It's kinda hard to lay out your platform, when you have only so little time during the debates of ten people. As the pool gets smaller he'll have more time to outline his beliefs. Seeing how we as a nation voted for Bush and Obama twice, stranger things can happen.
Actually, the debates are not the place to roll out new policy or to introduce a platform. They're the place where in an ideal world you help to articulate your positions by responding to questions probing the weak points of your stated policies, while comparing and contrasting your own positions with those of your opponents in a favorable way.
The particular issue with Trump is that he's not really following the playbook in terms of putting forward well-thought out policy proposals. In short, he either hasn't done his homework or he's unwilling to show it to the rest of his class. Compare the campaign websites of Jeb Bush
, Marco Rubio
and Donald Trump
. I'm choosing Republicans here so as to remain, as much as possible, non-partisan in the comparison.
Rubio and Bush have stated positions and policies on a dozen issues each. They have detailed proposals for how they intend to alter the tax code, deal with national defense, handle entitlement spending, and other top issues. Trump has positions on exactly two issues: immigration and second amendment rights. The former has become his signature issue; the latter is simply pandering.
Now one might argue that Trump represents a new way of "doing politics", where the personal qualities of the candidate and other factors outweigh (almost said "trump" there) the more wonky side of things, where you have to come into the game with proof that you have thought about the major issues seriously and have a proposal for change that at least seems workable on the surface. Then you can debate the wisdom of these positions, argue over which ones would be good or bad for the country, and so on. Trump sidesteps this almost entirely, freely admitting that there are critical areas that he just hasn't gotten around to figuring out yet. This was very evident in the last debate, where he was hard-pressed to put together a cogent response on any issues of national security, the intended focus of the debate.
I think it's fair to say that any candidate for the highest office in the land ought to enter the race having expended serious thought, and of course consulting other advisors, on the top issues of the day. They ought to have a plan for how they would steer the ship, and that plan ought to be more sophisticated than just an automatic gainsaying of the incumbent's policies. I happen to think that Bush and Rubio's plans are fatally flawed, but at least they're out there. It seems pretty clear to me that Trump just isn't taking this seriously enough to be considered a strong candidate, no matter what the early polling numbers say.