Pataki's Trump card: Using The Donald to get noticed in crowded GOP field

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Story highlights

  • The former New York governor, who didn't even register 1% of support in the latest CNN/ORC poll, is looking to raise his profile by attacking Trump's controversial remarks about undocumented immigrants.
  • Most Republican presidential candidates have either dismissed Trump as a distraction or avoided getting tangled in a verbal sparring match with the bombastic billionaire.

Washington (CNN)George Pataki might have found a way to get noticed in the crowded GOP field of presidential candidates: attack the highest-profile hopeful.

The former New York governor, who didn't even register 1% of support in the latest CNN/ORC poll, is looking to raise his profile by attacking Trump's controversial remarks about undocumented immigrants.
"We need a President that all Americans can respect, not a celebrity who uses words like freedom and liberty like they are a punchline in a reality show," Pataki said Friday in a statement that announced his petition that urges Americans to "Stand up to Trump."
    The petition comes after Pataki has spent the last two days seizing on Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants, whom the real estate mogul and now-GOP candidate has called everything from "rapists" to "killers."
    Since announcing his interest in the presidential race, GOP strategists have barely given Pataki's campaign a cursory look -- considering his campaign among the longest of longshot bids -- and a son-in-law's stroke caused Pataki to temporarily suspend his campaign in its infancy.
    His Trump stunt is now giving his campaign a much-needed jolt of media attention after he launched his campaign just over a month ago, but has seen little to no national news coverage since. Until now.
    It's certainly giving Pataki an opportunity to not only grab onto the coattails of a presidential candidate who is surging in the polls, but it's also giving Pataki a chance to distinguish himself from the rest of the field.
    Most Republican presidential candidates have either dismissed Trump as a distraction or avoided getting tangled in a verbal sparring match with the bombastic billionaire.
    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican, has simply said that Trump is "wrong," while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul chuckled that "I don't know what he's been saying, but uh, he apparently is drawing a lot of attention." And Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father is Cuban, has instead defended Trump as "brash" and someone who "speaks the truth" and praised him for drawing attention to illegal immigration.
    Pataki has done the exact opposite: blasting Trump and calling on his fellow White House hopefuls to do the same.
    "Here we are in 2015 and a leading candidate for the GOP nomination for President is calling Mexicans criminals, rapists and drug dealers. This is unacceptable," Pataki said Wednesday in an open letter to the rest of the Republican field.
    Pataki's efforts were joined on Friday by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American who called Trump's remarks "offensive and inaccurate" as well as "divisive."
    "Our next President needs to be someone who brings Americans together -- not someone who continues to divide," Rubio said in a statement. "Our broken immigration system is something that needs to be solved, and comments like this move us further from -- not closer to -- a solution. We need leaders who offer serious solutions to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system."
    But beyond drawing a response from other candidates, Pataki's efforts give him a chance to insert himself into the constant coverage of Trump and the fallout from his remarks, snagging interviews on CNN and with other national news outlets that will help improve his name identification.
    He even got some help from Trump on that front, with the Twitter-savvy businessman who frequently uses the social media platform to lob attacks at his detractors sticking to his usual script.
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    "Governor Pataki was a terrible governor of NY, one of the worst -- would've been swamped if he ran again!" Trump said. "Governor Pataki couldn't be elected dog catcher if he ran again -- so he didn't!"
    The move could also win Pataki some favor among the GOP establishment where strategists and party elites are keenly aware of the need to draw Latinos in, rather than turn them away, heading into the 2016 election.
    Hot off heavy media coverage of the remarks and his campaign announcement last month, Trump surged to second place in the nationwide CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday. He is also ranked second in recent polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
    But Trump is also highly disliked among many GOP voters, with more than half in several key polls saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the New York mogul.