Last week, the Ron Paul campaign declined to participate in reality TV star Donald Trump's presidential debate, saying it would "contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere." Turns out, Paul's not the only one who thinks Trump's a clown. The New York Times:
In an interview, Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for Mr. Bush, called Mr. Trump's debate "an invitation to a circus" and urged the candidates to refuse to attend.
"Donald Trump risks making a carnival out of a serious presidential campaign," Mr. Fleischer said. "I think this is an opportunity for a candidate to stand up. I don't understand the fear of Donald Trump, politically. He doesn't have a constituency or a following."
Mark McKinnon, a strategist who worked for Mr. Bush, said in an e-mail that the proposed debate is "not good for the candidates. It's not good for the party. It's only good for Donald Trump."
Politico called the debate a "dignity test for the 2012 presidential field." So far, only Jon Huntsman has joined Paul in passing the test by announcing that he will skip the debate. Trump was predictably peeved at both of them, hitting back back with the childhood classic, I know you are but what am I:
"Few people take Ron Paul seriously and many of his views and presentation make him a clown-like candidate," he said.
Mainstream Republicans like Sen. John McCain, Karl Rove, and Charles Krauthammer have recently come out echoing Paul's sentiments.
Meanwhile, Paul is running second or third in most primary polls, while a recent NBC News poll shows that Trump's endorsement is more likely to hurt candidates than help them. That reflects an earlier Fox News poll showing that "by a 5-to-1 margin a Trump endorsement is more likely to have a negative impact," something Trump hates to be reminded of.
The ever-cocky Newt Gingrich apparently thinks he can withstand the negative Trump effect, enthusiastically accepting Trump's invitation. Mitt Romney characteristically hasn't made up his mind yet.