political analyst, radio commentator, and a national lecturer and business consultant. Jeffers is President of Intelli Marketing Associates.
E-mail: cjintel@juno.com