‘Trump is going to see what low-energy looks like,’ an ally to Jeb Bush says
The Republicans’ second presidential debate is shaping up to have all the hallmarks of a Hollywood blockbuster: drama, high-speed collisions and, of course, the fiery explosions. Donald Trump, of course, is getting the star billing at the CNN production.
The White House hopefuls are set to clash—and maybe crash—Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Los Angeles for a pair of back-to-back forums, split among those who are polling atop the field and the also-rans. As with their first forums, all eyes will be focused on Trump, the brash billionaire who is leading polls and in potshots aimed at his rivals.
Inside rival campaigns, advisers are all trying to come up with a plan to deflate Trump. During the first debate, most tried to keep Trump at arm’s length and, with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, none tried to confront Trump on his thin record as a Republican. That approach worked for the first session, but it’s not a winning strategy going forward, especially with Trump outpacing more serious candidates in the polls by factors of three or four.
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“We kept waiting for him to do himself in. That hasn’t happened, so it’s time to help that process along,” one adviser to a Trump rival said. Added a second campaign’s strategist: “If we don’t as a party change our posture, we’re looking at another President Clinton. Hillary will beat Donald Trump in 49 states if he’s our nominee. And I’m not sure she doesn’t pick up Texas, too.”
Ahead of the debate, to be held beside Reagan’s retired presidential airliner, candidates were already trying out their attacks. “If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you are not going to be able to serve as commander and chief,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said, pointing to Trump’s struggle to answer questions about foreign policy. “There’s nothing behind the curtain,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says of Trump. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was even more direct, calling Trump a “madman.”