The next Republican debate takes place this Wednesday, airing on CNBC. All the major candidates will be in attendance for the primetime event starting at 8pm ET (5pm PT), and the remaining will appear at 6pm ET (3pm PT) for the undercard debate. Given the recent changes in Iowa polling, where Ben Carson now leads by almost ten points over Donald Trump, what will this debate consist of?
Report from CNBC:
Big week for Republicans as the candidates take the stage Wednesday in Colorado for the first debate with Donald Trump not the absolutely unchallenged front-runner.
The GOP gathering, hosted by CNBC, comes as Trump has lost his lead in Iowa to Ben Carson and new questions have emerged about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s ability to make a move in the race.
Here’s a viewer’s guide [edited for brevity] to what each of the top-tier candidates needs to do Wednesday night as we enter the “still early … but not that early” phase of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump: The real estate billionaire has already gone on the offensive against Carson, raising questions about the retired neurosurgeon’s Seventh-day Adventist faith — while simultaneously denying doing so. He’s likely to keep up the attack on Wednesday, though probably skipping the religion stuff — very dicey territory — in favor of hitting Carson’s energy level and lack of business experience.
Carson: Can he translate his current strong showing in Iowa to other states? Pundits tend not to credit Carson’s low-key, soft-spoken style but it plays better with actual voters. And he shouldn’t really change it.
Marco Rubio: The senator from Florida performed strongly in the first two debates, helping move into a (quite distant) third behind Trump and Carson. He just needs to do it again with brisk, detailed policy answers while skipping jokes about his water consumption.
Bush: Supporters of the former Florida governor say they don’t expect big changes in his debate approach. Bush is not going to try to out-Trump Trump but rather stick to his line of standing up to the front-runner while focusing on his plans to deliver 4 percent economic growth and more widespread prosperity.
Ted Cruz: The senator from Texas is hanging around with Rubio and Bush in the mid-to-high single digits. But he has shepherded his resources well and has nearly $14 million in his campaign account. And Cruz has assiduously courted Trump supporters in ways other candidates have not, positioning himself to be a potentially big winner if the billionaire eventually fades and gets out of the race.
Carly Fiorina: The former HP CEO’s bounce from the last debate evaporated quickly. She is likely to be strong again but can expect Trump broadsides against her corporate record. Her talking points on HP and the Compaq acquisition better be razor-sharp once again.
Carson has played low-key in attacking his fellow candidates, a style that has suited him well. However, the question is whether he can keep playing the soft-spoken candidate in the face of attacks he’ll most certainly receive on Wednesday. He’s jumped to a sizable lead in Iowa, confirmed by a few separate polls, so he will become a target for Trump.
Rubio and Bush also have a lot to either lose or gain. For Rubio, he could continue rising, perhaps taking some of Carson’s support with a good debate performance. For Bush, it’s getting down to the wire. Another lackluster debate performance could spell serious trouble for his campaign moving forward.
Then there’s Ted Cruz, someone who’s been hovering at the same spot for months, waiting for the chance to take some of Trump’s supporters and breakout into the top-tier.
We’ll have live stream links on Wednesday and, of course, the full debate videos available after it airs if you miss it.