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Trump, Carson and the Reagan Library debate

The Honorable Newt Gingrich

(The Washington Times) – The big debate Wednesday night at the Reagan Library really centers around two candidates.

If Donald Trump was the surprise focus of the first debate, it was because no one three months ago would have predicted that he would be polling ahead of every other candidate.

Now the focus will widen because Dr. Ben Carson is joining Mr. Trump in the extraordinary group of candidates we never expected to be this dominant.

In the new CBS News poll out this week, Mr. Trump is at 27 percent with Mr. Carso  having risen from 6 percent in August to 23 percent today. Former Gov. Jeb Bush is a distant third at 6 percent. The most recentIowa poll had Mr. Trump at 29 percent, Mr. Carson at 25 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz a distant third at 10 percent.

When two candidates are above 50 percent and the rest of the field is far behind, the focus of the debate is inevitably on these two.

The analysts are predicting the focus will be attacks on Mr. Trump. Between the media and a number of other candidates, there are plenty of folks lining up to pile on “the Donald.”

An anti-Trump focus may simply shift votes to Mr. Carson, however, and turn him into the new frontrunner.

The contrast in style between the two leading candidates could not be greater. Mr. Trump is loud, constantly moving, permanently on offense, and enthusiastic about making lavish claims. Mr. Carson is quiet, calm, centered and very hard to rattle.

What the political media and consultants have not yet seemed to fully digest is that both of these men have been remarkably successful people prior to their runs for president.

Trump got his first cover of Time Magazine in 1989. He has owned or managed office buildings, hotels, golf courses, restaurants, the Miss Universe pageant, a line of clothing, and a very popular television show. He is used to complexity, negotiations and stress. And as this video of Mr. Trump on Oprah Winfrey more than 25 years ago proves, he has been thinking about public policy for a long time.

Mr. Carson became the youngest department head in the history of Johns Hopkins Hospital at 33 years of age. In 1987, he led a 70-person operating team for 22 hours and separated conjoined twins for the first time in history. In 2009, Cuba Gooding Jr. played Ben Carson in a movie (“Gifted Hands”) about his life and achievements. Mr. Carson learned to make decisions under stress, while exhausted, in a very different world than any elected official I have met except for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who was himself a heart and lung transplant specialist.

These are serious, successful, complex and accomplished people.

Anyone expecting them to disintegrate or, as some analysts like to say, “have the bubble burst,” is in for a very long wait.

It is a long way to the nomination and there is plenty of time for others to gain support and compete.

Wednesday night’s debate is important, however, because it is the first real test in which Mr. Trump will have a peer who is as nontraditional, as confident and as articulate as he is.

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