In a matter of hours, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and John Kasich will take the stage one week ahead of the South Carolina primary. There are several different storylines going into tonight, and each of them will hit their climax during the debate.
1. This Debate Is Donald Trump's To Lose
Yes, both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have a win under their belts, but Trump's was the most recent and the much more impressive win, giving him all the headwind going into this final week in South Carolina. All Trump has to do tonight is survive. Be as Donald Trump as possible without letting yourself get bested. This will require him to know when and where to stop, a skill that he'd like us to believe he doesn't have, but he's survived this long, hasn't he?
2. Marco Robo Must Surpress The Algorithms
In order for Rubio to regain lost ground, he has to do something new and exciting: He has to be natural. Chris Christie landed devastating punches that Rubio himself admitted forced him to slip up, and it did affect him in New Hampshire. This time around, Rubio has to appear human. Alternatively, his cyborg laser eyes need to destroy whatever moderator comes after him, because he missed an opportunity to rid us all of Martha Raddatz, a move that would surely have landed him the nomination. There is a fine line between presidential candidate and robotic overlord, and I think vaporizing bad moderators walks it perfectly.
3. Jeb Bush Really, Really Needs A Win Here
If there is one man who has to do something to appear not at all weak and terrible, it is Jeb Bush. He has not shown one iota of leadership capability in this race, getting into verbal battles with other candidates and decidedly not winning them and also asking audiences to clap when they are supposed to. Bush appears weak, and the voters are treating him as such. If he can land numerous and worthwhile blows on Trump, he will restore a bit of confidence to himself, his campaign, and his donors.
4. Ted Cruz Will Not Attack Trump As Much As You Want Him To
Ted Cruz has done a really good job of deftly avoiding battle with Donald Trump while still managing to verbally slap him around every so often. He is not going after Trump, and will continue to not go after Trump because at the end of the day, he does not want to alienate the disaffected voters behind Trump. Therefore, you will get frustrated as Cruz hits Rubio while Trump gets off relatively easy.
5. John Kasich Is Still Happening To Us
This is an unfortunate thing, because that means the moderators will ask him questions, which means John Kasich will say words. It doesn't matter what those words are. They will be aggravating, primarily because it is John Kasich saying them. He's going to try to be the grown up on the stage, and he will be praised by the left as the only grown up on the stage. He needs a big turnout in the next few primaries, or his days could be numbered.
6. Ben Carson Will Be Unaware of His Surroundings And Will Likely Complain
This is a sad fact of life, but it is a fact nonetheless.
7. Stay tuned to RedState For Updates Because We'll Be There!
Our own Jay Caruso and Caleb Howe will be in attendance at the debate, and are going to be giving instant feedback as it happens, so keep an eye here at RedState as well as Caleb's and Jay's Twitter feeds to see what they have to say.