There is no doubt that this debate is huge for Florida’s two favorite son’s former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. The CNBC debate in many ways is a must win for both men as they are in a bit of a slump heading into this the third GOP get together.
Bush has let go of some of his staff, he has gone home to seek some guidance from his father and his brother. They in turn have kept the money men happy for the time being.
Meanwhile, Rubio is facing big questions about his lack of focus as Florida’s junior Senator. Rubio should resign from the U.S. Senate and stop “ripping off” the people of Florida, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel newspaper editorial board.
So before we tell you what they need to do tonight to win lets set the stage for the debate.
CNBC’s economics-focused Republican primary debate airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET, with an “undercard” event for the four lower-polling candidates scheduled for 6 p.m. ET.
The debate is the third of at least a dozen that will take place as the GOP rolls toward picking a 2016 presidential nominee. Tonight’s debate will be held at the Coors Event Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. CNBC anchors John Harwood, Carl Quintanilla, and Becky Quick will moderate.
The candidates who qualified for the main event include, in order of their polling: Donald Trump, Rubio, Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rand Paul.
For the undercard debate, the candidates will be Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham.
The two debates will broadcast on the CNBC network. It will also be available to watch online at CNBC.com and on the CNBC Real Time mobile app for those who want to watch on their tablets while also watching the World Series.
Okay as promised here is what Bush needs to do tonight: Supporters of the former Florida governor say they don’t expect big changes in his debate approach. Bush is not going to try to get into a fight with Trump but rather stick to his line of standing up to the front-runner while focusing on his plans to deliver 4 percent economic growth and more widespread prosperity.
But here where Bush gets into trouble and that is he tends to prefer wonky answers, which don’t always play well with so many people on the stage and so little time for answers. But with the debate focused on the central theme of Bush’s candidacy, he needs to sharpen his delivery and give his strongest performance to date.
Meanwhile, for Rubio he has performed strongly in the first two debates, helping move into a (quite distant) third behind Trump and Carson. He just needs to do it again with brisk, detailed policy answers while skipping jokes about his water consumption.
It will be interesting to see how the editorial on his lack of focus on actually doing what the voters of Florida elected him to do will play into tonight’s debate.
Trump will have an easy opportunity to go after Rubio for being a does care about being a senator and also is someone who has never created jobs. Rubio, who has already said he’s skipped votes because he dislikes the Senate and will not run for another term, needs to have a pivot ready to his vision for creating faster growth and greater opportunity. But business is not his strong suit and tonight could be a tough one for Rubio.
Then there is the battle at the top of the polls with Trump and Carson.
Trump: The real estate billionaire has already gone on the offensive against Carson, raising questions about the retired neurosurgeon’s Seventh-day Adventist faith while simultaneously denying doing so. He’s likely to keep up the attack on tonight though probably skipping the religion stuff very dicey territory in favor of hitting Carson’s energy level and lack of business experience.
The debate focused on jobs and the economy should play to Trump’s strengths. He needs to give his fervent supporters what they want and not let up on Bush. He need his signature, no holds barred aggression and bravado leavened with humor and occasional self deprecation humor. Low energy Trump is not what the “Make America Great Again” crowd wants to see. He will as I pointed out earlier go after both Trump and Rubio finding them better targets than Carson as he plays the long game.
Carson: Can he translate his current strong showing in Iowa to other states? Pundits tend not to credit Carson’s low-key, soft-spoken style but it plays better with actual voters. I think that Iowa is his state but he will need a good night to remind other voters why they should care about him.
But Carson needs to show some steel in the face of likely attacks from Trump and give possible supporters in New Hampshire and elsewhere a better sense of what he would do as president. If the question of his faith does come up, Carson should turn it in an opportunity to further appeal to evangelical voters and contrast himself to Trump, who when asked could not come up with his favorite Bible passage.
CNBC will likely set another ratings record and with Bush and Rubio both with must do well debates in front of them this could be an entertaining two hours.