It is the last debate of 2015 for the Presidential candidates. For the first time, Mike Huckabee will be at the kids table. The main stage will be a bit less crowded. And all eyes will be on the Trump vs. Cruz dynamic.
They shouldn’t be.
CNN will no doubt try to push some conflict between Cruz and Trump. I expect Cruz to use some good humored deflection.
The real fight is going to be between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Cruz is at a critical juncture where he is trying to convince members of the establishment that he is the last stand against Trump. Rubio, on the other hand, is trying to hold the establishment, but also convince conservatives to give him another chance.
Both men have a lot on the line and the stakes are in competition with each other.
Every person on stage now, besides Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, is just an impediment to the consolidation of the race. None of them have great poll standing. With the exception of Jeb Bush, none of them have seen many polling gains in early states, other than Christie in New Hampshire, which just threatens Bush.
The easy pundit play is to play up the Trump and Cruz issue. But the real play will be the subtle nuances and outright arguments between Rubio and Cruz. In the last debate, when Rand Paul attacked Rubio’s spending plans and military plans, it was Cruz who defended Rubio, but also attacked him over sugar subsidies.
That is only going to escalate as the attacks have become more and more sharp in the past few weeks.
I’ll be live in Las Vegas, NV throughout the day. I’ll fill in for Herman Cain from 9am to noon ET, do my own radio show from 5pm to 7pm ET, then have a post debate show from 11pm to 1am ET. You can listen to it all via WSB Radio or the WSB Radio or TuneIn apps.