Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For First Debate, How Do You Solve a Problem like Donald Trump?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For First Debate, How Do You Solve a Problem like Donald Trump?

Article excerpt

Before the highly-anticipated first GOP debate Thursday night in Cleveland, Donald Trump - the party's wild card candidate who has made headlines for his campaign antics, like giving out a rival's phone number, suggesting Mexican immigrants are "rapists" and "criminals," and calling Arizona Sen. John McCain a "dummy" - has promised to be civil.

"I don't want to attack anybody," Mr. Trump told "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. "I'd rather just discuss the issues."

But, he quickly added, he is prepared to take the gloves off. "If I'm attacked I have to, you know, do something back, but I'd like it to be very civil," he said.

While presidential primary debates are typically the stuff of spectacle and scrutiny, this election cycle is exceptional thanks to the inimitable presence of Trump, the real estate tycoon-turned celebrity TV star-turned presidential contender "whose taste for lacerating his rivals with provocative language has made him the most unpredictable force on a presidential debate stage in years," as The New York Times put it.

"It's like dealing with nitroglycerin," Newt Gingrich famously said, describing Trump.

Which is why the political blogosphere is abuzz, speculating how the other contenders will handle Trump - and how the billionaire businessman with a penchant for running his mouth will handle himself.

Trump practiced his newfound civility by playing down expectations.

"I've never debated before. I'm not a debater," he said during a trip to Scotland last week. "You know these guys debate every night of their life, that's all they do is debate.... I'm sort of the opposite. I have no idea."

According to reports, Trump has eschewed debate prep, planning to do what he does best - speak off the cuff.

"I am who I am," he told reporters last week. "I'll show up, I look forward to it, and that's all I can do. I have no idea how I'll do. Maybe I'll do terribly. Maybe I'll do great."

In the prime-time debate hosted by Fox News, all eyes will be on Trump, who will be at the center of the stage thanks to his unrivaled 23 percent support in the polls. He will be flanked by the nine other candidates who scored the highest in an aggregate of polls: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. …

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