POLITICO is reporting that CNN executives are staging a “slugfest” for tonight:
Several campaign aides told POLITICO they expect CNN to begin the debate by pitting individual candidates against Trump – perhaps by asking if they condemn his controversial proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. The tactic would be designed to hook viewers from the get-go.
Maybe, but I expect the real drama is going to come from watching Marco Rubio and Donald Trump combine to try to land fatal blows on Ted Cruz, who has emerged as at least a co-front-runner in Iowa and has the money to sustain a long campaign if he emerges there as the winner.
A hint of what’s to come? After months of holding his punches against Cruz, who has been unfailingly polite to Trump in public (notwithstanding some gentle criticism to donors behind closed doors), Trump launched his all-out attack on Cruz: he lacks the “temperament” to be president, is widely disliked, and is a bit of a “maniac.”
Pot calling the kettle black? It may seem so, but part of Trump’s genius is that he can launch his narrative into the very media that hates him. Expect a rash of stories on how much fellow senators dislike Ted Cruz and why.
How will Cruz defend himself without sounding defensive, as Rubio did when Bush took a swing at him in a previous debate?
His response to Trump’s first punch was just brilliant, cheerfully tweeting the song “maniacs” from Flashdance to “goodhearted maniacs everywhere”:
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 13, 2015
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.