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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Don't dismiss the Donald Trump factor



It's not just about Donald Trump's celebrity or Barack Obama's birth certificate. It's certainly not about his hair. Despite the jokes, ridicule and eye-rolling The Donald provokes, polls consistently show him narrowly trailing Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump has tapped into something.

"People like the confidence and brazen attitude,'' said Javier Manjarres, a conservative blogger in Fort Lauderdale who saw Trump at a tea party rally in Boca Raton Saturday. "They know he's got a lot of issues, but most people are desperate for change. They'd rather compromisetrump.jpg with him instead of someone who's more PC like a Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney."

For a considerable segment of the Republican base, especially those who closely associate themselves with the conservative tea party movement, Trump's pugnacious and outrageous attacks on Obama are refreshing departure from most bland and cautious mainstream politicians. Certainly, the bombast gets him loads of media exposure while other contenders are barely visible.

Trump the outsider is filling a vacuum in a field of potential Republican candidates — including former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty , Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich — that generates little grass roots enthusiasm. It's why many activists are still pining for a figure like Jeb Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to run, and why even people skeptical of Trump are giving him a look.

"I'm not sure if Trump's in it for publicity or not, but I do like the fact that he's willing to challenge and stand up for beliefs he feels strongly about," said Karen Jaroch, a conservative activist and founder of the Tampa 912 Project, who had hoped South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint had run. "Too often we're seeing the Republicans bow down and cave in."

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[Last modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011 8:51pm]


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