So perhaps it's no surprise that a local Republican congressman thinks Donald Trump's bid for the GOP presidential nomination could be a similar ploy.
Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, whose district saw two phony candidates run in a pair of elections before he took office, has taken to Spanish-language media to suggest that Trump's campaign could be a Democratic scheme to hurt the Republican Party.
"I spoke to @ahoraoscarhaza on @z92miami about absurd comments by @realDonaldTrump and I offered my theory that he's a phantom candidate," Curbelo tweeted last week after an interview with the popular radio host Oscar Haza.
In another interview with Colombia's W Radio, Curbelo, who supports Jeb Bush for president, piled on.
"There are too many important national, local international topics to waste time talking about a person who, I repeat, in my judgment is irrelevant -- and who quite possibly is a phantom candidate recruited by the left to create this entire political circus," he said.
"I think there's a small possibility that this gentleman is a phantom candidate," Curbelo said. "Mr. Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were at his last wedding. He has contributed to the Clintons' foundation. He has contributed to Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious."
A Trump spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment regarding Curbelo's remarks. But the Florida Democratic Party, which had chastised Curbelo in a statement before the interviews took place, did.
"The only thing more absurd than Donald Trump's conspiracy theories is Congressman Carlos Curbelo's theory that he is some secret Democratic plant," Communications Director Max Steele said. "Curbelo's bizarre claim is an insult to the intelligence of his constituents and goes to show just how much damage Trump is doing to the Republican Party's brand. Unfortunately for Curbelo, Trump is only gaining in the polls.
"It's time for Congressman Curbelo to take off his tinfoil hat and give an honest answer about Donald Trump and his bigoted remarks."
Curbelo did repeatedly denounce Trump's remarks in the same interviews. He described them as "nefarious," referred to Trump's "disgusting and unnecessary rhetoric" and twice called Trump a "demagogue."
The freshman congressman faces a 2016 re-election challenge from Democrat Annette Taddeo, whose campaign sent two fundraising appeals last week invoking Trump's comments and asking supporters to "join Annette to denounce Trump's prejudiced comments."
The Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida tried to rally a group to protest Curbelo's "silence" Friday outside his West Miami-Dade district office. Only four people showed up, Curbelo told interviewers by phone from Capitol Hill.
"I'm very sorry that people try to take advantage of this situation," he said.