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What to Watch for in Tuesday’s GOP Presidential Debate

Rubio, right, turned the tables on an attack by Bush. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Rubio, right, turned the tables on an attack by Bush. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Following the last Republican debate, one hosted by CNBC that resulted in the rousing of the distrust in the media felt by some of the Republican Party’s base, all eyes now move to the Fox Business Network on Tuesday night to see if they can manage the large cast of candidates any better.  

Here is what a few seasoned Republican operatives say they are looking for in the debate, which will air at 9 p.m. EST.  

1. Is the Jeb Bush ‘jump-start’ real? Since the last debate, the Bush campaign has said it is undergoing a “jump-start ,” with his spokesman taking to Twitter last week to add, “comebacks take time. ”  

Ron Bonjean , a Republican communicator who has worked on a number of Senate races over the past two decades, said Tuesday night’s debate is a crucial moment for Bush, who has promised to be more bold.  

“This new energy must be reflected by Bush on stage and exceed the expectations of increasingly skeptical donors and the press corps watching,” he said. “A lot is riding on the line with this performance and it could propel him forward with a new spotlight or cast him as a candidate still trying to find his footing among his competitors.”  

2. Will GOP candidates aim attacks at the Democrats? Casey Phillips, a Republican ad maker not affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns, said he hopes the candidates use their moment to attack the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, rather than each other.  

“They’re spending all their time going after each other still, but all my work is going to focus on how we beat her. I wish they’d spend more time on that, too,” he said.  

3. Will candidates with the buzz capitalize? Roe said Ben Carson has a real shot at matching the quality of his performance will match his status in the polls. And he added if Rubio can aside his credit card issue, he should be able to capitalize off of his successes in the last debate”and become one of the top two.”  

4. Will Trump go Full Trump? Jason Roe, a former deputy campaign manger for Mitt Romney who is a partner at Revolvis Consulting, said he will be watching to see whether Trump will try to play nice like he did last time or “go back to belligerent, which seems to have served him better.”  

Bonjean said he agreed.  

“We should be looking at whether Donald Trump will escalate his visceral attacks to strip the paint off of Ben Carson and Marco Rubio because both are real competitive threats, with Carson in close competition and Rubio’s growing standing with voters.”  

Emily Cahn and Simone Pathé contributed to this report. 


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