The combative real estate mogul will take center stage at debate among the 10 top-polling candidates as he leads the 17 candidates vying to represent their party in the November 2016 election.
Trump has raised eyebrows and ire with attacks on his fellow candidates, accusing former Texas governor Rick Perry of wearing glasses to look smarter and belittling the war hero status of US senator John McCain of Arizona, the party’s 2008 presidential candidate and a prisoner during the Vietnam War.
Trump said he was not planning to go on the offensive.
“I don’t think I’m going to be throwing punches. I’m not looking to attack them,” he said.
Trump said he was attacked viciously by some of his rivals and that every attack he made was a “counter-punch.”
He will be joined tonight by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin governor. Scott Walker and seven other White House hopefuls who made the campaign’s first cut.
But it’s a disappointing situation for seven other Republicans including former technology executive Carly Fiorina and former Texas governor Rick Perry, who are relegated to a pre-debate forum and second-tier status in the party’s crowded field.
Fox News announced the 10 GOP candidates who will take part in the debate tonight in the crucial swing state of Ohio.
Beyond Trump, those selected among the top 10 — based on recent national polls — include Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Those who didn’t qualify for the first debate include Fiorina, the GOP’s only female presidential candidate, Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
The announcement concludes an anxiety-filled process for a Republican Party that worked aggressively to improve its debates ahead of the election season. Yet with the largest field of contenders in modern memory, organisers say something had to give to ensure the debate in Cleveland didn’t turn into a televised circus.
“We never ever envisioned we’d have 17 major candidates,” said Steve Duprey, New Hampshire’s representative to the Republican National Committee who helped craft the debate plan. “There’s no perfect solution.”
Republican officials worked closely with TV executives, although the networks have the final say about which candidates will be allowed on stage for their televised events.
Fox News is the host of tonight’s event, the first of six debates before primary voting begins in February.