Ben Carson, Donald Trump Ready For Battle Of Outsiders

The second Republican presidential debate is shaping up as a battle of the outsiders, with Donald Trump and Ben Carson poised to take center stage.

Neither man has held, or even run for, elected office before — but that’s where the similarities end.

Carson’s team sees little merit in attacking Trump head-on, preferring to heighten the temperamental contrast between the self-effacing retired neurosurgeon and the exuberantly bombastic businessman.

In his disinclination to spoil for a fight, Carson may be learning lessons from others who have tangled with Trump and lost. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was among Trump’s most aggressive attackers — right up until last week, when he became the first of the 17 major GOP candidates to exit the race.

Such a combative approach would, in any event, go against part of Carson’s core appeal: his ability to champion conservative policies in an affable way.

Asked about the merits of the retired doctor taking on Trump, GOP strategist Ford O’Connell observed: “Carson pulled back on that, and he was right to pull back on it, because it’s not his M.O.” 

O’Connell was referring to the brief contretemps that erupted last week when, in seeking to describe the differences between himself and the billionaire, Carson said, “I’ve realized where my success has come from, and I don’t in any way deny my faith in God.”

Whether Trump will see things that way, however, remains to be seen.

Many observers note that, of late, Trump has turned his fire on Carson and another non-politician, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, after focusing much of his attention on establishment figures such as Bush.

Trump, some Republicans believe, is keen to undermine Carson and Fiorina as much as possible, in order to consolidate the anti-establishment vote.

“Trump wants to destroy Carson before he can get his legs under him. Trump sees Carson as a potential Trump-slayer because of his appeal to ‘outside’ voters,” said O’Connell.

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill 

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Analysis & Political Strategy