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Donald Trump points as he stands outside the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland on Friday. (Photo: Reuters)
Four days before the first debate of the 2016 presidential election cycle, Republican front-runner Donald Trump says viewers shouldn’t expect to see fireworks from his side of the stage.
“I’m not a debater,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “These politicians — I always say, they’re all talk, no action. They debate all the time. They go out and they debate every night. I don’t debate.”
“Maybe my whole life is a debate, in a way,” Trump continued. “But the fact is I’m not a debater and they are. But with that being said, I look forward to it. We’ll see what happens. Who knows?”
The real estate mogul says he won’t be in attack mode — a shift from what we’re used to seeing from Trump on the campaign trail.
“I don’t think I’m going to be throwing punches,” he said. “I’m not looking to attack them. … Every attack I made was a counterpunch. I mean, they attacked me first and I hit them back and maybe harder than they hit me. But the fact is that I’ve been attacked pretty viciously by some of these guys. And I have a lot of respect for numerous people on the stage. I will tell you, I have great respect for some of the people on the stage. But I have been attacked and I counterpunch. I didn’t start the attacks.”
Thursday’s primetime GOP debate, televised on Fox, will feature the top 10 Republican candidates as calculated by an average of the last five major national polls, according to the network’s rules. And a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday shows Trump is surging.
According to the survey, Trump is the first choice of 19 percent of likely Republican primary and caucus voters, followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (15 percent), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (14 percent), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (10 percent) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (9 percent).
• Donald Trump — 19 percent
• Scott Walker — 15 percent
• Jeb Bush — 14 percent
• Ben Carson — 10 percent
• Ted Cruz — 9 percent
• Mike Huckabee — 6 percent
• Rand Paul — 6 percent
• Marco Rubio — 5 percent
• Chris Christie — 3 percent
• Rick Perry — 3 percent
• John Kasich — 3 percent
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (6 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (6 percent) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (5 percent) are among the candidates likely to make the primetime debate stage, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (3 percent), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (3 percent) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (3 percent) on the bubble.
Christie, though, says he isn’t worried.
“Nah, I’ll make it,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I feel pretty good. You know, I’ll be very happy on Tuesday when the 10 names come out and I’m in there, because I think it’s important. It’s an important forum for me and for every one of us who’s going to be on that stage. See, once you get on the stage, it’s not going to matter if you’re No. 1, No. 5 or No. 10. You’re going to have your opportunity to make your pitch to the Republican primary voters across America — that’s what I intend to do and I’m confident I’ll be there on Thursday night.”
One candidate who definitely won’t be there: former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who blasted Fox News and the Republican National Committee for relying on national polls to determine the debate’s participants.
“National polls mean nothing,” Santorum said on ABC. “I saw a poll recently that said that they asked Iowa caucus-goers if you can name all the presidential candidates. And 80 percent could only name three. And that’s people here in Iowa that probably study this more than anybody else.”
“Unfortunately, the networks and the RNC have gone along with this irrelevant measure of legitimacy of candidacy, and then have the ability to influence who is in the top 10 by the amount of coverage they get, and amount of advertising dollars,” he continued.
But Santorum says he isn’t worried about his low numbers in national polls.
“I was at 1 percent in the national polls four years ago and ended up winning 11 states, 4 million votes, won the Iowa caucus,” Santorum said. “In fact, I won the Iowa caucuses, and two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, which eventually, like I said, won, I was at 2 percent in the national polls.”
Carson, who will be on Thursday’s debate stage, got some early debate prep on “Meet the Press,” where he was asked a “simple question”: “Does the Bible have authority over the Constitution?”
“That is not a simple question by any stretch of the imagination,” Carson said. “I think probably what you have to do is ask a very specific question about a specific passage of the Bible and a specific portion of the Constitution. I don’t think you can answer that question other than out of very specific contexts.”
Meanwhile, Paul called Trump’s rise a “temporary loss of sanity” and suggested his surge is based on “empty talk.”
“I think there is a vein of anger that represents some of those thinking about Donald Trump,” Paul said on CNN from Davenport, Iowa, where he was practicing with the Quad Cities River Bandits, a minor league baseball team. “But I also think there is going to be a serious debate ultimately starting this week in the presidential debates about who has ideas that can fix the country.”