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5 Things to Watch for in Thursday’s Republican Debate

GOP Presidential Candidates Debate In Las VegasGOP Presidential Candidates Debate In Las Vegas
Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz at the CNN presidential debate in Las Vegas.Photograph by Ethan Miller — Getty Images

The GOP presidential candidates will gather in South Carolina on Thursday evening for their sixth debate, the second-to-last time voters will get to see the electoral hopefuls before voting begins in earnest with the Iowa caucuses. This is the first time in just under a month we’ve seen the Republican candidates gather, giving moderators and the candidates plenty of new fodder for discussion, insult, and intrigue. Here’s what you can expect to see on Thursday night.

There will be nowhere to hide

A culling of candidates from the main stage debate has resulted in Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul being demoted to the undercard debate. Paul won’t be showing up out of protest. With fewer candidates on stage, the seven that remain will have to talk more, and they will less time to hide while other people talk.

Trump vs. Cruz

Donald Trump has made waves in recent weeks pushing the idea that Ted Cruz might not be eligible for the presidency (he was born in Canada, but insists that because his mother was an American citizen he is a natural-born American.) Thus far, Cruz has resisted joining the herd of candidates fighting with Trump. If he wants to push past the billionaire in the polls, Thursday’s debate could be a good time to start.


The debate is on Fox Business News, so economic issues will likely dominate. With two U.S. boats being temporarily taken captive by Iran this week, though, you can expect a fair bit of discussion of the Iran nuclear deal and general foreign policy in the Middle East.

Bernie Sanders in focus

For much of the debate season, when Republican candidates have turned their ire on Democrats, it has been directed squarely at President Obama and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. But Bernie Sanders, the democratic-socialist senator from Vermont, has made surprising gains in recent polls. Republicans could start laying some groundwork against him just in case it isn’t Hillary Clinton they’re facing later this year.

Sparks will fly

Fox Business News could be friendly territory for Republican candidates, but Politico reports that moderators Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo plan on getting aggressive. That could draw out the temperamental side of Donald Trump, which can only be good for his challengers.