SPOTLIGHT

Three Things to Watch at Tonight’s Debate

Crews prepare the venue for the Oct. 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, inside the Coors Events Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo. Republican presidential candidates taking the debate stage Wednesday in Colorado are hoping to carry momentum from a 2014 U.S. Senate victory in this toss-up state where independent voters outnumber the electorate from both major parties.
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
Oct. 28, 2015, 11:16 a.m.

The Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates are head­ing to Demo­crat­ic coun­try to­night for their third de­bate, which will be held in Boulder, CO. Here’s what we’ll be look­ing for dur­ing to­night’s two-hour event:

Does any­one at­tack an­oth­er can­did­ate in their “lane?” The GOP de­bates have sparked some mem­or­able con­front­a­tions so far: Don­ald Trump versus Jeb Bush or Carly Fior­ina, Chris Christie versus Rand Paul, and so on. But most of the spar­ring we’ve seen has been across dif­fer­ent wings of the GOP brack­et, not with­in them. Ted Cruz, for ex­ample, has been re­luct­ant to cri­ti­cize Trump for fear of ali­en­at­ing his sup­port­ers. But at the end of the day, the can­did­ates in the dif­fer­ent wings are in more dir­ect com­pet­i­tion with each oth­er for voters, and it may only be a mat­ter of time be­fore that com­pet­i­tion breaks in­to pub­lic view.

Does Fior­ina spark an­oth­er bump? The con­sensus win­ner of the last GOP de­bate has faded in the polls and the me­dia since then, but she has showed the abil­ity to take over a de­bate—one we haven’t seen from an­oth­er can­did­ate yet. Maybe she’s no longer fresh in voters’ minds, but an­oth­er strong de­bate could boost Fior­ina yet again. Mean­while, Ben Car­son’s soft-spoken per­form­ances have con­fused me­dia ob­serv­ers, but he has also got­ten big boosts after each of the first two de­bates.

Does Bush give his sup­port­ers something to latch onto? Bush’s big-money sup­port­ers have grown rest­less in the first month of fall, something you can spot in the grip­ing an­onym­ous quotes or in the Bush su­per PAC’s de­cision to start air­ing na­tion­al TV ads in ad­di­tion to ones fo­cused on early states—something strategist Mike Murphy had pre­vi­ously de­rided. Yet again, the de­bate of­fers him a chance to re­mind Re­pub­lic­ans why they once saw him as the un­dis­puted es­tab­lish­ment fron­trun­ner.

After this, it’s off to South Car­o­lina for the next Demo­crat­ic de­bate. But we’ve got the Col­or­ado GOP de­bate (not to men­tion some World Series base­ball) to keep an eye on first.
Scott Bland

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