The Washington Post's David Weigel highlighted how Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz “actually benefits from Trump's full-spectrum dominance of the national media conversation,” which “obscure[s]” Cruz's extreme positions.
Donald Trump has dominated media coverage since June 2015, when he announced his presidential bid. In 2015, Trump received over 22 hours of air time on Fox and was covered on ABC's evening news program for 81 minutes, compared to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders' one minute. Much of the coverage has focused on Trump's extreme positions and inflammatory rhetoric. Other GOP presidential candidates have attempted to distance themselves from Trump -- even though their own extreme positions often don't differ dramatically from Trump's -- but they have not received the same media condemnation.
In a January 7 post for The Washington Post's blog Post Politics, Weigel explained how “obscured by the endless Trump news-cycles” is the fact that “Cruz is the most conservative candidate” and is “ready to indulge questions” that are usually dismissed for their extremism. Weigel noted that "[w]ithout Trump in the race, questions and issues such as these -- the sort of things that have stymied some tea party candidates for lower offices -- might be controversial," but are overlooked because of Trump's media dominance (emphasis added):
So far, given the lack of damage from the Canada story to his image among conservatives, Cruz actually benefits from Trump's full-spectrum dominance of the national media conversation.
Cruz does this by blaming every incoming attack on two factors. The first is his strength in the polls; Cruz will suggest that “three weeks ago, every Republican was talking about Donald Trump.” Not so much now, in his view. The second is the mainstream media, one of the softest targets in Republican politics. (Cruz's stump speech, which changes subtly from stop to stop, always includes a joke about reporters “checking themselves into therapy” after his hypothetical presidency ends in 2025.)
In Webster City, Cruz used most of his news conference to gently chide the media, saying they are not asking about anything Iowans seemed to be interested in. When CNN's Dana Bash asked whether Cruz would take Trump's advice and embark on a legal route to prove his eligibility to be president, he took another chance to ask why no one was covering the proverbial Real Issues.
After one more question about whether establishment Republicans such as McCain were feeling more confident in attacking him, Cruz started his town hall. Something obscured by the endless Trump news cycles was suddenly much clearer: Cruz was the most conservative candidate in the race and ready to indulge questions that other Republicans dismissed.
One questioner asked about the alleged influence of the Trilateral Commission and David Rockefeller, two bugbears of conspiracy theorists. “It's a very good question,” said Cruz, pivoting to discuss the Medellin national sovereignty case, which is featured in some of his TV ads here. Another questioner asked whether the Federal Reserve was constitutional, prompting a short monologue by Cruz about why America should return to the gold standard.
And another questioner asked about the potential threat of Muslim courts issuing their own sharia-based rulings within the United States.
Without Trump in the race, questions and issues such as these -- the sort of things that have stymied some tea party candidates for lower offices -- might be controversial. But Trump, who has courted controversy again and again in the past few months, is in the race.