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3 Things to Watch for at Tonight’s Republican Debate

Ted Cruz in New Hampshire.Ted Cruz in New Hampshire.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted CruzPhotograph by The Washington Post /Getty Images

After Thursday evening’s substantive Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Republicans still left vying for their party’s presidential nomination (minus former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who won’t be included) will take the stage in New Hampshire. It will be the last GOP debate before the state’s primary contest. With so much riding on Tuesday’s vote — not just in terms of delegates, but momentum—expect a lively, and perhaps vicious, debate on Saturday evening. Here are a few things to expect.

Cruz Control

Ted Cruz won last week’s Iowa Caucuses, which means he’s bound to have a target on his back during Saturday’s debate. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is still leading in New Hampshire, so expect Cruz to focus his firepower on him. You can expect sparks to fly over recent accusations from the Trump campaign that Cruz used smears and tricks to win in Iowa. Trump generally aims to hit as hard as he can during debates. Will he soften his tone this time around?


Despite placing third in Iowa, Marco Rubio has to be feeling good about himself heading into New Hampshire. He’s clearly the current GOP establishment candidate of choice, beating Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich for that mantle. Can Rubio capitalize on his momentum in New Hampshire, or will the Trump behemoth be too much for him to overcome? A strong showing in Saturday’s debate could help him, so look for Rubio to try early to establish himself as the most electable, but still conservative, candidate.

Governors’ Last Gasps

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Ted Christie, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are still hanging tough in the Republican primary race. (Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore is also technically still in the running as well.) None of them have been able to use their executive experience to win over a sufficient amount of support from voters thus far. If any of them are going to assume on the identity of the “Comeback Kid,” New Hampshire is an ideal place to start. All three of them will likely come out swinging.