Donald Trump and the Second GOP Debate


The GOP candidates will take the stage on Wednesday, September 16 at 8 p.m. ET, for the second Republican presidential debate. The debate will be held in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California and will be sponsored by CNN. There will be 11 candidates on the stage, including Carly Fiorina, who qualified on the basis of a good showing in the first debate and her growing popularity with the voters. The other candidates will be Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.

Many commentators are seeing the debate as a potential showdown between Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina because of the feud they have been having concerning the comment about her face. “Look at that face! Would anybody vote for that?” he remarked in a Rolling Stone interview. He has also said that her voice gives him a “massive headache” and he has criticized the way she was fired by Hewlett-Packard.

Almost all political analysts agree that the debate will be a showdown between political candidates and the non-political debaters Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. Trump has continued to lead most polls since the first debate and in the aggregate of polls used by CNN the numbers are as follows: Trump 24 percent, Bush 11.5, Walker 9.4, Carson 8.9, Cruz 6.3, Rubio 5.6,  Huckabee 5.6, Paul 4.7, Kasich 3.2, Christie 3.1 and Fiorina 2.2.  The Real Clear Politics average of all polls, a reliable indicator, has Trump at 29.8, Carson at 7.8, Bush at 7.8 and Fiorina at 4.3.

The candidates in the earlier debate at 6 p.m. ET are Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal and George Pataki, with Rick Perry having suspended his campaign on September 11. Carly Fiorina was on the earlier first debate but had such a good showing that many people said she won the whole night. The candidates in this earlier debate, do doubt, hope for such a result.

But the real questions center on the campaign of Donald Trump. Most analysts agreed that his first debate was not particularly noteworthy, so many are wondering how he will perform in this second debate. Here are some questions for viewers to consider in preparation for the debate.

How specific will he be with his answers?

One concern that many voters have about Trump is that he often speaks in generalities. He throws out many vague ideas about what he will do but his statements seem to be without specifics. His plate is all salad and no meat, so to speak. If he says he will build a fence to keep out immigrants, pay attention as to whether or not he tells the viewers how he will do it. If he talks about solving the problem in Irag, what is his strategy? Will he send in troops, bring the other involved nations together, or try to communicate with U.S. allies? He makes statements like “…we’re going to have so many victories and they are going to be great victories,” which all sounds great, but how is this going to happen? What victories is he going to give us and how? Is there beef in his statements or is it all fluff, without specifics?

How will he respond to challenging questions?

In the first debate he appeared to be upset by the question of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly about his treatment of women. He later talked about blood coming from her “…wherever” and then got quite critical in his Twitter bombardment the next day. Will these questioners ask any pointed questions, and if so, how does he respond? The debate will be moderated by Hugh Hewitt, with whom Trump has taken issue concerning a previous interview. He called Hewitt “third rate” when he had some trouble answering questions about foreign leaders, ISIS and Iran. Will he turn on any questioner, like Hewitt for example, who dares to ask the hard questions? Watch his responses and see if he can take what he has been dishing out.

How will he respond to the challenges from the other candidates?

Virtually no one with credentials who judged the last debate declared Trump the winner. Many gave that distinction to Fiorina and others liked the way Carson handled himself, but most viewers and experts felt that Trump’s performance was so-so at best. If any of the other candidates stand up to him, do they do so with facts, or emotion? How does he handle any challenges put forth by candidates who, perhaps, have tired of his criticisms and vaguely expressed ideas. If a give-and-take takes place between Fiorina and Trump, which one handles it best? Does he respond out of emotion and insult, or is he prepared with some facts to back ups what he says?

What is his plan to do the various things that he proposes?

A president must be a planner. He or she must be a person who thinks through and studies the issues of the day and gets the good advice of experts in various fields such as the economy, immigration, foreign affairs, social issues, tariffs and taxes and many other issues. How does Trump lay out his plan to do anything that he proposes on that debate stage? If he speaks of solving the quagmire in Iraq, what is his plan to accomplish what he proposes? Does he have any responses to the other candidates that are strengthened with specific plans to support his disagreement with them?

To many people Trump is a political enigma. For conservatives who have followed politics in recent decades, he can be a breath of fresh air in that people are not hearing talking points continually coming out of his mouth. He speaks from the cuff and disdains the teleprompter. However, this way of campaigning presents some problems. When a person speaks from the cuff, there is a tendency to rely on top-of-the-head statements instead of doing the homework necessary to becoming the next president. Watch with these questions in mind. Watch with a notebook and a pencil in hand. Trump has taken the campaign by storm but is he able to take this GOP debate by storm and make believers of the many doubters?

Opinion by Lloyd Gardner


Real Clear Politics: Republican Presidential Nomination

New York Times: Carly Fiorina Pushes to be Included in the Top Tier Debate

New York Times: Showdown between Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump Expected at Republican Debate

Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License