The summer of the outsider has become the autumn of the outsider, as Republicans prepare to take the stage for the third of at least 12 scheduled debates Wednesday night.
The latest iteration, hosted by CNBC, will offer a change from previous affairs. Whereas previous debates were wide-ranging, an open format that led to at-times nasty back-and-forths between the candidates, Wednesday’s debate will focus on the economy, business, and the financial industry.
That could open up opportunities for a range of candidates – from real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, who frequently boasts he would be the “best jobs president” ever; to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who prominently touts his economic record as Florida’s governor; to former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose poll standing has whittled amid scrutiny over her record at the company.
The field remains crowded. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has dropped out of the race since the last debate, but 10 candidates will appear on the main stage at 8 p.m. ET. The remaining four GOP candidates will compete in the lower-tier, “undercard” debate at 6 p.m. ET.
According to Real Clear Politics’ average of five recent national polls, here’s a look at where the candidates stand going into Wednesday night. From the top tier:
- Donald Trump, real-estate magnate: 26.8% average as of Wednesday (down from a 29.8% average before the September debate) Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon: 22% (up from 17.8%) Marco Rubio, US senator from Florida: 9% (up from 5.8%) Jeb Bush, former Florida governor: 7% (down from 7.8%) Ted Cruz, US senator from Texas: 6.6% (down from 6.7%) Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO: 5.8% (up from 4.3%) Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor: 3.8% (down from 4.3%) Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky: 3.4% (up from 2.7%) John Kasich, Ohio governor: 2.6% (down from 3.5%) Chris Christie, New Jersey governor: 2.4% (up from 2.0%)
- Thomson Reuters
And the bottom tier:
- Lindsey Graham, US senator from South Carolina: 1% (down from 0.2%) Rick Santorum, former US senator from Pennsylvania: 0.6% (down from 1%) Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor: 0.2% (down from 0.3%) George Pataki, former New York governor: 0.2% (up from N/A)
Who needs a big night?
The better question might be: Who doesn’t?
But this second debate will prove especially important for some names near the top who remain little known – and some big names who have slipped over the past month.
Bush last week ordered pay cuts in his campaign, and there have been grumblings from donors about his inability to break out and become the front-runner – what most observers once thought he would be.
Carson will face much more scrutiny from other candidates now that he has vaulted into semi-front-running stats. Carson’s relative inexperience on economic issues could open him up to attacks from candidates – especially Trump, who has continued to swing at him in recent days.