The Republican presidential candidates, increasingly certain that their televised debates can have make-or-break consequences for their campaigns, are preparing aggressive new tactics for their next face-off on Wednesday, hoping to draw voters away from the surprisingly durable Donald J. Trump as the 2016 race enters a more combative phase.
With the onetime front-runners Jeb Bush and Scott Walker sagging in the polls after middling performances in the last debate, on Aug. 6 — and with Mr. Trump rising despite divisive comments — many of the candidates are convinced that they are better off using the debates to make forceful and targeted appeals to viewers, rather than trying to knock out Mr. Trump, advisers to several campaigns said.
That sounds fine in theory, but Trump has a way of drawing people into his little universe whenever he wants to. It’s going to take thick skin to avoid the barbs he is sure to throw at many, if not all, of his opponents.
We know that Carly Fiorina doesn’t get rattled by Trump, but will the men be as tough? Since the last debate, Jeb! has been the most obviously frustrated. That’s probably a positive for his supporters after the first debate, where he seemed as if he’d had a nap interrupted. It’s also a sure bet that Trump will focus on needling the others if he knows that they are deliberately trying to avoid one-on-one confrontations with him.
Should be fun.