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Third GOP debate finds Donald Trump in rare spot — trailing

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — During the first two debates, Donald Trump held the lead in the CBS News/New York Times poll. In the latest poll, Trump was trailing Ben Carson.

Trump has stepped up his criticism of Carson recently and many political experts believed he will ramp that up during Wednesday night’s debate.

Valley political expert Stan Barnes said Trump needed to measure his words carefully because Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, was hard to attack because of his style, personality and intelligence.

“If Donald Trump is going to attack Carson he will have to do it artfully and in a way that doesn’t offend everybody. However Trump has proven that some of the political laws of physics don’t apply to him. This is going to go down as one of those years where things were not normal. Having Carson and Trump in the lead is proof of that. This is a new dynamic. Who will risk looking like a bully on stage to the nicest and smartest man on that stage?”

Beyond the expected battle between Carson and Trump, local political analyst Chris Herstam said Jeb Bush needs to have a great debate because his campaign is in trouble.

Bush’s campaign fundraising was down, staff has been cut and Herstam said Bush has appeared lackluster in appearances.

“He needs to be very strong in the debate to send the message that his campaign is not collapsing,” Herstam said.

KTAR political expert Mike O’Neil said expectations were high for Bush months ago when he was the frontrunner but now?

“… Every campaign in recent memory the Republican party has had a certain insurgency from the right and then in the end they go with the establishment guy and Bush is clearly that guy. But everything about this year looks like that pattern will not be replicated.”

As for Carson, Herstam said, “People will want to know where he really stands on the issues. I think you will see tougher questioning of Carson and it will be interesting to see how he reacts.”

The debate, hosted by CNBC, begins at 5 p.m. Arizona time with the so-called undercard.

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