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Everything You Need to Know About Tuesday’s GOP Debate

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The fifth Republican primary debate will take place on Tuesday, December 15, in Las Vegas, hosted by CNN. During the debate, follow along at the New Republic’s blog Minutes, which will have updates, analysis, and all the best Donald Trump GIFs.

Trump and eight other leading candidates will take the main stage at 8:30 p.m.: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Rand Paul. These nine contenders had to meet one of three criteria in recent polls, winning the support of at least 3.5 percent of voters nationally, 4 percent in Iowa, or 4 percent in New Hampshire.

Mikaela Lefrak/New Republic

The 6:00 p.m. undercard debate includes Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki. Missing from the stage will be Bobby Jindal, who dropped out soon after the last debate.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer will moderate, with CNN’s Dana Bash and conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt joining as additional panelists. This is the first GOP debate since the Paris terror attacks and the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, all of which have shifted the tone of the race towards national security. 

To get you up to speed, here’s what our writers have had to say about the candidates since the last debate:

Donald Trump

The front-runner isn’t your average demagogue, writes Jeet Heer. He’s not a liar, but he’s something much worse. He’s also sounding more and more like a fascist, notes Jamil Smith. Trump’s dominance proves liberals have been right all along about the pathology of the conservative movement, says Brian Beutler. And you can’t miss his rebuttal to President Obama’s climate speech in Paris, Tim McDonnell adds.

Ted Cruz

Cruz is leading the polls in Iowa, having improbably emerged as the guy who can best straddle the GOP poles, writes Beutler. He’s been thriving in Trump’s shadow, notes Steven Cohen. He’s using his tiny army of climate-denying scientists to win over small-government Republicans, says Clare Foran. And in the GOP battle over identity politics, says Heer, Cruz is alienating voting blocs that the GOP can ill-afford to lose.

Ben Carson

Carson’s foreign policy knowledge is ... well, it’s something, writes Elspeth Reeve. His truthiness about his own life story complements the factual holes in his vision for America, says Suzy Khimm. And it’s clear from his plummeting poll numbers that he remains unable to galvanize black voters, as Jamil Smith notes on Intersection.

Marco Rubio

Rubio is neck-and-neck with Cruz in the battle to be the alternative to Trump, writes Laura Reston. The GOP’s split on immigration could be an opportunity for Rubio, says Cohen. His tiptoeing between Trump’s xenophobia and Bush’s condemnation of it could be a perilous choice, writes Beutler. Or will his hawkish foreign policy be enough to propel him through to the next debate?