SIMI VALLEY, California — In just a few hours, the 2016 GOP presidential field will take the debate stage here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and one thing is extraordinarily clear: Everybody is gunning for Republican frontrunner billionaire Donald Trump.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Dr. Ben Carson, and more will be coming at Trump especially hard on the main stage. Carson is surging behind the front-running Trump in the polls, so that dynamic—which moderators like CNN’s Jake Tapper and Salem Communications’ Hugh Hewitt are likely to attempt to further push—will be extraordinarily interesting. The two have battled in recent days over their faith, Carson’s medical career, and more in what’s largely been a media-created fight.
Fiorina, who wasn’t scheduled to be on the debate stage until the Republican National Committee (RNC) and CNN finally agreed to change eligibility requirements, has been the subject of attacks from Trump about her appearance—and Trump has also gone after her time as HP’s CEO. Expect that rivalry to get hotter too.
Meanwhile, Rubio and Bush—two of the main contenders from the GOP establishment—are both in hot water on the campaign trail for speaking Spanish rather than English. Trump has ripped Bush for the practice and hammered Rubio. Expect war between them, too.
Between Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who will also likely be coming after Trump, it’s been more of an effort to enact a conservative purity test with Trump. It’s certainly no secret that Trump was once a Democrat, but he’s since left those viewpoints behind. These attacks, which are echoed in new Club For Growth advertisements bashing Trump, are the least effective since the American public doesn’t seem to care where he stood before on issues. The Club, however, was successful in torpedoing the 2008 populist presidential campaign of that year’s Iowa caucuses winner, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee—an insurgency ironically similar to Trump’s this cycle. Huckabee is running again, and of the candidates on the main stage he, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are probably the only ones who will defend Trump and his supporters—if anyone does—from the certain barrage of attacks they will face.
There are also the moderators who are likely to stoke fights between other candidates and Trump to drive the news cycle between now and the next debate toward the end of October. Hewitt is chief among them, as after he previously said Trump doesn’t have the “temperament” to be president he threw a series of what Trump termed “gotcha” questions at the frontrunner designed to trip him up. Trump survived that fiasco, just like he’s survived every other one.
A large portion of the attacks, various staffers from those campaigns aiming to target Trump tell Breitbart News, will argue that Trump hasn’t been serious with specific policy proposals on the campaign trail. While the GOP consultants think that attack will somehow rattle Trump, it’s yet another inaccurate claim, as in addition to the most detailed immigration reform policy position paper of anyone running for president—in fact, he’s the only candidate to go as in depth as this on immigration reform, a plan that puts American workers first ahead of special interests and illegal aliens—he’s been more specific on things like healthcare, tax policy, veterans care, and how he’d build a massive military to deter America’s enemies.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this all shakes out, but one thing is clear heading into Wednesday’s CNN Debate: The long knives are out for Trump, and these politicians will do whatever they can to stop him.