Republicans Are Set to Grapple Again Under Reagan’s Wing

NYT FDMAGGIE HABERMAN Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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Good Debate Day morning. As the Republican candidates prepare for their second showdown, a New York Times/CBS poll shows that the partys primary and caucus voters increasingly think that Donald J. Trump has the best chance of winning the general election. The poll results could give the other candidates further reason to direct their attack plans toward him, starting, perhaps, tonight

The Gang of 11 will take the stage at the Republican presidential debate, an event that may winnow the field and, potentially, shake it up.

Heading into the prime-time event hosted by CNN at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Mr. Trump remains the candidate to beat. Will he be able to extend his Teflon streak, in which no argument against him seems to have stuck? Or will someone dent the veneer of his impenetrability?

Jeb Bush, who will once again stand immediately to Mr. Trump’s left, surely knows that he must improve on his lackluster performance in the Fox News debate last month. His top advisers spent a day briefing donors in Manhattan last week, arming them with talking points and soothing their concerns. But Mr. Bush has struggled to be the change he wants to see, first ignoring Mr. Trump during his effort to be a joyful warrior and then finally acknowledging the need to punch back.

Ben Carson, who is right behind Mr. Trump in the newest Times/CBS poll, is likely to tap into the same lower-wattage speaking style that helped him in the last debate.
But many others on the stage will need a breakout performance. Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio will need to keep his momentum going. And Carly Fiorina, who was granted a podium on the main stage after the debate rules were changed, will need to do more than outshine Mr. Trump in insults.
Many of the others will simply need to remind viewers that they exist. With most eyes on Mr. Trump, that’s no small feat.