Bush Aims to Debate on His Terms, After Poor Start

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -

Jeb Bush has a plan for the Republican presidential debate in Wisconsin on Tuesday night: Don’t treat it like, well, a debate.

While he acknowledges he’s “gotta get better” on the debate stage, he says he’s spending less time rehearsing and sees the prime-time forum as more of a moderated conversation than a real debate.

The once-presumed front-runner, now struggling in the race, remains conflicted about the purpose of the debate series but says he’s taking advice while trying to stay true to his serious self.

“Whatever you call it, it’s not a debate,” Bush told reporters in New Hampshire recently. “It’s a chance to be able to say what you think. And I’m going to take advantage of that.”

Bush is looking to recover during the debate in Milwaukee from what he, supporters and donors agree was a poor performance in Boulder, Colorado, on Oct. 28, when he hoped to break out with a show of aggressiveness but ended up looking awkward in a tangle with a nimbler rival, Marco Rubio.

Meanwhile, Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, one of the moderators for Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, says that while she wants to help viewers understand the differences between candidates, she’s not looking to start brawls.

The fourth GOP debate — and first since a CNBC session left candidates grumbling about the journalists asking questions — takes place Tuesday night in Milwaukee. Bartiromo, FBN’s Neil Cavuto and Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker will guide the two-hour discussion starting at 9:00 p.m. EDT.

The debate is designed to focus on economic issues, but Bartiromo said potential presidents must prove themselves adept at addressing a wide range of issues.