What Trump Needs to Do to Win Tonight's GOP Debate

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Donald Trump speaks at the First in the Nation Leadership Summit on April 18, 2015.

Last night at a Westgate Resort & Casino rally in Las Vegas, GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump geared up his supporters for tonight's GOP debate.

"We have a big night tomorrow night," he told them. "It's gonna be good."

Trump and nine other Republican candidates will take to the mainstage this evening for the final GOP showdown of 2015.

Right now, Trump leads by his widest margin yet in the polls. He surged even farther ahead of the rest of the pack with 33% in the latest RealClearPolitics average (up 17% across all recent polls) released Monday evening. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came in at 16.1% (up 7% overall). An even bigger Trump number emerged from the latest Monmouth University poll, also released Monday. There, the real estate mogul is at the top with a whopping 41%, up 28% since mid-October. Next highest was Cruz at 14% (up four points since October).

While this is indeed an impressive gain for the real estate mogul, GOPers also have their eyes on Ted Cruz's recent poll bump. Cruz came in second place with 22%, according to a new national NBC News/Washington Post poll released Monday, up from 10% on Nov. 3. Trump came in first, however, at 30%.

Reacting to news of Cruz's gains, talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh proclaimed on Dec. 7 that if Cruz winds up winning in Iowa, "There are gonna be heart attacks and slit wrists in the Republican establishment and in the media."

Trump's vast lead - and the state of many Republican lives, apparently - teeters on tonight's debate. The real estate mogul will be pressured on his recent controversial proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

Here's what Trump needs to do to win tonight's GOP showdown......

What Trump Needs to Do to Win Tonight: The Following 5 Things...

1. Trump needs to "show up." "The Donald" has taken arguably the most aggressive stance on terrorism in recent weeks, as evidenced by his Muslim ban proposal. Trump's idea has been widely denounced by Republican and Democratic presidential candidates alike, many of whom lashed out at the candidate...

Former Florida Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush called Trump "unhinged." Ohio Gov. and presidential GOP rival John Kasich referred to Trump's idea as "more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath..."

2. Trump needs to remind rivals he can run as an independent. While Republican leaders roiled against the billionaire's Muslim ban proposal, Trump warned on Twitter that "A new poll indicates that 68% of my supporters would vote for me if I departed the GOP & ran as an independent." He also told NBC's "Today" show last Wednesday that if he doesn't "get treated fairly" by the GOP establishment, he "would certainly consider" a third-party run. Threats of an "independent" run from Trump seem to leave the Republican establishment shaking in its boots. New York Daily News reported that this past Saturday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seemed fearful of criticizing Trump too much. While Priebus claimed he "didn't agree" with the idea of banning Muslims, he followed that up quickly by saying, "That's as far as I'm going to go."

What Trump needs to do to win
Political strategists, New York Daily News went on to explain, are scrambling to keep Trump from damaging the GOP brand. Though many doubt the billionaire will ultimately run as an independent, they see his threat as a strategic - he forces fellow party members to play nice and let him write the rulebook...

3. Trump needs to be himself. While there's one school of thought, reported CNN earlier today, that Trump should "play it safe" at the debate to maintain his front-runner status, we all saw what a "quiet Trump" looked like in the last debate. He couldn't get a word in edgewise when it came to the heavily Republican theme of "flat taxes." FOX News wondered mid-fourth debate, "What happened to Donald?" - pointing out that he wasn't his usual "bad-boy self." The next day, on Nov. 11, The Guardian wondered why Trump hadn't shown up for the showdown the night before at all.

So he better show up tonight - millions of as yet undecided viewers will be tuning in specifically to see "The Trump Show"...

4. Trump should prepare to be attacked. This might sound like a no brainer, but it's of extra importance tonight given that terrorism and national security are the expected themes. Trump will face a barrage of attacks from his rivals regarding his Muslim moratorium proposal. He will likely be asked to expand on the specifics of this plan, while rivals eagerly pounce on his responses.

5. Trump should go after Sen. Cruz. The Texas senator is now the billionaire's most threatening rival, so Trump should turn up the heat. That'll be interesting, considering the Republican front-runner has promised he'll only "go after" opponents who attack him first. Cruz has been very "polite" toward his rivals throughout the 2016 race, sidestepping pointed questions or outright refusing to mudsling. Last week, the media leaked some of Cruz's comments he made at a private fundraiser in which he questioned Trump's ability to lead the country.

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