Republican presidential debate on Fox Business and Univision 0

3:44 p.m. ET, September 27, 2023

Analysis: Will Trump’s 2024 GOP rivals repeat the same mistakes of their first debate?

Republican candidates on stage at the first GOP debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 23.

Christopher Dilts/Sipa USA/AP/FILE
The candidates who will gather for the second Republican presidential debate tonight face an unusual challenge: how to take on a front-runner who’s not on stage and is already acting as if he’s the nominee.
Former President Donald Trump’s posture was symbolized by his decision to hold a general election-style speech in Michigan rather than attend the debate.
Trump’s inclination to look past the primary, even before it’s officially begun, partially reflects the historic lead he has amassed in national polls. But it also derives from the failure of the other candidates to formulate a clear line of argument that might threaten him. That failure was on display during the first debate, which he also skipped, when almost all of the field largely ignored him.

“The best thing that Trump has going is that none of his opponents are running a strategy to defeat him,” said Mike Murphy, a long-time GOP strategist who has become a frequent Trump critic. “None of his major ones. They are just doing Trump impersonations.”

The key question for the second debate may be whether anyone in the field…

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