This combo made from file photos shows the final roster for the first Republican presidential debate as of Aug. 4, 2015. Top row, from left, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, real estate mogul Donald Trump, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Bottom row, from left, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. (AP Photo)
AP
Updated: August 5, 2015 2:38 PM ET | Originally published: August 5, 2015 1:08 PM EDT

Welcome to the Donald Trump show.

Seventeen Republican presidential hopefuls will take the stage here Thursday evening for the first of 12 debates of the 2016 election, but the star of the spectacle will be the blustering businessman at center stage. Trump’s presence promises to make the crowded forum unlike any in recent memory.

Meanwhile, the jam-packed field has shunted seven candidates out of the main debate and into an undercard. That could prove a blessing in disguise for second-tier candidates, giving them a forum for substantive discussion without Trump sucking up the oxygen.

In the first major event of the 2016 campaign, here are the challenges and opportunities for each of the candidates:

Write to Alex Altman at alex_altman@timemagazine.com.

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