Republican presidential contenders will square off Wednesday night in the second televised debate from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where the biggest ratings draw is likely to be a sideshow: Donald Trump vs. Carly Fiorina, who was the latest subject of one of Mr. Trump’s insults.
“This is going to be a defining moment in Carly’s career,” said Boris Feldman, a Silicon Valley lawyer and one of her supporters, in an interview with The New York Times.
“What’s selling tickets to this is the Trump-Carly card,” he said. “Trump has a thing about anybody questioning him, but especially a woman.”
Trump grabbed headlines recently when he was quoted criticizing Mrs. Fiorina’s face in an interview with Rolling Stone; Wednesday’s debate will put Trump face-to-face on live television with the former Hewlett Packard CEO.
“I’m not going to call her honey,” Trump said in an interview with the New York Times last week. But he added of Mrs. Fiorina: “Look, she’s only got 3 percent in the polls, so in order to get recognition, I think she’ll start hitting me. So I think she’s fair game.”
Meanwhile, Fiorina bragged that she is getting under Trump’s skin in the run-up to Wednesday.
"Donald Trump is an entertainer," she told reporters in Dover, N.H.. Leadership is not "about how big your office is, it's not about how big your airplane, your helicopter or your ego is," she added in another appearance.
“If I were her, I would have a little fun with Trump,” said former Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D) of Colorado told The New York Times. She suggested that Mrs. Fiorina cover her face with her hand and say, “I don’t want to upset or distract you, Donald, if my face really bothers you.”
The Trump campaign has not been sunk by multiple charges of sexism, misogyny, or racism. His national poll numbers have risen to rival Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Among Republicans competitors, early polling suggests that Trump has more support than Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio combined. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is in second.
Though eyes will likely be on Fiorina vs. Trump, all of the 11 GOP rivals invited to the CNN debate are preparing by sharpening their attacks on the reality TV star and real estate billionaire who has proven popular among Republican voters.