The Republicans debate again Wednesday night, with a field still big enough to require two events. The undercard is at 6pm Eastern on CNBC (Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham), followed by the main event at 8pm on the same network with the remaining 10. (Their rankings, according to cumulative polls: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rand Paul.) Given that CNBC is a business news network, expect a heavy focus on economic issues, notes USA Today. Some things to watch:
- Trump vs. Carson: Trump has lost his lead to Carson in the latest polls (though he still leads cumulatively), which means "the Donald will be looking to tear him down," notes Slate. Will Carson's cool demeanor crack now that he's a bigger target as a front-runner?
- Which Bush? He has the "most at stake by far," says Mike Allen of Politico, and he needs a strong night to convince backers he's still their guy. The question is whether the Bush who shows up will be the relatively subdued Bush of the first two debates or more forceful.
- Rubio vs. Bush: Rubio has skillfully become the No. 1 establishment candidate, in part with smart debate performances. One wrinkle Wednesday night: "Bush may be looking for a fight" to reclaim that establishment crown, notes Yahoo.
- Christie as Trump alternative? "This is a debate where Christie needs to come out and show that if you like the Trump swagger, but you have concerns about the Trump electability, I can be your guy," according to Jonathan Martin in the New York Times.
- Wild cards: Fiorina "needs a shot of momentum" and has gotten one after the first two debates, observes Real Clear Politics. But she and the rest of the pack will likely be struggling to get noticed. Kasich in particular has been signaling that he's going to get aggressive, while Carson's rise in the polls is putting pressure on Cruz to stake his claim as the anti-establishment candidate.
(Donald Trump's green room for tonight's debate is a presidential suite ... while another candidate has to make do with a bathroom