- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

After getting walloped in the New York primary, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz renewed his effort to pressure GOP front-runner Donald Trump into another debate.

“We should debate before Pennsylvania goes to the polls on Tuesday,” Mr. Cruz tweeted Wednesday, linking Mr. Trump’s Twitter account. His staff renewed and started tweeting out their hashtag “Ducking Donald.”

There are no more GOP debates on the calendar, and Mr. Trump said after last Republican debate in Miami, he felt no more debates were needed and he wouldn’t participate in any further.

“I think we have had enough debates. We have had 11 or 12 debates. I did really well on the last one,” Mr. Trump told Fox News after the Miami debate held in March. “I think I have done well in all the debates. According to Drudge and everybody else I have won the debates. How many times can the same people ask you the same question?”

As a result, a March 21 debate scheduled in Salt Lake City was canceled.

Now, Mr. Trump is under no obligation to agree to a Cruz debate and many political consultants would advise him to steer clear, saying there’s no reason to jeopardize his front-runner status.

Still, I think there could be some advantages.

First, Mr. Trump has undergone a campaign overhaul, with many political pundits (including myself) saying a newer, disciplined Trump has emerged. He’s going to read off teleprompters, give policy speeches, and focus on the intricate Republican delegate rules.

What better forum, than to show off a new and improved Trump, than in a debate? If Mr. Trump’s campaign has truly evolved, and he is indeed studying up on policy, he should use the forum to highlight these new skills and prove to naysayers (and the Never Trump crowd), that indeed, he is prepared to be the next president of the United States.

Plus, it doesn’t look like the GOP is going to wrap-up this primary season anytime soon, with both Mr. Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich vowing to take it to a contested convention in July. The people of Pennsylvania, Indiana and California deserve another debate in order for them to make a more informed decision. The major contests of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida all had one. Plus, what better way to sway unbound delegates?

Mr. Trump also needs to prepare for the general election. He’s now the only Republican candidate in the race who has the mathematical possibility of winning the GOP nomination outright, and he’s the leader in the popular vote. This week in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 62 percent of Republicans say the candidate with the most votes should be their nominee, regardless of whether they’ve hit the magic delegate number. That most likely will be Mr. Trump.

Hillary Clinton is the front-runner in the Democratic race and was when she agreed to a ninth debate with rival Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders before the New York State primary. It was unscheduled — and it was a gamble.

Mrs. Clinton had the confidence that she could take on Mr. Sanders in policy, and indeed she did. Yes, there was the downside of an unforced error, or the possibility she could turn off Mr. Sanders’ supporters, but she took it anyway. Mr. Sanders came at her hard, but despite the incoming, Mrs. Clinton went on to win New York by double-digits. She handled herself like a pro.

If Mr. Trump becomes the GOP nominee, he will have to take on — and debate — Mrs. Clinton in the general election.

She has proven herself a skilled debater, solid in policy, and cool under pressure.

Mr. Trump, being a non-politician, could use all the practice he can get. He should be up for, not cower away from, Mr. Cruz’s challenge.


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