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Prelude to the Third GOP Presidential Debate: Leaner, Probably Meaner and on the Money

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 20:59
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(Before It's News)

  Say “selfie”: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes a picture with supporters following a rally at West High School in Sioux City, Iowa on Tuesday. (Nati Harnik / AP Photo)

Much has transpired between the last Republican presidential debate and Wednesday night’s third installment of what The New York Times rightly called “the nation’s favorite reality TV show.”

GOP voters, or at least those responding to polls, may still be held in Donald Trump’s thrall, but there may also be stirrings of change in that department. Dr. Ben Carson maintains a good lead over establishment politicians like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and a handful of others who’ll also appear on CNBC’s debate stage at the Coors Events Center on campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, of course, won’t be joining, as he’s opted out of the 2016 race.

Politico has prepped a handy list of what viewers need to know as they get ready for Wednesday’s program, entitled “Your Money, Your Vote,” which the network agreed to whittle down to two hours at several candidates’ requests (always a good sign of a healthy news media):

Does this debate have a theme?

CNBC says the debate will pay particular attention to economic issues, including taxes, retirement spending, and job growth. CNBC also says tech policy will come up in the questioning.

Who will participate in the debate?

With the exception of Scott Walker, the main draw of candidates is identical to the previous debate that aired on CNN: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, and John Kasich.

As in the prior instance, a smaller spinoff group, this time consisting of Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, will debate at 6 p.m., two hours before the start of the bigger event. 

The Wall Street Journal, whose editors know from Republicans, chimed in on Tuesday with another preview to Wednesday’s show:

The stakes are high because, in a big field that has been slow to winnow, many back-of-the-pack candidates are looking for a break out moment, and the front-running candidates can take nothing for granted.

[...]Donald Trump

Faced with signs he is slipping from the front of the GOP pack, Mr. Trump is likely to come out swinging.  Watch how he treats retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has surpassed him in recent polls of Iowa Republicans. Having attacked Mr. Carson as “low energy” and wrong on immigration policy on the campaign trail, now Mr. Trump has to decide how bluntly to criticize him to his face. Mr. Trump has already accomplished one goal for the debate: He persuaded debate sponsor to CNBC to limit the event to two hours. He did not much like the three-hour marathon that was the last debate.

Ben Carson

Mr. Carson, who has jumped to first place in some Iowa polls and gained ground elsewhere, will be looking for a more prominent role in the debate to build on his momentum. His past performances have been solid but not attention-grabbing. His advisers have been coaching him on how to insert himself more into the debate without seeming too pushy. If Mr. Trump or other candidates choose to criticize him, he has to juggle the need to respond with his trademark calm demeanor — the characteristic that seems to be key to his attraction to voters.

The WSJ also noted that Carly Fiorina, who fared well in the second debate, could use a similar boost in this next go-round, but that might be tough given the topic. “She will surely have to have to defend her record leading Hewlett-Packard Co., where she oversaw the layoffs of 30,000 employees,” the paper added.

So that’s awkward. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald approached Wednesday’s face-off with a focus on one local candidate in particular in its own story, “Jeb Bush’s crucial debate.” Despite the Bush team’s recent claims that he’s just getting revved up, the Herald staff apparently begs to differ:

Jeb Bush knew the high political stakes he faced in the first two Republican presidential debates: Prove he could be the establishment favorite. Fend off Donald Trump. Survive both without making a serious mistake.

Not good enough.

Bush enters the third debate, which will be held Wednesday night in Boulder, Colorado, with more pressure on him than ever. He shook up his campaign operation last week, cutting salaries and budgets, to try to survive the tempestuous GOP primary. He spent two days in Houston this week, accompanied by his father and brother, reassuring shaky financial donors that his campaign is built for the long run.

He was even asked on Fox News last week what it would take for him to drop out.

Given that the Herald’s story proceeds to cast Jeb Bush as an “unremarkable debater,” it seems unlikely that he’s going to stage a big upset in Colorado on Wednesday, but as Hillary Clinton recently demonstrated, it can be unwise to write off dynastic politicians before their time is truly up.

Need a quick refresher on the second GOP debate? Here’s a highlight reel from The Huffington Post. Or check out the Guardian’s roundup of weirdness below:

—Posted by Kasia Anderson

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