6 things to watch for in the GOP debate

- Jennifer Jacobs The Des Moines Register

Republican presidenti­al candidates will enter Wednesday’s debate with at least one similar goal: Pull off a gamechangi­ng performanc­e that will challenge Donald Trump’s frontrunne­r status.

The latest USA TODAY GOP Power Rankings show Trump continues to sit atop the crowded field while Scott Walker is fading.

Eleven candidates will stand on the main stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidenti­al Library, while four face off in an earlier undercard debate. Here are six things to watch for:

1 Any cracks in the Trump concrete

Will any candidate find the small crack that erodes momentum for Trump?

Republican strategist Kevin Madden said audiences walk away from these debates rememberin­g candidates’ moments of strength or moments of weakness.

“What if Trump emerges from a gang tackle still holding the ball?” he said.

2 The 11th podium

The addition of Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the GOP race, to the main stage could slow down any candidate on the Testostero­ne Express, conservati­ve analysts said.

“Having ‘The Donald’ confront the female recipient of his recent insults on national television could be the most intriguing subplot of the second debate,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist.

3 The exclamatio­n point

This isn’t a door-die debate for Jeb Bush, but he could benefit from controllin­g a news cycle, said Jeff Stein, an Iowa non-partisan political analyst.

“Jeb! needs to put an exclamatio­n point behind his performanc­e,” Stein said, referring to Bush’s campaign slogan, adding that “people are waiting to see that he can rally their hearts and minds.”

4 Ronald Reagan reaches

The GOP idol figures to be invoked frequently.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz said the location of this debate makes it ideal for putting pressure on Republican­s who have made comments on immigratio­n that are “diametrica­lly opposed to Reagan.”

5 The Hugh Hewitt trip wire

Will anyone get tripped up in the foreign policy exam?

One of the questioner­s will be conservati­ve radio host Hugh Hewitt, and he has a reputation for tough policy questions, Luntz said. Trump has already laid the groundwork for a defense by complainin­g that Hewitt asks “gotcha questions.”

6 The prime-time musical chairs

Luntz predicted none of the 11 on the main stage will fall off the debate cliff, but the undercard debaters are in jeopardy.

If they aren’t in the top 10 for the next debate Oct. 28, Luntz said, “the networks have a legitimate reason not to do that second debate at all.”


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States