Why Trump is the X factor on GOP presidential debate
Thursday night's much anticipated Republican presidential debate is expected to draw a huge audience due in large part to Donald Trump's participation. The controversial Trump will be in the spotlight, but the other nine candidates, including Gov. Chris Christie want a share of that spotlight.
It is impossible to predict what Trump might say, but political experts said there were strategies for dealing with any eventuality.
"I don't want to attack anybody and you know maybe I'll be attacked and maybe not. I'd rather just discuss the issues, but certainly I don't want to attack. If I'm attacked I have to do something back, but I'd like it to be very civil," Trump told ABC news Wednesday.
What Trump says and what Trump does are often two very different things. Fairleigh Dickinson University Political Science Professor Peter Woolley said the other candidates won't be playing off of Trump. They'll be playing to the 80 percent of the voters that don't support him in national polls.
"If your audience is the angry voters who support Trump then attack Obama, be optimistic for America and obey the Republicans' 11th commandment: Do not criticize other Republicans," Woolley said.
There is another reason for Christie to avoid bitter exchanges with Trump, according to Seton Hall University Political Science Professor Matte Hale. He said that strategy could come back to bite Christie.
"When you look at the polls of who is supporting Donald Trump many actually say that Chris Christie is their second choice so I don't think Chris Christie can go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump because he's got to hope that sooner or later Donald Trump implodes and those voters come back to him," Hale said.
Christie could point out that he has clearly defined policy positions while Trump does not, Hale said. Woolley felt that if Trump attacks Christie should correct him, but try not point out that he has no record of public service and his record of private business is one of low-wages, bankruptcies, and law suits.
"Try to avoid a personal attack on Trump himself, but just correct whatever facts need correcting," Woolley advised. "Stay above the fray. Don't wrestle with pigs because the pigs like it and you'll just get dirty."