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Trump returns to debate stage, Bush embraces family name

Wiser by the Iowa experience, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is not taking chances this time and has said he will be participating in the Republican debate on Saturday night.

world Updated: Feb 07, 2016 01:32 IST
Yashwant Raj
Trump himself is facing questions about his ability to get his supporters who show up at his rallies in thousands to vote or caucus for him, as it happened in Iowa.
Trump himself is facing questions about his ability to get his supporters who show up at his rallies in thousands to vote or caucus for him, as it happened in Iowa.(REUTERS)

Wiser by the Iowa experience, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is not taking chances this time and has said he will be participating in the Republican debate on Saturday night.

It will be the last time Republican candidates will debate each other on one platform before the New Hampshire primary, which is going to make or break a few campaigns.

Jeb Bush, who was once a favourite to win the nomination, embraced his family name fully this week after months of ambivalence that many said didn’t help him much.

Trump himself is facing questions about his ability to get his supporters who show up at his rallies in thousands to vote or caucus for him, as it happened in Iowa.

He didn’t have a ground game there, it turned out. And skipping the last debate before the caucuses, which he did because of a feud with the host TV network, didn’t help.

“I very much look forward to tomorrow’s debate in New Hampshire—so many things to say, so much at stake. It will be an incredible evening,” Trump tweeted on Friday.

There is, indeed, plenty at stake for him. Though he leads his nearest rival Marco Rubio by 14.3% points in New Hampshire—30.7% to 16.4%—another defeat could imperil his run.

His rivals are stepping up their game too, confronted with a similar urgency, especially Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie, who must perform well to stay in the race.

Bush, who entered the race as a front-runner but has struggled to stay in the race since, got his mother, the indomitable former first lady Barbara Bush, to stump for him this week.

And his campaign released a new ad featuring his brother George W Bush, the unpopular former president whose shadow he has tried to evade for months, without much success.

Christie and Kasich will be looking to make a mark at the debate too—for them New Hampshire is boom or bust, having tactically focused on the state, at the expense of Iowa.

All three of them—Bush, Christie and Kasich—have their sights on the Number 2 slot behind Trump, whose poll numbers are way too far for them to reach for at this stage.

They are focused instead on Rubio—and not Ted Cruz, who is running at Number 3 slot despite the Iowa win—with reports suggesting they may have teamed up in this endeavour.

While the candidates deny that, they have indeed targeted Rubio mostly, questioning his qualifications and his reluctance to face tough questions, calling him “the boy in the bubble”.