Donald Trump in the crosshairs at US Republican presidential debate

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
GOP Debate Preview: Is Trump Bulletproof?

Donald Trump may have a big target on his back at the second debate of Republican U.S. presidential candidates on Wednesday as his rivals seek to make up ground they have lost to the front-running billionaire with a flair for bomb-throwing rhetoric.

Many of the 11 candidates who will be at a prime-time debate (5 p.m. PDT/8 p.m. EDT) see a path for themselves to the Republican nomination for the November 2016 election, and any route they take will require getting out of the long shadow cast by Trump.

SEE MORE DEBATE COVERAGE AT AOL.COM

For that reason, the gathering at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, with the stage set up next to the retired Air Force One aircraft used by the late president, figures to be a more combative debate than the first one the Republicans had on Aug. 6 in Cleveland.

Trump had been in the lead in polls of Republican voters at the first debate and grabbed the headlines through a mixture of boastful promises and by ridiculing his rivals, many of whom turned in relatively passive performances.

This time Republicans have a greater incentive to take him on and try to raise doubts about him since Trump has built on his lead, with four months to go until Iowa on Feb. 1 holds the first nominating contest on the road to the November 2016 election.

Check out pictures from the first GOP debate:

27 PHOTOS
Main GOP Debate
See Gallery
Donald Trump in the crosshairs at US Republican presidential debate
Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the start of the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. From left are: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; real estate magnate Donald Trump; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump participates in the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland, as Scott Walker is seen at left.. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (L), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (C) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (R) participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks as Scott Walker and Donald Trump listen during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump (R) a nd Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz speaks during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christey participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker (R) speaks with opponent Ben Carson during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul speaks during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and John Kasich take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump (L) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (C), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (L), and real estate tycoon Donald Trump (R) participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush participate in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump (R) confers with Ohio Governor John Kasich (L) during a break in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Audience members are reflected in a window as Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and John Kasich participate in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The latest Reuters-Ipsos opinion poll has Trump leading among Republican voters with 32.2 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was at 15.8 percent, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at 9 percent and the rest of the field below 6 percent.

Trump has dismissed the possibility of being attacked at the debate.

"I hear they are going after me. Whatever. Whatever," Trump said at a lively campaign rally in Dallas on Monday.

The debate is being staged by CNN with correspondents Jake Tapper and Dana Bash posing questions, along with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

It was Hewitt who trumped Trump earlier this month. During an interview with the New York businessman, Hewitt gave Trump what amounted to a pop quiz about Islamic militants and other Middle Eastern figures. Trump did not fare well in answering.

The face-off will be the first time Trump has been on stage with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who made it to the prime-time stage by starring at an undercard event in Cleveland.

Carly Fiorina sounds off on Donald Trump:

'Mr. Trump's Going to Be Hearing Quite a Lot from Me': Fiorina

Trump last week was quoted by Rolling Stone magazine as saying of Fiorina: "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?" He later said he was talking about her "persona."

Fiorina has turned the attack into a vehicle for raising campaign dollars. "Don't you agree that in a presidential campaign, issues matter? Not personal appearance," said a Fiorina fund-raising appeal.

WATCH: Carly Fiorina opens up on an issues she's faced campaigning

'I Do Not Play the Gender Card': Fiorina

In a sign of how fluid the Republican race is, a CBS News/New York Times poll said 63 percent of Republican voters had not yet made a final choice on who they would support in the race.

Bush, the Republican establishment candidate once considered a heavy favorite for the nomination, has made clear that if given the chance he will raise questions about Trump's past support of Democratic positions like higher taxes.

At the prime-time debate will be Trump, Carson, Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Fiorina.

Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham will participate in an undercard debate at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT).

For more on the 2016 presidential race, see the Reuters blog, "Tales from the Trail."

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


More on AOL.com:
5 cities in running to host 2024 Olympic Games
Jimmy Carter says he's received 2nd cancer drug treatment
Motive elusive in Mississippi double shooting

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners