The five candidates to watch in GOP debate

The Buzz with Buzz: the next GOP debate is all about Carson

The third GOP debate is October 28, but it's not going to be the same as the last two. McClatchy national political editor Steve "Buzz" Thomma breaks down why you should still watch the third debate, and what to look for when you do. Hint: think B
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The third GOP debate is October 28, but it's not going to be the same as the last two. McClatchy national political editor Steve "Buzz" Thomma breaks down why you should still watch the third debate, and what to look for when you do. Hint: think B

Ben Carson is about to confront his first big test as a Republican star. Jeb Bush is battling for his political life. Marco Rubio’s on everyone’s list of candidates who can soar, and Donald Trump is, well, Donald Trump.

And whatever happened to Carly Fiorina?

They’re the ones to watch Wednesday night as the Republican presidential nomination race begins a new, crucial phase. Ten leading contenders will debate Wednesday for two hours, starting at 8 p.m. EDT, at the University of Colorado’s Coors Events Center. They’ll meet again Nov. 10 in Milwaukee. CNBC will host this week’s debate, billed as “Your Money, Your Vote: The Presidential Debate on the Economy.”

The debate is likely to have a more serious tone than previous encounters. With the first votes, in the Iowa caucuses, less than 100 days away, voters are getting serious. While polls say most have not made a final decision on a candidate, they’re looking hard at the choices not just as outlets for their frustrations, but as potential presidents.

Here are the stakes Wednesday:

Ben Carson

The retired neurosurgeon is this month’s one to watch. He’s jumped ahead of Trump in Iowa and “his support is very broad,” said Ann Selzer, a Des Moines-based pollster. He’s ahead nationwide in a CBS News/New York Times survey released Tuesday. But the survey also found big majorities of Republicans haven’t completely made up their minds.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is running for president. As one of the GOP contenders, find out where he stands on immigration, ISIS, the minimum wage and gay marriage.

Wednesday, Carson faces a new and perhaps daunting challenge. Trump has begun criticizing him, and others are likely to pile on. Carson usually dismisses the barbs in his gentle, quiet way. But the public is still learning about Carson, and traditionally, negative information helps define little-known candidates – and can sink them.

Carson has a 28 percent to 19 percent lead over Trump in the latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Poll of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers.

Donald Trump

The real estate mogul’s summer of triumph is turning into an uncertain fall. He can no longer promote himself as the clear front-runner, and his numbers have barely moved for some time.

His biggest need at the debate will be to regain some momentum and broaden his appeal by getting more specific about his plans for governing. It’ll be hard, because his negatives are unusually high for a major candidate. Trump’s gotten attention at past debates because of his quips and insults. This time he’ll be asked for specifics, particularly on his tax plan. Unveiled last month, it would lower individual and corporate income taxes.

Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential race on June 16, 2015. Find out where he stands on four of the biggest issues this election: immigration, ISIS, job growth and gay marriage. (Daniel Desrochers/McClatchy DC)

Jeb Bush

His lackluster campaign and often bland style have cost him. It’s too early to count Bush out, since he and his supporters have raised more than $100 million, and Bush has a strong command of the issues and a battle-tested political network.

He needs to stand out Wednesday. Watch for an issue, perhaps immigration, perhaps taxes, where he can talk with authority about what he did in Florida, where he was governor, and what he would do as president.

7.2% Bush’s average showing in Oct. 10-18 national polls of Republicans, good for fifth place, as compiled by RealClearPolitics.com.

Jeb Bush is the third Bush to run for President of the United States, but his views on key issues often differ from his father and brother. Find out where Jeb stands on immigration reform, ISIS, the minimum wage and gay marriage. (video by Natalie


Marco Rubio

The senator from Florida is like the athlete who hasn’t played in the big game yet but has enormous potential. Rubio is behind Trump and Carson in most national polls, yet positioned to become the mainstream voters’ front-runner.

First, he has to deliver. Rubio, 44, the youngest Republican candidate, needs to show some gravitas and overcome his lack of government experience. He needs to demonstrate self-assurance when discussing policy, notably immigration. Rubio had backed a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens and later took a tougher line.

Marco Rubio joined the 2016 presidential race on April 13, 2015, in Miami, Fla. Find out where the 44-year-old junior senator stands on four of the hottest issues in this campaign: immigration, ISIS, the minimum wage and gay marriage.

Carly Fiorina and John Kasich

Fiorina was the star of the last debate, but any momentum has fizzled. Kasich, the governor of Ohio, got some attention in New Hampshire but has also stalled.

The potential for Fiorina to shine Wednesday night is probably higher, particularly since Hillary Clinton has solidified her status as the Democratic front-runner.

“When Republicans see her, they like her,” Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst, said of the former Hewlett-Packard CEO.

7% Fiorina and Kasich were tied at that level among Republicans in the Oct. 15-18 Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Poll.

The rest of ’em

Since economic issues are expected to dominate the discussion, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is well-positioned for a decent night. He’s been an outspoken Federal Reserve Board critic, charging that it “is now in every nook and cranny of banking with unprecedented regulatory powers and no congressional oversight.”

Others are struggling to break through. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is trying to woo a constituency busy flirting with Carson and to some extent Trump. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, is aiming for a breakthrough in the New Hampshire primary, a week after the Iowa caucuses, while Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, seeks a similar opening in Iowa.

Their biggest challenge could be getting noticed. At the last debate, Christie went 32 minutes without being called on.

When presidential candidates walk away from their debate podiums, how does anyone know who won and who lost? What are the tricks and tips of being a winning debater? Andrew Markoff - a champion debater, Associate Director of Debate at Georgetown U

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

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