Hopefuls try to combat Trump mania



FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland. Eleven top-tier Republican presidential hopefuls face off in their second prime-time debate of the 2016 campaign Sept. 16, in a clash between outsiders and establishment candidates under a cathedral of political conservatism. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

GOP presidential candidates will try to come out from front-runner Donald Trump’s shadow in tonight’s Republican debate.

By Rebecca Morin
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It is going to be the Donald Trump Show once again in tonight’s GOP debate, some political scientists say.

“The candidates realize they are going to need to take Trump down a notch,” said Cary Covington, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science. “They thought he would sort of self-implode.”

CNN will host the debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, with the prime-time event airing at 7 p.m. and the debate for the second-tier candidates at 5 p.m.

This is the second debate for Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination. Eleven candidates will take part in the prime time slot — all of whom were in the first Fox debate in addition to former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

CNN altered the criteria of who could participate in the main slot to include those who ranked in the top 10 in polling between Aug. 6 and Sept. 10.

“We now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race,” the network announced in a statement on Sept. 2.

Dianne Bystrom, the director of the Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, said Trump is “really stealing the attention right now.”

But Bystrom noted that it was expected that someone would have emerged from the second-tier debate in August and that everyone agreed Fiorina had the best performance.

In Fiorina’s opening remarks in the Fox debate, she took on Trump by mentioning “elephant not in the room.” Bystrom said it will be an interesting dynamic to see how Fiorina engages Trump because in the last debate, none of the other prime-time candidates held Trump accountable.

Bystrom noted that Fiorina was the only person to call out Trump following the debate for his comments on Megyn Kelley, a news anchor for Fox. Trump sent out a series of tweets came out calling Kelley a “lightweight” and “highly overrated.”

“There’s no excuse for this,” she said following the debate. “It’s her job to ask tough questions.”

Covington also agreed Fiorina will add some edge to today’s debate, noting that she could hurt Trump’s growing image.

“Because Trump has this image of not treating women or not respecting woman at least, she’s one that might be able to get people to question their support for him,” Covington said. “But I really don’t think so. I really doubt that will happen.”

Trump, however, is still leading the polls and garnering a crowd of thousands at some of his events, such as his most recent event on Monday in which more than 15,000 people filled the American Airlines Arena in Dallas.

According to a CNN/ORC poll released on Sept. 10, 32 percent of registered voters surveyed said Trump would be their choice candidate. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson followed with 19 percent, and Fiorina made it to the top 10 with 3 percent.

With 474 Republicans surveyed, there is a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Carson, who was another emerging candidate following the first Fox debate, will also be closely watched this evening, Covington said.

The 63-year-old did not get too much airtime in Fox’s August GOP debate, but he has since surged in polling. That debate was the highest-rated primary debate in history with 24 million viewers watching, according to Nielsen

“Can Ben Carson consolidate the feel-good that people have for him,” Covington said. “He’ll need to make a pretty good substantive presentation if he wants to continue to grow. People sort of liked the feel they got for him.”

One thing all the participants tonight will try to do, though, is to build on their image and hope to not be overshadowed by Trump.

“I think the nature of Trump’s support makes him relatively protected from attacks that might draw away support,” Covington said. “The only way he’ll lose support is if he does it to himself.”

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