TIME 2016 Election

Fox News Sets Republican Debate Roster

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made the cut, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry did not

The final roster for the first Republican presidential debate is set.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich squeaked onstage as the final members of the field of 10, Fox News announced Tuesday afternoon, while former Texas Gov. Rick Perry narrowly missed the cut and will be relegated to an undercard forum.

Businessman Donald Trump will hold center stage at the inaugural GOP 2016 debate Thursday in Cleveland, Fox said, flanked by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The network, which established the criteria for invitation, averaged the five most recent national polls of Republican primary voters to determine which 10 candidates would make the 9 p.m. main debate stage. The second tier will participate in an earlier forum at 5 p.m.

Rounding out the top 10 are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and Kasich.

Missing the cut is a blow for Perry, who has seen his support slip in recent surveys. Candidates on the bubble have spent much of the past two weeks on Fox News and other national outlets in an effort to boost their chances of making the debate.

The debate selection criteria has drawn criticism from those left off the stage, like former Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as political scientists and pollsters who argue that averaging national polls without considering their margins of error is flawed.

Fox lowered the threshold for entrance to the first forum last week, from candidates polling at 1% in national polls to all those whose names are consistently offered on primary surveys. The change ensured that Graham, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would be onstage for the secondary forum.

TIME Debates

Republican Bosses Show Muscle at Bloodless Presidential Forum in New Hampshire

Eleven of the declared 2016 Republican U.S. presidential candidates pose together on stage before the start of the the Voters First Presidential Forum in Manchester
Brian Snyder—Reuters Eleven of the declared 2016 Republican U.S. presidential candidates pose together on stage before the start of the the Voters First Presidential Forum in Manchester, New Hampshire, August 3, 2015.

No news is good news at this point for the GOP

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus set about reforming the debating process for the GOP nomination more than two years ago. His goal: to prevent a repeat of 2012’s 23 debates—which promoted party infighting and left its ultimate standard-bearer battered. “Our debates will be good for our candidates and for voters—not a field day for the media,” Priebus told members of the Republican National Committee last year in Chicago.

Monday’s “Voters First” forum in New Hampshire is the clearest indication that Priebus has largely succeeded in that goal thus-far—at least as far as candidates are concerned.

The bloodless two-hour event featured two-rounds of questioning of the candidates, almost entirely geared to each candidates’ strengths and stump-speeches. Lindsey Graham got foreign policy questions, just as Rick Perry was asked about immigration and John Kasich got questions no the budget. There was little interaction between candidates, other than the occasional shout-out that someone was their “friend.” Voters tuning in—and there were few, as it was only broadcast on C-SPAN and local television in a few early voting states—would have heard little new. Searching for scraps, the most news to be found were a pair of candidates (Kasich and Rubio) avoiding using the terms “path to citizenship” in their answers on immigration reform, an uneven and awkward answer by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush about his brother and father, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie jostling with the moderator about being “washed-up” as a candidate.

Squeezing 14 candidates in such a small time frame left the forum feeling like watching televised speed dating, in which candidates practiced their well-honed pick-up lines. While each had their turn in the hot-seat, the rest of the assembled field watched from the front row of the theater chairs at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Making the setting more awkward, Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, and Sen. Ted Cruz all participated remotely from Washington due to votes on the Senate floor.

The most contentious questions came to Paul over his foreign policy and domestic surveillance positions—not as softball as the rest, but beliefs he is well practiced in defending.

Indeed, the forum was virtually indistinguishable from every other candidate cattle-call over the last 18 months, other than the fact it took speeches were usually given over two or three days and condensed them into two hours. But the bland spectacle was nonetheless a win for the Republican Party, which hopes to focus the nation’s attention on the first official Republican debate in Cleaveland on Thursday, which will be hosted by Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace

Thursday night will be different, not least because Donald Trump will be on stage, and the candidates will be able to interact with each other, cutting off or criticizing their rivals as they go. The New York real estate mogul skipped the event Monday in protest of critical editorials in the New Hampshire Union Leader, the principal organizer.

Trump, the leader in the national polls determining who qualifies, will be center-stage, flanked by Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and seven other candidates whose oxygen Trump’s rise has largely stolen. Many are out for blood, hoping that in attacking Trump they can boost their own political fortunes. Before the debate, the six candidates who did not break the top-10 in the polls will participate in an undercard debate, which is likely to be as heated, as those candidates vie for a piece of the spotlight from backstage.

It remains to be seen whether Priebus’ plan to keep the debates from damaging the eventual nominee pans out, but so far he has at least managed to tame the never-ending series of forums and at least contained the televised contests to a more manageable number.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: Aug. 4

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

More than two years ago, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus set about reforming the debating process for the GOP nomination to prevent a repeat of 2012’s 23 debates—which promoted party infighting and left its ultimate standard-bearer battered. Last night’s “Voters First” forum in New Hampshire is the clearest indication that Priebus has largely succeeded in that goal thus-far. The bloodless two-hour event featured two-rounds of questioning of the candidates, almost entirely geared to each candidates’ strengths and stump speeches. (Lindsey Graham got foreign policy questions, Rick Perry: immigration, John Kasich: budget, and so on…) Squeezing 14 candidates in such a small time-frame left the forum feeling like watching televised speed-dating, in which candidates practiced their well-honed pick-up lines. The most contentious questions came to Sen. Rand Paul over his foreign policy and domestic surveillance positions—not as softball as the rest, but beliefs he is well-practiced in defending. All in all, the forum was virtually indistinguishable from every other candidate cattle-call over the last 18 months, other than the fact it took speeches were usually given over two or three days and condensed them into two hours.

Thursday night will be different, not least because Donald Trump will be on stage. Fox New will make the final determinations for entry at 5 p.m. today, but the latest polling indicates that the roster of candidates filling the top 10 spots in national polling (and thus eligible for the debate) looks like this: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. The rest of the field will participate in an undercard forum a few hours before the 9 p.m. Tuesday main event.

Elsewhere in politics, President Obama will meet with American Jewish leaders Tuesday to defend his Iran nuclear deal. And Hillary Clinton will be in Denver participating in what her campaign calls a grassroots event.

Here are your must-reads:

Republicans Brace for Biggest Week Yet in Presidential Race
TIME’s Sam Frizell previews a pivotal week in the contest

Unhappy Voters Shake Up Presidential Race
Anti-establishment candidates find an eager following [Wall Street Journal]

Republican Effort to Strip Planned Parenthood Funding Stalls in Senate
Democrats block procedural motion in mostly partisan vote [Washington Post]

Move to Fight Obama’s Climate Plan Started Early
GOP has been plotting response for months [New York Times]

Sound Off

“I’ve heard this question before…” — Texas Gov. Rick Perry cutting off the moderator at the Voters First Forum when asked which government agencies he’d like to cut — a redo of his famous 2012 brain-freeze. Perry said he’d get rid of Obamacare, but this time didn’t list a single agency. Oops?

“Economic growth is not an end to itself…I think with economic growth comes a responsibility to help people who are living in the shadows. Our whole purpose is to give people a sense that the American Dream is still alive, and that we all can rise.” — Ohio Gov. John Kasich asked why he’s running took a thinly-veiled shot at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at the forum

Bits and Bites

Carly Fiorina Prepares to Miss the Cut for First Republican Debate [TIME]

NBA Investor Backed Scott Walker Super PAC Before Stadium Push [TIME]

How Data and Programmatic TV Will Dominate the 2016 Presidential Campaign [AdWeek]

Trump Counters Rivals With Reminders of Past Generosity: His [New York Times]

Scott Walker Given Fake $900m Check from Koch Brothers for ‘Climate Denial’ [The Guardian]

Cash-Strapped Rick Santorum Campaign Reshuffles Staff [Politico]

Parody Harvard Crimson Editorial Endorses Donald Trump [Boston Globe]

Here Are the Polls Fox News Will Use to Select the Candidates for the First GOP Debate [New York Magazine]

TIME Scott Walker

NBA Investor Backed Scott Walker Super PAC Before Stadium Push

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin and Republican U.S. 2016 presidential candidate, waves after speaking during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, July 18, 2015.
Daniel Acker—© Bloomberg Finance LP 2015 Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin and Republican U.S. 2016 presidential candidate, waves after speaking during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, July 18, 2015.

On the day before Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker launched a push this spring to spend $250 million in public funds on a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, the super PAC promoting Walker’s presidential campaign received a large check.

The May 27 donation to Unintimidated PAC, for $150,000, came from a limited liability corporation connected to Jon Hammes, a Milwaukee-area businessman and investor in the NBA franchise, as first reported by the Capital Times. Hammes has since signed on as a national finance co-chairman of Walker’s presidential campaign.

A Walker campaign aide noted the stadium deal, designed to keep the Bucks from bolting Milwaukee, had been brewing for months before the two-term governor announced his support for the latest proposal on May 28. The aide told TIME it was “a dangerous leap” to imply the decision to back the agreement was made for the benefit of an influential donor. Hammes has long been a supporter of Walker, donating more than $15,000 to Walker since 2005.

It’s not clear that the deal brought any political benefits for Walker’s presidential campaign. Free-market think tanks and powerful conservative organizations that have long been supporters of the governor denounced the use of public money to help finance a stadium for the team’s billionaire owners. Among them was the Wisconsin branch of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed group that played a significant role in Walker’s election victories.

If the Bucks owners gained from the agreement, Hammes was not the only—or even the primary—beneficiary. One of the club’s majority owners, financier Marc Lasry, is a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Others have also donated to Democratic candidates.

Walker has cast the arena deal as a way to protect taxpayers from the loss of current and future tax revenue that would ensue if the Bucks skipped town.

“This plan protects taxpayers from the loss of current and future tax revenue generated by the Bucks and visiting teams and supports a new arena without tax increases or state bonding,” Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for the governor, told TIME in June.

Unintimidated PAC, which like other super PACs is permitted to raise and spend unlimited sums in support of its favored candidate, is prohibited from coordinating with Walker’s campaign. While Walker was not yet a candidate at the time of the donation, his pre-campaign and super PAC had already established a so-called firewall preventing coordination in accordance with Federal Election Commission rules.

The Wisconsin legislature approved the arena deal last month in a pair of bipartisan votes.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: Aug. 3

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

President Obama is unveiling a new climate change plan to limit power plant emissions today that is already becoming the subject of controversy on the 2016 campaign trail. Hillary Clinton quickly endorsed the rule, as Republicans lined up to oppose it. In Dana Point, California, this weekend, five GOP presidential contenders gathered to pitch themselves to the Koch Brothers’ political network, including hundreds of well-heeled donors. And though he wasn’t invited, GOP front-runner Donald Trump still loomed large over the event, as candidates struggle with his rise in the polls.

In advance of this week’s GOP debate, 14 candidates will take questions tonight at a New Hampshire Union Leader Forum. A series of new polls released in the next 34 hours will determine who makes the cut in Cleveland on Thursday, as Republican candidates complete a blitz of Fox News and other nationwide media in hopes of getting their poll numbers up.

And amid reports he is now leaning toward running, aides said Vice President Joe Biden is still considering a 2016 bid. But a decision is not expected for more than a month and the VP has personally sent few signals either way about his intentions. Should he get in, he would instantly claim about 15 percent of the Democratic vote, according to recent polling, but his path to topple Clinton remains unknown.

Here are your must-reads:

Uninvited Donald Trump Crashes Koch Retreat in Spirit
His shadow looms large over donor retreat, TIME’s Philip Elliott reports

The Left’s Quest to Create Hundreds of Elizabeth Warrens
TIME’s Sam Frizell reports on progressives eyeing down-ticket races

As Joe Biden Resumes Official Work, So Does Talk About a 2016 Run
No decisions yet [Los Angeles Times]

Obama’s New Climate-Change Regulations to Alter, Challenge Industry
Already a divisive 2016 issue [Wall Street Journal]

Sound Off

“If people don’t like it, that’s just tough luck.” — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on his record fundraising haul

“Quite a few members of this field have attacked Donald Trump. A lot of folks in the media have asked me ‘Ted Cruz, will you do the same?’ I have been glad to praise Donald Trump for speaking out boldly and brashly and for focusing on illegal immigration.” — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

Bits and Bites

Ted Cruz Says Climate-Change Fears Falsified by Scientists and Politicians [TIME]

Hillary Clinton Praises Mother in First TV Ads of 2016 [TIME]

Iowans to Chris Christie: Take It to Donald Trump [Des Moines Register]

Scott Walker Still Isn’t Sure If President Obama Is Christian [TIME]

Hillary Clinton Releases Eight Years of Tax Returns [TIME]

Jeb Bush’s Camp Sees an Upside to Donald Trump’s Surge in the G.O.P. [New York Times]

Doctor: Hillary Clinton In ‘Excellent’ Physical Condition [TIME]

Sen. Graham Moved Up in Air Force Reserve Ranks Despite Light Duties [Washington Post]

Bush Rolls Out Six-PointPplan to Address Border Security, Illegal Immigration [WMUR]

Obama Had a $3 Golf Bet with House Democrats. Guess Who Won. [Washington Post]

RNC Set to Vote on Anti-Gay Resolutions at Summer Meeting [Washington Blade]

John McCain in New Hampshire: ‘Lindsey Graham, He’s My Man!’ [Washington Post]

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Releases Eight Years of Tax Returns

Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls for an end to the Cuban trade embargo as she gives a policy speech at the Florida International University on July 31, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls for an end to the Cuban trade embargo as she gives a policy speech at the Florida International University on July 31, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

Since 2007, the Clintons have paid $43.8 million in federal taxes

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released eight years of tax returns Friday, as well as a complete listing of the millions she and her husband have received for paid speeches over the years.

Clinton’s release of her returns from 2007-2014 bring to 38 the number of years of publicly released tax returns by the Clintons over the course of four presidential campaigns, topping former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s previous record of 33 years set last month.

Since 2007, the Clintons have paid $43,885,310 in federal taxes, with an effective tax rate of 35.7 percent in 2014—roughly the same as Bush’s average of 36 percent.

The Clintons reported devoting more than 10 percent of their income to charity, outpacing Bush’s reported 3.1 percent average from 2007-2013.

Earlier this year, Clinton filed her personal financial disclosure revealing she and her husband earned more than $30 million in paid speeches since January 2014.

In a statement coinciding with the release, Clinton reiterated her call for comprehensive tax reform, including closing the carried interest loophole and passing the so-called Buffett Rule, which would set a minimum effective tax rate for the highest earners. Contrasting her plan with Republicans, Clinton repeated her call to raise the short-term capital gains tax rate for those in the highest income bracket.

“They want to give me another tax cut I don’t need instead of putting middle class families first,” Clinton said of Republicans. “Families like mine that reap rewards from our economy have a responsibility to pay our fair share. And it’s not just the right thing to do—it’s also good for growth.”

TIME Hillary Clinton

Doctor: Hillary Clinton In ‘Excellent’ Physical Condition

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can be seen wearing special glasses while testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on January 23, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can be seen wearing special glasses while testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on January 23, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

The letter has the most detail yet on her 2012 concussion

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is in “excellent physical condition,” her doctor said in a letter released Friday.

According to Dr. Lisa Bardack, her physician, Clinton, is in good health, currently diagnosed with only hypothyroidism and seasonal pollen allergies. The letter is the first of its kind to be released in the 2016 cycle, and comes as Clinton, 67, has come under scrutiny from some Republicans for her age and questions about her health stemming from a 2012 incident in which she suffered from a blood clot and concussion.

Bardack’s letter provides the most detailed accounting of the 2012 episode, which came as Clinton was set to testify before Congress on the 2012 Benghazi attacks shortly before leaving office.

According to Bardack, Clinton fainted after becoming dehydrated from a stomach virus and suffered a concussion during the fall. During subsequent evaluations, Bardack said, Clinton was diagnosed with a “transverse sinus venous thrombosis,” a type of blood clot in the brain, and was given anticoagulants to dissolve the clot. After the concussion, Clinton experienced double-vision and wore glasses with a Fresnel Prism.

“Her concussion symptoms, including the double vision, resolved within two months and she discontinued the use of the prism,” Bardack wrote. “She had follow-up testing in 2013, which revealed complete resolution of the effects of the concussion as well as total dissolution of the thrombosis. Mrs. Clinton also tested negative for all clotting disorders.”

Clinton also suffered from deep vein thrombosis in 1998 and 2009, according to Bardack, as well as an elbow fracture in 2009, and takes Armour Thyoid and Coumadin daily.

“She does not smoke and drinks alcohol occasionally,” Bardack wrote. “She does not use illicit drugs or tobacco products. She eats a diet rich in lean protein, vegetables and fruits. She exercises regularly, including yoga, swimming, walking and weight training.”

Clinton’s last physical was March 21, 2015, and she is up to date on routine screenings, her doctor added.

“In summary, Mrs. Clinton is a healthy female with hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, on longterm anticoagulation,” Bardack concludes. “She participates in a healthy lifestyle and has had a full medical evaluation, which reveals no evidence of additional medical issues or cardiovascular disease. Her cancer screening evaluations are all negative. She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States.”

The full letter is below:

TIME

Morning Must Reads: July 31

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Republican candidates and their aides are locked in preparations for next week’s inaugural debate, but one thing they can’t control for is Donald Trump, whose presence is likely to dominate a substantial part of the debate. Strategies range from direct engagement and mockery to trying to fly under the radar, and are largely dependent on what Trump’s rivals need to accomplish, or not, next week.

In a preview of one potential general election matchup, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will share the same stage Friday at the National Urban League conference as they each seek to win over black voters. After turning out at record rates for President Obama‘s campaigns, black voters are very much in the mix this time around. Clinton is looking to maintain the Obama coalition, as Bush is hoping to shave off just a few percent in hopes they will boost him to victory.

Bush will use his remarks to highlight his education reform efforts in Florida, as well call for economic growth in urban centers and reforms for the nation’s safety net programs. He will likely also address the ongoing national debate over mistrust between police and the communities they serve. Clinton, after early missteps, has embraced the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which will be key a component of her remarks.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

Republicans Debate the Best Way to Debate Donald Trump
TIME goes inside the strategic dilemma the rest of the GOP is facing

Koch Brothers Brave Spotlight to Try to Alter Their Image
The billionaire mega-donors show off their softer side [New York Times]

Congress Takes Off for the Summer, Setting Up an Autumn Showdown
Another shutdown? [Washington Post]

For Young Voters, Crushing Student Debt Is Front And Center
The issue is taking center-stage in New Hampshire as candidates try to adjust [NPR]

Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush to Share Stage at National Urban League
An effort to re-assemble or break the Obama coalition [CNN]

Sound Off

“I think it is regrettable that Republicans are once again trying to undermine, even end those services that so many women have needed and taken advantage of. I think that it’s another effort by the Republicans to try to limit the health care options of women and we should not let them succeed once again.” — Hillary Clinton criticizing GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of several controversial videos

“I think I would get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so.” — Donald Trump

Bits and Bites

Obama Rallies Grassroots to Get ‘Active’ in Iran Deal Organizing [TIME]

Clinton Campaign Complains of’ ‘Egregious’ New York Times Reporting Errors [Politico]

Here’s What the Bernie Sanders Cocktail Tastes Like [TIME]

With Debate and Convention, G.O.P. Looks to Reclaim Ohio in 2016 [New York Times]

Elizabeth Warren Wants You to Run For Office [TIME]

Slide Back in Time with the GOP Candidates [ABC]

Clinton Campaign Donors Also Big Backers of Foundation [Wall Street Journal]

Activists Release Fourth Planned Parenthood Video [TIME]

Sen. Schumer in Tight Spot on Iran Pact [Wall Street Journal]

No, Donald Trump Can’t Land his Helicopter at the Iowa State Fair [Des Moines Register]

Hillary Clinton Delivers ‘Cautious’ Message on Trade to AFL-CIO [Wall Street Journal]

TIME 2016 Election

Republicans Debate the Best Way to Debate Donald Trump

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Visits His Scottish Golf Course
Jeff J Mitchell—Getty Images Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump visits his Scottish golf course Turnberry on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland.

"You can show that not only the emperor has no clothes—the candidate has no answers."

In windowless conference rooms and in the back seats of SUVs rumbling through Iowa and New Hampshire, Republicans hoping to become President have been memorizing talking points, practicing witty rejoinders and perfecting faux outrage in preparation for next Thursday’s debate in Cleveland.

But these practice sessions have inevitably been getting stuck on the same question: How can anyone debate with Donald Trump, the loud-mouthed billionaire who is atop polls of Republicans? Should he be treated as an inconsistent conservative who once backed abortion rights? Cast as an anti-immigrant firebrand who continues to alienate the fast-growing bloc of Hispanic voters? Or is the proper play to simply get out of the way as he panders to his base of frustrated, middle-class voters and hope one of the eight other people do the dirty work of deflating his sky-high poll numbers?

Interviews with campaign strategists, debate coaches and political consultants reveal that there is no single answer, and several different strategies that depend on whether the candidate is likely to be among Trump’s first targets on that televised stage. Begrudgingly, Trump’s rivals recognize they cannot continue to shrug him off. They’re going to have to treat him like a real candidate in Cleveland.

For some candidates, going after Trump has been seen as good politics. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have made the most of being anti-Trump, hoping to steal a share of his limelight in order to boost themselves onto the debate stage. (Not even a viral video responding to Trump is likely to lift Graham’s numbers sufficiently to earn him a podium on the main debate stage.)

Still others will be content to sit back and let others hammer their top rival for them. Their primary concern is to avoid Trump’s barbs that might do damage to their own campaigns. After all, taking on Trump seldom is a bloodless affair. “They will avoid getting hit by the shrapnel since nothing good can come of that engagement,” said one former senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign.

For Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, his silence, if not continued generosity towards Trump, will be less a matter of expediency than political necessity. He is betting that when Trump flames out, his supporters—many of them one-time Cruz backers—remember that he was never a vocal critic of their hero.

The unknown here, of course, is which version of Trump shows up that night. Some foresee the worst. “Imagine a NASCAR driver mentally preparing for a race knowing one of the drivers will be drunk,” tweeted John Weaver, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s strategist. “That’s what prepping for this debate is like.”

Will Trump be on his best behavior, or will he ignore the rules and time limits? Will he come briefed on policy or packing the rhetoric of a reality star that he is? Will any of it matter to voters who have been drawn to his political neophyte status?

“I think he will be more respectful that people expect,” predicts Sen. Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican who has helped presidential candidates prepare for debates since 2000. “He will try to counter the stereotypes. He should appear presidential and talk about policy and be respectful.”

Trump himself has been in preparing for the debate recently with some of his closest advisers before departing for Scotland late Wednesday for the Women’s British Open. An aide said the focus has been on condensing answers for the debate time-limits and reviewing potential attacks on his rivals.

Veteran debate adviser Brett O’Donnell, who is working with Graham, says it is a mistake for candidates to alter their strategy to engage Trump. Instead, the debaters need to have a plan in place and do their best to ignore Trump and his side-show theatrics.

“You don’t want to go in there reacting to what Trump does,” said O’Donnell, who has coached John McCain, Michele Bachmann and Romney for debates. “You have to have a message for the debate and you also have to make sure that you can create moments when you capture attention.”

Even one of the figures tasked with managing the already chaotic, 10-person debate says it could quickly go off the rails with the added phenomenon of Trump. In interviews, Trump often talks over his questioners, interrupts their queries and mocks their approaches. There’s no guarantees Trump will not completely ignore the moderators’ attempts to move on to another candidate. “I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I have woken up in cold sweats wondering how I’m going to deal with a Donald Trump who’s not listening,” debate co-moderator Bret Baier told TIME earlier this month.

For some of the lesser-known candidates, the debate will be their first shot at introducing themselves to voters. In that context, the smart candidate will make every chance to speak an opportunity to highlight a signature issue. For instance, Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign is rooted in the promises of liberty. Every answer, thus, should have a theme of liberty — regardless of the question, debate coaches say.

“Whatever it is, bring it back to that,” said Portman, who is not working yet with any candidates and plans to watch the Cleveland debate with supporters three hours south in Columbus. “I don’t have a role to play in this,” he says with more than a measure of relief.

And, if all else fails, a quick joke or quick rejoinder can elevate an also-ran to frequently played soundbite. “With this many people and Donald Trump in the mix, a premium will be placed on one-liners and humor,” Portman said.

If that doesn’t work, there’s always Trump’s record and proposals. The debate will be his first true test if he can master specifics. To this point, he has waved off detailed questions and responded with broad strokes of rhetoric. “We’re going to see what we’re going to see,” Trump told an interviewer last weekend when asked how he would deal with immigrants in the country illegally.

He won’t have the luxury of turning to vagaries at the debate if his rivals press him. “It comes down to specifics,” said Doug Heye, a veteran Republican strategist who has been critical of Trump’s rise. “If you allow him an open-ended question to where he can go back to name-calling and cell-phone talking and insults, then you can’t win. But if you drill down on specifics, you can.”

For instance, if Trump brings up the Veterans Administration, someone should press him, in Heye’s estimation: “Hey, Donald, which committee has jurisdiction over that?”

“It’s drilling down and getting into specifics of policy,” Heye said. “You can show that not only the emperor has no clothes—the candidate has no answers.”

Still, some Republicans grumble, Trump has already taken up so much oxygen in the political space. “The person who is benefiting from all of this Trump business is Hillary Clinton. The person who can refocus the debate on Hillary is the person who wins,” O’Donnell said.

Adds Heye: “Three weeks ago, Marco Rubio gave a really good education speech and no one heard. Rick Perry gave a speech about race and no one heard it.” That, he adds, needs to change if anyone is going to be ready to face Clinton in November 2016.

Read next: Here’s What Mark Cuban Has to Say About Running For VP on a Donald Trump Ticket

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TIME

Morning Must Reads: July 30

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

The GOP top-tier is not firmly established going into the first debate. At the top is Donald Trump, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush. Then things get complicated — real complicated. Nine candidates are in a statistical tie in the latest Quinnipiac University Poll for 4th-12th place, making next week’s winnowing of the field to 10 candidates on the first debate state essentially arbitrary if coming polls produce similar results. With 17 GOP candidates declared—former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore entered the race Wednesday—there is unlikely to be a statistically significant polling difference between the person occupying the 10th spot on stage and the 11th person left off it.

Hillary Clinton‘s use of a private email server that allegedly contained classified information opens up a legal can of worms for the former Secretary of State if investigators determine that she knew the information was classified. The controversy is already leading to a major hit to her national poll numbers, as Bush and Walker now poll even with Clinton in hypothetical general election match-ups. Clinton’s favorability and trustworthiness ratings are also at new lows.

Elsewhere in politics, Rick Perry has an unusual challenge for Donald Trump, and Ben Carson‘s surgeon’s hands breeze through a game of “Operation.”

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

Donald Trump Dominates in New National Republican Poll
Nine candidates in a statistical tie for 4th place [TIME]

Facebook Expands in Politics, and Campaigns Find Much to Like
The new advertising “monster” [New York Times]

Clinton’s Planned Parenthood ties run deep
Videos are “disturbing,” she says, but Clinton has long been a supporter [Politico]

The Legal Question Over Hillary Clinton’s Secret Emails
Her exposure depends on what she knew, TIME’s Massimo Calabresi writes

Koch Network Takes Cue from Obama Playbook
A 1,000-strong ground game more than a year from Election Day [Washington Post]

UBS Deal Shows Clinton’s Complicated Ties [Wall Street Journal]
Donations to family foundation increased after secretary of state’s involvement in tax case

Sound Off

“Let’s get a pull-up bar out there and see who can do more pull-ups.” — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenges Donald Trump

“She wanted to breast pump in front of me and I may have said that’s disgusting, I may have said something else. I thought it was terrible. She’s a vicious, horrible person.” — Donald Trump on lawyer Elizabeth Beck, with whom he allegedly clashed with over breastfeeding

Bits and Bites

Hillary Clinton Losing Strength in New National Polling [TIME]

Facts in Clinton’s ‘Secret’ Emails Came From Five Intelligence Agencies [McClatchy]

The Trumpification of Congress [TIME]

How to Beat ‘Operation’ With Ben Carson [IJ Review]

Bernie Sanders Hosts Biggest Organizing Event of 2016 So Far [TIME]

Hillary Clinton to Call for Lifting Cuba Embargo [TIME]

James Gilmore, Ex-Virginia Governor, Files Papers to Run for President [New York Times]

Donald Trump Says His Past Politics Were Transactional [Wall Street Journal]

Judge Explodes Over Hillary Email Delays [Politico]

Planned Parenthood Website Hacked [CNN]

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