No one in the GOP presidential field wants to touch a former KKK leader's endorsement of Donald Trump -- not even Trump himself.
David Duke, a white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, urged listeners of his radio program to volunteer and vote for the Republican frontrunner this week, "Voting for these people, voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage," he said on the David Duke Radio Program, referring to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, whose parents both come from Cuba. He encouraged his audience to lend the Trump camp a hand: "Go in there, you're gonna meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have."
The comments, first reported by BuzzFeed, made waves in the media. But the candidates themselves have kept a distance -- even when using everything else at their disposal to attack the Republican frontrunner.
At the Republican presidential debate Tuesday, aired on CNN, Florida Senator Rubio unloaded on Trump with a flurry of attacks, going after the boisterous billionaire's business record, hiring practices, bankruptcies and litigation record. Texas Senator Cruz joined the fray, too, doubling down on Rubio's comments over Trump University lawsuits and painting Trump as unfaithful to the conservative cause.
But when it came to the issue of the Duke endorsement, of which much was made in the media, candidates steered clear.
While to the outside observer, the KKK ties, however loose, may appear a big deal, Rubio and Cruz seem to view Trump's business dealings and questionable credentials as a member of the conservative movement as much stronger grounds for attack, especially in a Republican primary contest, explained Dave Hopkins, political scientist at Boston College and co-author of the 2011 book Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics.