Who Needs to Win the Debate

4 minute read

It’s debate day again. Republicans will face off in their fourth contest tonight in Milwaukee, providing an opportunity to reinforce or reverse the narratives that formed last month in Denver before a month-long hiatus and the start of the holiday season. With a more manageable, but still substantial, eight candidates on the main stage, and four in the undercard, the event features the smallest debate field of the cycle, with the hosting network—Fox Business—promising a more substantive meeting than the CNBC debate. Only time will tell.

For Jeb Bush the debate is a critical moment to show millions of viewers he still has what it takes to be a successful candidate, following his on-stage defeat in Denver. With a new media coach and a desperate imperative to show new energy on the debate stage, Bush is out with a new video highlighting his record against an exciting soundtrack and featuring him on a run. We’ll see if that translate to the stage tonight. For his top rival, Marco Rubio, the stakes are much lower: a talented debater, he doesn’t need a knock-out punch—just another steady performance. With the knives out for him again, Rubio is prepared to turn being on the defensive into an advantage with voters.

Donald Trump has been telegraphing a new assault on Ben Carson who has tied him in the polls. Carson, who is under new scrutiny over his personal beliefs and life story, is expected to beat up on the media as he defends himself from the attacks—likely with the opportunistic assistance of some of his rivals on stage. Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee, exiled from the main debate stage, face an existential moment: they need to prove they were unfairly jettisoned by the network or risk voters not missing them—effectively ending their candidacies. And banished from both stages, Lindsey Graham will respond to the debate in real-time online on the platform Sidewire, his campaign announced.

Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, is ready to launch a massive assault against Rubio, including suggesting that he is too extreme on his opposition to abortion to win the election in November. Rubio is already using the coming assault to fundraise—and to highlight Bush’s connection to the super PAC for which he raised $100 million—and releasing a new video highlighting Bush’s past support. A federal appellate court maintained its block to some of President Obama‘s controversial executive actions on immigration, setting up another contentious and likely monumental Supreme Court case. And Rubio and Bush try to get in former candidate Scott Walker’s good graces.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

What Each Candidate Needs to Do at Tuesday’s GOP Debate
TIME’s Philip Elliott lays out the stakes

Jeb Bush Allies Threaten Wave of Harsh Attacks on Marco Rubio, an Ex-Mentee
It’s going to get ugly [New York Times]

Can Bernie Sanders Win Over Latino Voters?
The Clinton rival faces challenges diversifying his coalition [Washington Post]

Appeals Court Keeps Block on Obama Immigration Actions
The timing would seem to allow the Supreme Court an opportunity to rule on the issue this term [Politico]

Sound Off

“This is the only election in history where you’re better off if you stabbed somebody. What are we coming to?” —Donald Trump in Illinois previewing an attack on Ben Carson

“You read that right. Jeb’s plan is to spend $20 million dollars to ‘damage Mr. Rubio’s reputation.’ Not just talk about how they differ on the issues but to actively try to destroy Marco’s reputation. And they’re bragging about that? How is that the kind of ‘joyful’ campaign that Jeb claimed he wanted to run?!?!” — Rubio’s campaign in a late-night fundraising appeal off the Bush super PAC story

Bits and Bites

Jeb Bush Says Students Would Be Better Moderators [TIME]

President Obama Launches His Own Facebook Page by Giving a Tour of His Backyard [TIME]

Donald Trump Suggests Starbucks Boycott Over Design of Holiday Cups [Associated Press]

Fox Business Network to Track Candidate Speaking Time at Debate [Politico]

FBI Steps Up Interviews in Clinton Email Probe [Politico]

Jeb Bush’s Comeback Plan Looks Weaker Than Advertised [Bloomberg]

Jeb Bush Praises Scott Walker, School Choice in Waukesha [Journal Sentinel]

Scott Walker Is a Diminished Figure — Except in the State He Governs [Washington Post]

Here’s Another Way Candidates Copy Donald Trump: Shameless Fibbing [Washington Post]


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