Posted: 11:41 am Saturday, February 13th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
A shrinking Republican field for President will debate for a second straight Saturday night, this time in Greenville, South Carolina, as the GOP race begins to take on a sharper edge with the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary now in the rear view mirror.
Here are some things to look for tonight:
+ Will Donald Trump and Ted Cruz mix it up? For the most part, Cruz and Trump have skated past each other on the debate stage, as they did last week in New Hampshire. But this past week of campaigning has seen Cruz go after Trump both on the stump and with new TV ads. Trump has bitterly complained that Cruz is lying, and has again returned to a familiar argument over where Cruz was born and whether he is eligible to run for President.
If @TedCruz doesn’t clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads, I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2016
+ What about Kasich, Bush and Rubio? Don’t forget about the other three “establishment lane” candidates tonight, as not only might they go after each other, but some of them could also zero in on Trump as well. “Donald Trump has zero foreign-policy experience,” was one line from Rubio earlier this week. Jeb Bush has been tagging Trump on a daily basis, telling voters he believes that Trump “needs therapy.” Kasich tried that strategy early on in the GOP debates, but has instead stuck to his plan to focus entirely on his own record. We’ll see if that changes now that he has a bit more visibility following his second place finish in New Hampshire
+ Echoes of debates past in South Carolina – It was four years ago that Newt Gingrich took umbrage at the very first question from CNN’s John King and knocked it out of the park. The rest of the debate didn’t really matter, and it seemed to launch Gingrich on a surge that vaulted him to victory over Mitt Romney. Cruz has shown he has the ability to grab on to something in the debate related to media bias, and we’ll see if Trump can grab a ‘magic moment’ tonight in an exchange with others – Trump has struggled recently when tussling with Jeb Bush.
+ CBS gets first chance for GOP debate – CBS has done one debate, a November encounter among Democrats in Des Moines. Face the Nation host John Dickerson was praised for how he handled that debate in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in Paris. But CBS has not yet dealt with Republicans, meaning the viewer should be on alert for any exchanges that could spark a fight between the Republicans on stage and Dan Rather’s old network.
+ Whither Ben Carson? – Ben Carson made this debate only because of his fourth place finish in Iowa, but since that vote 12 days ago, his campaign has withered. Carson conducted very few campaign events in New Hampshire – it seemed like a part-time endeavor – but has stepped up the pace of his work in the Palmetto State. Carson has not played a meaningful role in any GOP debate in some time.
+ This is the smallest GOP debate yet – After debates that had as many as 17 Republicans split into two groups, now we are down to just six GOP candidates. The next Republican debate will be on February 25 in Houston, Texas, the weekend before Super Tuesday. It’s not hard to imagine a field that is even smaller that night, as the rigors of the 2016 race chew up and spit out candidates who just don’t have it.