Republicans told to target Hillary Clinton in debate

Donald Trump says Republicans unlikely to attack each other in party’s first official debate

The head of the Republican Party has said its presidential candidates are unlikely to attack each other in the party's first official debate but instead are focused on ousting Democrats from the White House.

Seventeen Republicans, led by outspoken billionaire Donald Trump, are seeking the party's presidential nomination. Only 10 will be on stage Thursday night in the first prime-time debate, which could offer a chance to break out of the pack.

"Ultimately, the real issue here is Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the fact that the country's really not in a good place right now," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said, citing the Democratic presidential front-runner and the president.

“That’s really . . . what the focus is. We’re not going to focus on each other,” he told NBC.


It was unclear from Mr Priebus’s comments whether the Republican National Committee had discussed debate plans with any of the candidates or their campaigns.

Mr Trump, a real estate mogul and television personality who has mocked one rival’s glasses and publicised another’s personal telephone number, said he does not want to go on the attack. “I’d rather just discuss the issues,” he told ABC. “If I’m attacked I have to, you know, do something back, but I’d like it to be very civil.”

Debate host Fox News limited participation to the top 10 candidates in the polls, leaving out contenders such as former Texas governor Rick Perry and former US senator Rick Santorum.

The Republican focus on Ms Clinton also comes amid a report that the FBI is investigating the security of the former secretary of state’s private email setup, adding to controversy about how she handled email as the nation’s top diplomat.

Recent polls

Mr Trump has vaulted over the Republican establishment in recent polls with a double-digit lead. The latest Reuters polling shows Mr Trump with support from nearly 30 per cent of respondents, followed by former Florida governor

Jeb Bush

with 12 per cent. Ten per cent of the 490 Republicans polled said they would not vote.

Asked about Mr Trump’s lead, Mr Priebus said the November 2016 presidential election was a long way off but acknowledged the billionaire businessman has tapped into public frustration with government and politics.

The two men have been at odds over Mr Trump’s comments that he could run as an independent, but Mr Priebus said that’s unlikely. “We just don’t see it,” he told NBC. “It’s early. I think Donald Trump knows it’s early.” – (Reuters)