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Candidates scarce in lead-up to GOP debate

Simi Valley, Calif. - News media from around the world and voters from around the country converged on the Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday's Republican presidential debate. But there wasn't a candidate to be seen.

Most of the 16 Republican hopefuls spent Tuesday huddled with advisers and data crunchers to prepare for the second presidential debate, one that is expected to winnow the field. Front-runner Donald Trump, being Trump, didn't follow the usual practice on the day before a major debate. He held a big rally with veterans at the USS Iowa, drawing lots of media that had no other major events from his challengers to cover.

"Every candidate is different," said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist from New York who was a top aide in the 2012 campaign of Republican nominee Mitt Romney. "Some candidates spent the last 24-hour window locking down some of the facts and figures related to policy issues they expect to come up during the debate.

"Others like to focus on how to best present a big-picture rationale for their candidacy, plotting out who they want to post up against or how to shift some debate topics to their advantage," said Madden, who isn't working for a candidate now but who is attending the debate at the Reagan Library.

Staffers are working reporters, trying to lower expectations for their own guy so they might shine brighter, while whispering about their opponents.

Again, Trump isn't following the norm.

"Nobody is going to be able to do the job that I am going to do," he told to another large, cheering rally Monday night.

Trump's closest challenger, Dr. Ben Carson, made it clear he will be among those gunning for Trump, even if Carson didn't use Trump's name. In late interviews Monday night, Carson said he doesn't need bombast to make his point and that wouldn't be true to his nature.

Carson, an author and retired neurosurgeon, was asked on "Face the Nation" Sunday if Trump is humble enough to be president.

"That will be a decision that the voters will make," Carson said.

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