- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

If CNN’s Republican presidential debate Wednesday night is anything like Fox’s earlier this summer, it will smash viewership records with millions of people tuning in to watch real-estate mogul Donald Trump clash with 10 other presidential hopefuls.

So what to expect of Wednesday night’s 11 man (and one woman) face-off? Here’s five things to watch.

Can Scott Walker bring the heat and revive his campaign?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s poll numbers have been in free fall as he’s stumbled on the campaign trail since the last debate. Mr. Walker needs more than a solid, consistent performance this time around to reaffirm to his donors and activists alike that he’s ready for prime-time.

“I think we’re going to step it up and be more aggressive this time,” Mr. Walker told CNN on Thursday. “I really hope to be aggressive and make the case that we’re ready to wreak havoc on Washington.”

In terms of Mr. Trump? Mr. Walker’s strategy will be much like in the last debate, trying to turn any attack from the reality-television star into an opportunity to win over his supporters. Mr. Walker will also try to emphasize his record dealing with unions and what he would do as commander-in-chief. This week, the Walker campaign introduced “Day one Promise” where it plans to roll out a specific action each week moving forward that Mr. Walker would take in his first day in the White House.

“I think what you’re going to see compared to the first [debate] is much more of a focus on that record because we’re in that phase where we’re doing the connection between the record and where he’s going,” Ed Goeas, a Walker senior adviser and veteran Republican pollster, told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday.

Will Rand Paul’s attack-dog strategy work or backfire?

Since attacking Donald Trump at the last debate, Mr. Paul has seen his poll numbers dive. Mr. Trump recently bragged to the Wall Street Journal of his opponents: “I hope they attack me, because everybody who attacks me is doomed.”

But Mr. Paul isn’t taking the bait. When CNN asked Mr. Paul if would change his debate tactics this time around to avoid Mr. Trump, Mr. Paul said, if anything, he plans to go harder.

“I think that was a little easy on him. I think he deserves every bit he gets,” Mr. Paul told CNN in an interview Tuesday. “I would say I will make sure that everybody in the country knows that he’s a fake conservative, and there’s nothing conservative about Donald Trump other than that he wants the Trump brand to be out there, I don’t think he has a vision for limited government, balanced budget, low taxes, anything of the things that conservatives have fought for for decades. He’s been on the other side of every one of those issues, and voters deserve to know that.”

Can Carly Fiorina meet or even exceed expectations?

Since fighting her way to the main debate stage, Mrs. Fiorina has a lot to prove — and perhaps the highest expectations from the Washington pundits going into tonight’s prime-time event.

Mrs. Fiorina was largely declared the winner of the “happy-hour” debate in August, where her poise and succinct answers — plus a direct jab at Mr. Trump, put her in the spotlight. Many pundits are looking forward to her taking on Mr. Trump, given how well she turned around his Rolling Stone insult on her looks, but conservative columnist S.E. Cupp had other insights from her campaign on Tuesday.

“A couple of things she wants to accomplish. One, her name ID is still pretty low. We know her very well, we’ve been following her for years, but the campaign thinks of this as a great opportunity to really introduce her to a lot of people,” Ms. Cupp said. “She also wants to kind of ignore the hype. I think expectations are almost dangerously high for Carly Fiorina. When you fight to be on the main stage, you better prove that you deserve to be there. They’re ignoring that. They say she gets the best debate prep, takes questions regularly at campaign events from actual voters. She feels very prepared.”

Will moderator Hugh Hewitt take it easy on Donald Trump?

A few weeks ago on his radio show, Mr. Hewitt asked Mr. Trump about foreign policy, asking him who leads different terror groups. Mr. Trump stumbled in his reply and then lashed out at Mr. Hewitt for asking a “gotcha question” that was “ridiculous.”

On the Sept. 6 edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press” Mr. Hewitt defended his interview with Mr. Trump as “fair” and said, “If I was unfair, you know, I’ll take criticism.”

But soon, after several conservative pundits, including Rush Limbaugh and some Fox News commentators sided with Mr. Trump, Mr. Hewitt folded. On the Monday edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mr. Hewitt said Mr. Trump “legitimately misunderstood” his question and that it was “my fault.”

“I’ve done 40 interviews with Republican presidential candidates since the last debate, and the only bump was with Donald Trump and that’s because it was my fault,” Mr. Hewitt said on the morning show. “I framed the question wrong. I said, ‘You’re familiar with General Soleimani and the Quds Force.’ I should have said, ‘As you know, General Soleimani runs the Quds Force in Iran,’ and then gone on to my question, which is, what is the impact of giving him $100 billion? So I think it’s important never to play Jeopardy with names, and I never do. I always give the predicate.”

Will Bobby Jindal ever break through?

After Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race and Ms. Fiorina graduated to the main debate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is set to take center stage at the so-called “kiddy table.” Mr. Jindal will be only one of four on the stage and could use the time and the spotlight (which the 11 contenders in the prime-time event will be fighting for) to his advantage.

Mr. Jindal came out swinging this week against Donald Trump in interviews and editorials trying to get some attention. In a CNN editorial he wrote: “The only people who would enjoy a Trump presidency are Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. The jokes write themselves. But this is no laughing matter. Our country is slipping away. The liberalism and incompetence of the Obama administration have pushed us to the edge of a socialist abyss.”

In recent national polling, Mr. Jindal is polling at or below 1 percent, but he is seeing some hope in Iowa, where in the latest Quinnipiac survey he’s polling at 2 percent — higher than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and one percentage point behind Mr. Walker who are both on the main stage.

Mr. Jindal needs to somehow break out to avoid being the next Trump casualty on the campaign trail.

As Mr. Perry said on Fox New’s “Hannity” Monday evening: “I’ve been in politics 30 years. Nobody fought Washington any harder than I did, but Donald Trump’s bullets [going] through Washington went through and hit people like myself, hit people like all the governors that are on the stage, for instance.”

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