A record audience of 24 million saw Donald Trump dominate the first Republican presidential TV debate last month, and now the world will be watching the second debate on Wednesday to see if any of his rivals can out-duel The Donald.
Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is rising in the polls and has qualified for the main event this time around. She joins 10 other candidates as the only woman on stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
In addition, four other candidates will appear in a "happy hour" undercard prior to the main event.
There will be 11 candidates on stage for the main debate, each with their own strategy for shining. Here’s how it’s likely to unfold:
1. Donald Trump
— Since the last debate, the frontrunner has increased his lead in the polls and become the first candidate of the cycle to break the 30-percent threshold. As the frontrunner, the real estate mogul and former Apprentice host is likely to be attacked from all sides — especially by Fiorina — after Trump remarked: "Look at that face, would anyone vote for that?" Following his clash with Fox News' Megyn Kelly last time around, pundits will also be watching to see how he will interact with the CNN moderators Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and radio host Hugh Hewitt who Trump has called "a third-rate radio announcer."
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2. Ben Carson
— On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the pediatric neurosurgeon
"has amassed considerable new support from Republican primary and caucus voters and is now running nearly even with Mr. Trump" in the polls. He's risen mostly at the expense of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, who have fallen significantly. Since the last debate, Carson has defended his calm, quiet approach to leadership as an asset, and clashed with Trump over questions of religious devotion. Expect to see Carson and Trump respectfully parry each as they vie for the top slot.
3. Jeb Bush
— According to debate host CNN, the former Florida governor's
"money, connections and political experience" have not stopped his recent "downward trajectory" in the polls. Bush has in recent weeks tripped over his own rhetoric about so-called "anchor babies" and been accused by Trump of being a "low energy" candidate. Bush goes into the debate seeking to regain control of his campaign narrative, and will likely be on the offensive, stressing his energy and using sharp, detailed policies to destabilize his opponents.
4. John Kasich
— Kasich was a breath of fresh air during the first debate, offering a stand-out combination of policy expertise and likability. The governor of swing-state Ohio is likely to emphasize his policy accomplishments and know-how during the second debate, and he will likely only jab an opponent if the opportunity presents itself. The second debate is important for Kasich as he strives to maintain momentum.
5. Scott Walker
— Real Clear Politics reported that the Walker
campaign has been in "free-fall" in the polling since last month's debate. In recent weeks, the Wisconsin governor has outlined his policies toward federal public-sector unions, seeking to emphasize his past successes in this area in his home state. During the debate, Walker is likely to go heavy on policy, emphasizing his mission to dismantle Big Government in the nation's capital.
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6. Ted Cruz
— The firebrand senator from Texas made headlines last week by staging a rally against President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and invited Trump to speak. Unlike many other candidates, Cruz has avoided criticizing the frontrunner, perhaps hoping that he can co-opt his base of support among likely voters if the New York billionaire stumbles. During the debate, he'll likely focus on immigration, the hot-button issue brought to the forefront by Trump.
7. Marco Rubio
— Sen. Rubio has maintained a middling standing in the polls, and some say he may be biding his time while the other candidates duke it out early in the campaign season. In any case, he gave a solid performance in the first debate. As one of three senators in the race, Rubio has in recent weeks sought to highlight his foreign policy experience — something the governors and outsider candidates don't have. Rubio also has the advantage of being young, but will have to convince voters that he has both the dynamism of a younger politician and the experience of an older candidate.
8. Mike Huckabee
— The former Arkansas governor and Fox News host has maintained a steady base of support among values voters, something he's bolstered up in recent weeks by publicly defending Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Huckabee is a force of on-stage, retail politics, and wowed viewers during the first debate, however he has yet to prove he has a whole-map strategy to clinch the nomination.
9. Carly Fiorina
— She boosted herself into this month's main event with a stunning performance in the August "undercard" debate. Fiorina is likely to take Trump to task for his comments on women — including her. In what may be a signal of her debate strategy, she took a swipe at Trump on Monday with a video entitled "Look at that Face."
"Ladies, look at this face, and look at all of your faces — the face of leadership," Fiorina says to open the video, which cuts to her speech to the National Federation of Republican Women in Arizona on Friday. It ends: "This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle." Trump, in turn, has said he'll go after Fiorina for her controversial reign at Hewlett Packard, during which more than 30,000 employees were laid off.
10. Rand Paul
— The Kentucky senator made headlines during the first debate for going toe-to-toe with Chris Christie over the NSA's bulk data collection, but also got dinged by Trump more than once. Currently ranking near the bottom of the pack in polling, Paul is likely to come out swinging be cause he’s got little to lose.
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11. Chris Christie
— By many accounts, he bested Rand Paul in their heated debate over the NSA during the first debate, but has in recent weeks struggled to distinguish himself among a crowded field of qualified candidates. His trademark tell-it-like-it-is, in-your-face style has been overshadowed by Trump, and the New Jersey governor can’t quite seem to shake off the scandals surrounding his political appointees involved in Bridgegate and the resignations of the top executives at United Airlines.
Watch Newsmax TV Debate Special on Wednesday at 10 pm ET with exclusive analysis and comment from Dr Ben Carson, Michael Reagan and Dick Morris.
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