GOP Debate Round 2

Republican candidates can — and must — deflate mogul in upcoming debate.

Today: GOP debate No. 2

CAL: Donald Trump is beginning to resemble one of those 1950s science fiction monsters. The more he is attacked, the more he grows and the bigger threat he becomes. Wednesday’s debaters had better have a good strategy for dealing with him.

BOB: The other candidates cannot afford to let Trump take all the oxygen out of the room. It’s time to take the debate to Trump and force him to defend his positions. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Bobby Jindal finally went after Trump with his own medicine. Thin-skinned Trump doesn’t do well on defense.

CAL: The other Republican presidential candidates should not directly attack Trump, unless he says something completely outrageous. Even then they should not make it personal, but demonstrate the flaws and lack of specifics in many of his pronouncements. For example, he says his health care plan will be “terrific.” Details, please.

BOB: You’re right. Trump has offered simplistic policy answers on big issues, and that’s where he is vulnerable. Trump says he’ll get American hostages in Iran freed before he is sworn in. Short of going to war, he needs to tell voters how he would do it.

CAL: Temperament is vital for a president. He (or she) must guard against volatile language and be disciplined enough to understand that words matter. So far, Trump fails on that score.

BOB: That’s a result of being allowed to get away with it. The press and the other candidates, with a few exceptions, have been afraid to attack. The only way to get in the news cycle at this point is to go on offense. Bush can hammer Trump for driving Hispanics away from the GOP. Trump’s attacks on Carly Fiorina went from being tough to plain mean. If I were her, I’d attack him with humor and laugh at him, something he can’t stand.

CAL: Trump has tapped into a visceral hatred of Washington that manifests itself on the Democratic side with Bernie Sanders, but for different reasons. The other candidates should acknowledge the failure of the establishment and say specifically what they would do about reforming and limiting the cost and reach of the federal government.

BOB: They have all tried and failed to break through the news media’s obsession with Trump. John Kasich is rising in the polls because he has strong positions on issues that he has implemented as governor of Ohio. To a lesser extent, so has New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The way to break through is to call Trump’s ideas amateurish and naive.

CAL: The best arguments against Trump and surgeon Ben Carson are these: You wouldn’t want to hire an amateur to run your business; neither would you want someone without experience to operate on your brain. For the same reason, you don’t want someone without political and governmental experience running the country. We are in the seventh year of an inexperienced president. The consequences of that bad choice will be with us for decades to come.

BOB: I disagree about President Obama, but that’s for historians to determine. Let’s keep in mind that American political history is loaded with populist anti-government candidates like Trump. Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan in recent years; George Wallace in the 1960s and ’70s; Huey Long; William Jennings Bryan. They all made big news at first but eventually burned out.

CAL: The best strategy all the GOP candidates could adopt is to focus less on putting each other down and more on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Whoever wins the GOP nomination will have to take on one of them. Republican voters will want to see how he, or she, might act in those one-on-one debates.

BOB: Good point. Both Sanders and Clinton have avoided attacking each other, leaving Republicans to form their own circular firing squad.

CAL: I’m looking for the impressive Fiorina to follow our suggestion of comparing Trump’s rhetoric to that of a schoolyard bully. She might say with just a hint of sarcasm: “I changed my makeup and did my hair a little different. How does my face look now?” That could resonate with women voters.

BOB: Trump’s attacks on women, against Megyn Kelly and Fiorina, coupled with several statements about women from his past, is starting to sink in. If Trump thinks he can still win by beating up on Hispanics, that’s one thing, but alienating women is far more serious. They happen to provide over 50% of the presidential vote.

CAL: Jeb Bush has come up with a serious tax reform proposal, but I’d like one of the questions to be: “The government is taking in record amounts of money. It is spending that is the problem. On the few occasions Republicans have tried to reform entitlement programs — which most everyone agrees need reforming — they are caricatured as anti-granny and lacking compassion. How would you overcome this and achieve meaningful reform?”

BOB: Entitlement reform can only be achieved if it is bipartisan, and bipartisanship is nearly extinct. Congress couldn’t get agreement on Mother’s Day in this climate, but they have only themselves to blame.