Ben Carson, Marco Rubio under scrutiny heading into debate – CNN

And then there’s Donald Trump.

The colorful businessman — fresh off an appearance hosting “Saturday Night Live” — remains on top of most polls but is facing increasingly fierce competition from Carson.

Trump is poised to dominate the stage with his populist message and larger-than-life personality. He offered a preview of some of his potential lines of attack on Monday night.

During a rally in Springfield, Illinois, Trump blasted Carson’s efforts to prove the veracity of troublesome parts of his childhood.

“A lot of weird things are happening. This is a strange election, isn’t it? Man!” Trump said. “You stab somebody and the newspapers say you didn’t do it. And you say, ‘Yes, I did. I did it.’ ‘No, you didn’t.’ ‘Yes, I did! I stabbed him and it hit the belt!'”

READ: Is Marco Rubio’s Iowa operation strong enough to win?

Trump went on: “This is the only election in history where it’s better off if you stabbed somebody. What are we coming to?”

And Trump went after Rubio, calling him a “total lightweight” on Twitter.

The format of Tuesday night’s debate should benefit the candidates participating in the prime-time event. As a result of new criteria established by Fox Business, only eight GOP hopefuls qualified for the main debate, offering each of them more time to make the case for their candidacies.

Carson, Trump, Rubio and Bush will be joined by Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich and Rand Paul for a two-hour showdown beginning at 9 p.m.

Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee failed to qualify, and will instead take part in an earlier 7 p.m. “undercard” debate along with Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum.

Lindsey Graham and George Pataki did not qualify for either debate.


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