The Trump phenomenon is astonishing and has shocked many political nerds to their core. Although he certainly appears to be a false prophet, only recently donning the trappings and raiment of republicanism (much less conservatism), there are many positive aspects to Trump's current status as the 2016 GOP frontrunner.
Love him or hate him, doesn't matter. The only one capable of stopping him right now is himself - barring that, then you'd best understand him and the situation.
What follows is not exactly an endorsement for Trump, but an analysis of how Trump shakes up the GOP primary and how smart conservatives can take advantage of it.
Now, it's true that he's the frontrunner. No doubt about it right now. He's the breath of fresh air that the networks love, and that also means he's sucking up all the oxygen too, diminishing the airtime that otherwise would have gone to more deserving and conservative candidates.
But that also serves another purpose: Trump is naturally also the biggest target. He's absorbing the brunt of the liberal and media attack. His no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach has allowed him to shrug off these attacks, and he's slick enough to be ambiguous as to his actual principles and policy ideas. That's all to his benefit of course, as that makes him a blank canvas onto which a viewer can project their ideology onto. Sound familiar, 2008?
Indulge me in throwing out a metaphor or 4.
If you're a gamer, particularly a MMORPG'er, you understand the concept of a tank - a character that can soak up a lot of damage, focus all the enemy attention and effort, while the rest of the team is relatively unmolested and completing the objective. That's Trump.
Trump is the juggernaut. He is the immovable force that bulldozes forward to wherever he wants to go. His skin, his attitude, (and his hair) are impenetrable and imperturbable.
Trump is the alpha male. In all things, he maintains his frame, and resists attempts to ensnare him or to force a gaffe. He'll talk about whatever he wants to talk about and deflects so masterfully you won't even realize what happened until you rewind the tape.
Trump is the lightning rod which focuses all the incoming energy and channels it harmlessly into the ground.
Trump is the siege tower, inexorably advancing on the enemy walls, as the slings and arrows bounce harmlessly off his defenses, while protecting the soldiers behind it.
The benefit of this aspect of Trump's campaign is that it provides all the other candidates with cover, with breathing room. Trump takes the heat, while the others are free to respond after the fact. And while all the opposition is attacking Trump, they also reveal their attack vectors and strategies - allowing the other candidates to triangulate and counter-punch. Trump can hold his own extemporaneously, and defuse the "gotcha" questions with ease. Meanwhile, the other candidates are taking notes and won't be surprised when the same line of attack is used on them.
So a smart GOP candidate should be essentially trailing along in Trump's wake - riding his draft - following up and responding to any of Trump's missteps. But not in the sense of attacking Trump himself - for while he may not be a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, he is at the very least the enemy of our enemy - but in the sense of addressing any weakness in the conservative argument. Let Trump take the heat from the media and the liberal opposition (but I repeat myself), for he is capable of defending himself through vicious counter-attack - but on the same token that also applies to "friendly-fire". You certainly don't want to also become a target of his.
The punditry seems to believe Trump has little or no chance of getting the nomination, despite strongly leading the field this early in the game. If Trump doesn't get the nomination, then a smart GOP candidate should aim to absorb as much of Trump's support as possible, and that means keeping criticism of Trump to a friendly disagreement as opposed to the kind of vitriol displayed between Rand and Christie. And if Trump does get the nomination as the anti-politician candidate, I'd imagine it's to his benefit to pick a VP that IS a politician, in order to bring a little political credibility to the ticket - and that also means a candidate which didn't burn any bridges with him. Therefore regardless of whether or not Trump does get the nomination, it's best to take him, his ideas, and his supporters, seriously, and treat them with respect. For while Trump may not be the king, it is completely within his power to be the kingmaker.
It may be sound tactics for a candidate to go hard after Trump right now, for the GOP opposition will certainly coalesce around an Anti-Trump. That may provide a short-term gain. But the ideal long-term strategy would be to play nice, be respectful, take notes, don't make mistakes, and be poised to step up should he falter.
Kind of like Ted Cruz seems to be doing. Smart guy.