If there’s one thing that’s clear ahead of Wednesday night’s Republican primary debate in Colorado, it’s that the media are gunning for a fight between the two leading GOP candidates.
That was evident from the moment one of those candidates, Ben Carson, entered the press filing room Wednesday afternoon. A scrum of reporters gathered around as the soft-spoken retired neurosurgeon gave brief answers to several questions. Most of them were about his rival Donald Trump, whom Carson overtook in a handful of Iowa polls as well as one recent national poll.
Would Carson be engaging with Trump directly on stage? (Perhaps.) Did he expect for Trump to raise questions Carson’s faith again, as the Donald did last week in Iowa? (He didn’t know.) Are Trump’s attacks on his faith fair game? (Sure.) Should Trump apologize for dismissing Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism? (“I never really asked for an apology,” he said.) Could we expect the debate to quickly devolve into a fistfight between Carson and Trump? (Just kidding about that one. Mostly.)
Carson was simply echoing what he said earlier this week on Fox News. When asked about the growing rivalry on Sunday, Carson said he would not “get into the mud pit” with the Donald. “I'm certainly not going to get into that, no matter what anybody says,” he said.
Trump himself is more than partly to blame for the talk of a Carson-Trump faceoff, telling MSNBC this week that he was surprised at Carson’s rise but that he will “go after” him in the coming days.
But it was clear the press in Boulder is itching for a fight as much as Trump is. For his part, Carson looked calm Wednesday afternoon, calmer than you might expect for a guy just a few hours away from a nationally televised debate. He took on questions as varied as the debt ceiling—he reiterated he’s not for raising it when there are spending cuts to be made—and his opinion on evolution.
“I believe in microevolution,” Carson said.