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Everything You Need to Know About Thursday’s GOP Debate

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The seventh Republican presidential debate takes place on Thursday, January 28, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. The main debate begins at 9 p.m., preceded by the undercard debate at 7 p.m. You can—and should!—follow the New Republic’s live updates and analyses on our Minutes feed during both debates.

If you skipped the past few GOP debates, this is one to tune back in for. It’s the candidates’ last chance to wow voters before the Iowa caucuses on Monday, February 1. Plus, the lead-up to this showdown has already been marked by high drama.

Fox News is returning to host the event—a fact that stirred the drama—with Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Megyn Kelly (a.k.a. Trump Public Enemy #1), serving as moderators. On Tuesday, Donald Trump said he would boycott the debate, claiming the network has been unfair to him and citing a “wise-guy press release” from Fox that poked fun at the candidate’s demand to pull Kelly as a moderator. While the debate airs, Trump said he would be hosting an event for veterans in Des Moines.  

The Trump-Fox feud started back in early August, when Trump accused Kelly and the network of treating him more harshly than the other candidates during the first debate. Now, Trump’s boycott is plunging the GOP primary field even deeper into turmoil—and Fox News, reportedly, into chaos

Seven remaining qualifiers will participate in primetime: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rand Paul, who boycotted the last debate after being shunted to the undercard round. This time, the undercard will have four participants: Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Jim Gilmore (who is, indeed, still running). 

To bring you up to speed, here’s what the New Republic’s writers have had to say about the top three candidates since the last debate. 

Donald Trump

Trump may not be there, but as the undeniable frontrunner, he is sure to come up again and again, writes Brian Beutler. Since the last debate he received an endorsement from Sarah Palin, a.k.a. the Walt Whitman of Wasilla, as Jeet Heer has dubbed her. And while all press might be good press if you’re a celebrity, Trump’s attention-grabbing candidacy is proving to be bad for business, Beutler writes—not to mention the damage it’s done to the Republican brand. 

Ted Cruz

The senator from Texas fired off some anti-Semitic dog whistles in the last debate, writes Phoebe Matlz Bovy. His campaign manager’s win-at-all-cost tactics—and the backstory to Cruz’s “New York values” attacks on Trump—were chronicled in a profile by Andy Kroll. And David Dayen writes that Cruz’s candidacy proves how the one percent runs Washington.

Marco Rubio

With a recent flurry of negative ads targeting Cruz and others, the senator from Florida is trying to attack his way into contention, writes Laura Reston. Rubio failed to rise above the Cruz-Trump fray during the last debate, writes Beutler. But Thursday’s debate (even sans Trump and the viewership he brings) could give Rubio one last big chance to make a splash before Iowa.