There’s plenty of advice to go around before tonight’s Republican debate in North Charleston, S.C.
To start, here are some suggestions for candidates from South Carolina’s The State:
Don’t get knocked off his pedestal. He will attack others on the stage a bit — when has he not? — but he should save it for his main foes: Cruz and Rubio. … Have any details for all those boasts about making America great again? Might be time to share some.
Go after Trump to make in-roads with voters outside Iowa. Show where Trump is weak and vague. Avoid prolonged side debates with Rubio that might give Trump a chance at the high road. …
Solidify his position as the establishment’s choice. It also might be time to ratchet up attacks on the Top 2. … Avoid fights with those polling behind him — that means Bush in particular. Play the smart, reasonable guy in the room.
Stop the free fall. Carson was the race’s No. 2 guy for much of the fall. Now, he’s in the single-digit club in polls. Bad news? Debates have not been his strong suit. (Not even close.) … Carson’s best hope appears to rest with his grassroots supporters, who flock to his appearances, coming out for primaries and caucuses regardless.
Time is running out. Among the early primary states, the campaign’s big spender is most competitive in South Carolina —and he’s running in fifth. … Bush needs a stellar performance, showing voters they were right to make him the race’s early front-runner.
Politico explains what it thinks Republican insiders will be keeping a close eye on:
- Ted’s choice
Cruz has decided to shelve his Mr. Nice Guy routine with Trump. After a week of Trump suggesting Cruz has an eligibility problem because he was born in Canada to an American mother, the senator has hit back — hard. “Donald comes from New York,” Cruz said Tuesday, “and he embodies New York values."
If Trump comes after Cruz in Charleston, many expect Cruz to strike back in no uncertain terms. …
“The Cruz team has a game plan and they don’t seem to be letting anything knock them off stride,” said Rick Wiley, who served as Scott Walker’s campaign manager.
- Marco’s fight
Team Rubio is bracing for an avalanche of attacks. … [T]he hardest hits could well come from Chris Christie, who has drawn a bead on Rubio — going so far as to say in a radio interview last week that Hillary Clinton would “pat him on the head and then cut his heart out” if he were the GOP nominee. …
The debate’s format plays to Rubio’s strengths. Fox Business is allowing candidates to give 90-second answers. … That means Rubio, a rhetorically talented candidate who likes to give detailed answers, will have more time to talk — or, as the case may be, defend himself. …
- Bush vs. Trump
If Bush is going down, he’s going down swinging. The former Florida governor, who remains stuck in the middle of the pack, targeted Trump aggressively during the last debate and hasn’t let up since. …
While Bush’s team is eager to frame the race as a showdown between the former governor and the real estate mogul, some Bush supporters aren’t convinced that going after Trump is the best route. …
- Action movie or college seminar?
Fox Business’s November debate was a wonkfest — a policy-packed two-hour program full of questions about economic matters and foreign affairs.
Those who’ve spoken with the network about its plans say they’re expecting much the same this time around. …
Yet others point out that, with the first primaries nearing, the campaign has taken on a different tone in recent days.
And here’s some down-to-basics information for you, the debate viewer, from USA Today:
When does it start?
The main debate for the leading candidates starts at 9 p.m. ET. The undercard, meanwhile, starts at 6 p.m. ET.
Both debates will be televised by the Fox Business Network. Additionally, the network will live stream the debates on FOXBusiness.com and on its mobile platforms for no charge. The network also announced it was partnering with cable and satellite providers to "unbundle" Fox Business Network, allowing it to be accessed by more subscribers regardless of their cable subscription. …
Who will be in each debate?
Both debates will look a little different than the last time the party's candidates met in Las Vegas on Dec. 15. Since then, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham, who were in previous "happy hour" debates, ended their White House bids. …
Prime-time debate: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich.
Undercard debate: Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.