Alternate headline: “Blogger loses all interest in Thursday’s GOP debate.”

I’m less interested in watching Trump throw punches than seeing who’ll throw the first punch at him. Most people would say “Perry,” but Perry’s fallen out of the top 10 in polling thanks to the announcement bounce that Kasich got. Unless something changes in the next 24 hours he’ll be relegated to the JV debate at 5 p.m. Who picks a fight with Trump in the main event, then? Jeb doesn’t need to do it to get noticed. Rubio, maybe? Paul?

“I’m not a debater. These politicians — I always say, they’re all talk, no action. They debate all the time. … We’ll see what happens. Who knows?” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week.” He added: “I don’t think I’m going to be throwing punches. I’m not looking to attack them.”

When asked about criticisms he has leveled at competitors, Trump said he had made his comments as a “counterpunch.”

“I think I’m a nice person, I really do,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I’d like to discuss the issues. I’m not looking to take anybody out or be nasty to anybody.”

When he says he doesn’t intend to throw any punches, I think he means it in a “I don’t start fights, I finish them” sort of way. If he gets attacked first, he’ll swing back. But of course, that’s BS: He’s going to swing at Jeb no matter what. Which makes the Bush people very, very happy.

“The longer [Trumpmania] goes, the greater the panic is going to build,” said Alex Castellanos, a longtime Republican strategist. “And that means you may not have the luxury to flirt with an undeveloped, budding candidate. Trump has set the Republican Party on fire, and if you’re going to put that fire out you don’t have time to waste. You’re going to have to grab the biggest blanket you got and throw it, and right now that’s Jeb.”…

Privately, Mr. Bush’s top strategists, who have become increasingly fixated on halting Mr. Walker, believe that Mr. Trump is nothing short of a godsend. That is because Mr. Trump is drawing support from voters — blue-collar, less-educated, more conservative — who are unlikely ever to support Mr. Bush but are essential to Mr. Walker’s candidacy.

What complicates matters for Mr. Walker, and any of the other Republicans vying for that restive conservative base, is that they will have difficulty matching the bluster or promises of Mr. Trump because he does not operate within the conventional boundaries of political discourse.

If you criticize Trump on Twitter, one of his fans will instantly fire back that you’re in the tank for Jeb. What other reason could there be to object to the Donald? Meanwhile, he’s singlehandedly clearing the field of alternatives to Bush 3.0. (Just as he’d clear the field for Hillary if he ends up running as an independent.) In fact, he’s doing such a nice job for Bush that I think Team Jeb has no choice but to go after him early at the debates to make sure their guy remains in Trump’s crosshairs. If Bush takes an above-it-all approach and tries to ignore Trump, that leaves one of his rivals with an opportunity to pick a fight with Trump instead. Imagine the fawning “Sistah Souljah” callbacks that’ll be written the day after if, say, Marco Rubio seizes the moment and calls out Trump for his “rapist” comment about Mexicans before Bush can. As much as the “serious” candidates would prefer to pretend Trump isn’t there, the prisoner’s-dilemma logic of the media coverage means they can’t.

The irony is, it would be clever if Trump were true to his word and didn’t end up scrapping with anyone at the debates. Everyone has the same expectation: He won’t prepare at all; he’ll spout a bunch of vague nonsense about his secret “terrific” ObamaCare replacement plan and how he’d make Putin cower on foreign power; he’ll call the rest of the field “losers” and end up insulting a few of them personally onstage; and the media will pronounce the whole thing a circus afterward, followed by a bunch of handwringing about what the RNC can do to keep Trump out of the second debate. Imagine if, instead, he surprised everyone by quietly preparing, refusing to take his opponents’ bait, and giving some substantive policy answers. Viewers would be pleasantly surprised and anyone onstage who took a shot at him would seem petty and diminished by comparison. It’s the smartest thing he could to make himself a semi-serious candidate this fall. But then, who wants to listen to Trump talk policy? And how could his policies possibly satisfy his fan base? He’s already gone “mushy” and “incoherent” on his signature issue of immigration. The mushier he gets, the more his supporters will bolt.

Via the Standard, here he is reminding populists everywhere that he was “very, very establishment” until, coincidentally enough, he decided to run.