Five Things to Look For in Tonight’s Republican Debate

By  | 

The second of what will be many Republican debates takes take place tonight at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Following the “happy hour” debate at 6 pm, the 11 leading candidates will take the stage at 8 pm to debate foreign policy, domestic issues, and politics. In light of Donald Trump and Ben Carson’s recent popularity, many of the candidates have their work cut out for them. Here are five things that we can look for tonight:

1. It’s all about Trump

This may be obvious and/or very upsetting, but it’s true and will shape the way the other candidates conduct themselves tonight. Not only did Donald Trump survive the last debate, he has continued to gain ground since then. While many of his competitors initially dismissed him and his rising poll numbers, they now perceive him as a legitimate threat–attack ads have been launched and lead Republican donors are getting annoyed. In the first debate, most candidates simply thought he would implode or embarrass himself. But now, we can expect to see Trump’s challengers confront him directly.

Jeb Bush will have a chance to challenge Trump’s “low energy” claim (he’ll be standing next to him tonight), and Carly Fiorina will also want to get her fair share of shots in after Trump made pretty offensive comments about her appearance.

While it’ll certainly be interesting to see who gets into it with Trump, it will also be interesting to see which non-Trump candidates start a feud. We saw a small spat between Chris Christie and Rand Paul in the Cleveland debate, but seeing as the format this time around is set to encourage the candidates to talk to each other, this is something to watch.

2. Look For Tough Questions

Jake Tapper, CNN’s Chief Washington Correspondent, will moderate the debate along with Dana Bash, the network’s Chief Political Correspondent, and well-regarded conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Going into the debate all three moderators have expressed their interest in finding areas where the candidates disagree. Tapper recently told the New York Times, “My goal is more about: Let’s draw the contrasts between the candidates, and have them fight it out over these policies.” Viewers should also look out for some challenging questions from Hewitt, who recently gained some recognition for tripping up Donald Trump with detailed foreign policy questions.

While the Fox News debate forced many of the candidates to address challenging topics, this time around the moderators may be able to narrow in on their positions and how they differ from the rest of the pack. CNN has historically run into trouble with controversial debate questions, but if the moderators seek to push the candidates to address each other they may manage to avoid a similar fate while also sparking some controversy. While the format may help foster these arguments, it is also important to note that trying to keep 11 presidential candidates in line is no easy task.

3. Watch for Current Events

In addition to the conventional debate topics: the economy, foreign policy, and mainstream social issues, we can expect the candidates and the moderators to address some more recent developments. The events that the candidates choose to address will likely say a lot about their positions and what they stand for. We can expect Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to be referenced by Mike Huckabee and possibly Ted Cruz to try and leverage support from the party’s conservative base. Planned Parenthood will likely come up as well, especially while Ted Cruz is working to shut down the government in order to get rid of the organization’s federal funding. This could pose some issues for some candidates who want to avoid a shutdown but don’t want to appear as if they favor Planned Parenthood. We’ll have to see whether any of the moderators will force the issue.

4. Trump May Actually Win

In light of all of this, it’s pretty clear that most of the candidates are going to confront Trump and try and knock him down a bit. But we also know that previous attempts haven’t really worked. In fact, the more people talk about Trump, even when criticizing him, the better he seems to do in the polls. The other candidates may now find themselves at a crossroads in terms of how to respond. They can either try and attack Trump or even gang up on him, but that generally keeps fueling his media attention. On the other hand, they could try and stick out in their own right to get noticed without including Trump, but that could also lead to the candidates embarrassing themselves (i.e. Chris Christie calling for FedEx to keep track of immigrants).

5. Get Ready for Reagan

The debate is taking place in Reagan’s Presidential Library and the candidates will be standing directly in front of the 40th president’s Air Force One. Being a Republican debate, Reagan was bound to come up several times regardless of its location, but we can expect the candidates to lay it on strong at this one. Be sure to watch out for the ways that Reagan’s legacy is used and misused tonight.

Kevin Rizzo
Kevin Rizzo is the Crime in America Editor at Law Street Media. An Ohio Native, the George Washington University graduate is a founding member of the company. Contact Kevin at krizzo@LawStreetMedia.com.



Send this to friend