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Everything You Need to Know About Thursday’s GOP Debate

Mikaela Lefrak

New year, new set of presidential primary debates. The sixth Republican debate of the 2016 cycle will take place on Thursday, January 14, at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in South Carolina. The undercard debate begins at 6 p.m., with the main debate following at 9 p.m. You can follow the New Republic’s coverage on our Minutes feed.

Fox Business is returning as the host for the night; it also co-hosted the fourth debate in November. Anchors Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo will moderate.

The main debate will feature seven qualifying candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. 

This debate comes less than three weeks before the Republican caucus in Iowa, where Cruz is currently leading with 25 percent to Trump’s 22 percent, according to the latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Nationally, Trump still leads the rest of the pack by 16 percent, according to RealClearPolitics’s poll data average. While the two “outsiders” are looking strong, the more traditional contenders remaining—Rubio, Christie, Bush, and Kasich—are fighting (often among themselves) to be the clear alternative to Trump and Cruz. 

The debate stage experienced a bit of a shake-up this time around. Because of their low polling numbers, Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina were shunted to the 6 p.m. undercard debate, alongside Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. This is the first time Paul has failed to make it to the big kids’ table, and the senator from Kentucky has said he’ll boycott the debate entirely. “I won’t participate in anything that’s not the first tier because we have a first-tier campaign,” he told CNN on Monday.

To get you up to speed for the festivities, here are some highlights of New Republic’s recent coverage of the top four candidates in national polling averages heading into this debate. 

Donald Trump

Even if the billionaire business mogul loses in Iowa, it won’t be the end of him, writes Jeet Heer. Trump is disgusted by a lot of things, says Alexander Hurst, and it’s resonating with voters. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley made the case against Trump’s virulent immigration-bashing in her State of the Union response on Tuesday nightOh, and what he said in the last GOP debate about Mexican immigrants? It was completely wrong, notes David Cook Martin.

Ted Cruz

The Texas senator’s favorability ratings are sky-high, notes Ryu Spaeth. But what, asks Heer, will happen now that he’s out of favor with Trump? Both Democrats and Republicans should be rooting for a Cruz nomination, Beutler writes.

Ben Carson

The famous neurosurgeon would be a historically inexperienced president, says Dennis Jett. And that’s really all we have to say about that.

Marco Rubio

The GOP’s identity politics could doom the Florida senator, writes Beutler—who also notes that Republican elites are pushing for Rubio as the guy to beat Trump and Cruz. A recent endorsement Rubio received secures his spot as the most dangerous candidate for the climate, cautions Rebecca Leber.