David Drucker of the Washington Examiner explores reasons why the other competitors for the Republican presidential nomination are largely avoiding head-to-head conflicts with front-runner Donald Trump.

Of the Republicans that still don’t take Donald Trump seriously, his opponents for the GOP nomination are the biggest offenders.

Their disregard for the celebrity businessman is evident in the soft treatment most Republican contenders give the presidential front-runner on the campaign trail; and is especially the reason why they avoid attacking him. Despite leading in most public opinion polls for months, Trump is viewed by most Republicans as the easiest candidate to beat, if they can just manage to survive the primary long enough for it to transform into a head-to-head matchup with the New Yorker.

“The best path to victory is to be the winner of the group around Trump and then take him down one-on-one,” said a Republican strategist who is active in the 2016 campaign. “He won’t have the ability to dodge or generalize; the contrast will be stark.”

Various theories have been proffered to explain why few Republicans have invested in, and prosecuted, a concerted strategy to take down Trump with first votes less than three weeks away. Weaker candidates attacked him earlier in the race and their numbers sank even further; they hope to court Trump’s loyal base whenever he falters and fear that attacking him would alienate those voters; they’re afraid of blowback from Trump, whose vicious rhetoric has proven effective.

There’s a little bit of truth to all of that.

But a major reason they’re laying off Trump, apparently giving him a free ride in Iowa and New Hampshire so close to the first two contests on the primary calendar, is because they all want to run against him.