It’ll be a night of drama: Donald Trump vs. Jeb Bush; everyone else vs. Donald Trump; and probably Donald Trump vs. the moderators. And at the early debate, someone there will just be trying to break out of the minor leagues and get signed to the majors.
But beyond that, every candidate could have something to gain, or something to lose. It’s going to be a dramatic night.
The first Republican presidential debates of the 2016 race are happening Thursday night in Cleveland — there will be a primetime debate featuring the top 10 GOP candidates according to national polls as determined by debate host Fox News, and seven other Republican candidates who will participate in a separate debate airing while most of the country is at work or on the way home.
Here’s what you need to know, and what to expect from the GOP candidates.
Round One: The Minor League Debate
Who: Former Texas governor and speaker of the “oops” moment heard round the world, Perry began wearing glasses as a campaign strategy, referred to the Charleston shooting as an “accident,” and once likened opposition to LGBT rights to Texas governor Sam Houston’s refusal to support or join the Confederacy. Also, he was indicted on two felony counts.
What to expect: He will hopefully remember his talking points this time.
Continue reading: 5 Things You Need To Know About Rick Perry
Who: Former Pennsylvania senator who, despite being sympathetic to creationism “science,” told the Pope (who is a scientist) to leave “science to the scientists.”
What to expect: He likes to play the underdog.
Who: Louisiana governor and Duck Dynasty devotee, who announced his candidacy with an avant-garde short film, Jindal once participated in an exorcism in college, is staunchly opposed to gay marriage, and wants to abolish the Supreme Court.
What to expect: He’ll probably make a big deal about “religious liberty” (read: discrimination).
Continue Reading: 5 Things To Remember About Bobby Jindal
Who: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO who lost an election for a Senate seat in 2010, Fiorina is the only woman in the Republican race, but happens also to be opposed to equal-pay, is big into cybersecurity, and is concerned about men watching porn at work.
Who: South Carolina senator whose gambit for internet stardom was a video of him mutilating his own cellphone, Graham also said Hillary Clinton could not be trusted because her husband lied about an affair.
What to expect: Resentment that he isn’t at the big-boys table.
Who: Uh… one sec. Let’s see here. Former Virginia governor, apparently.
What to expect: People to ask, “Who?”
Round Two: The Primetime Showdown
Who: Real estate mogul, mouthpiece of the GOP id, loudmouth “birther,” and reality TV star who’s been doing well in national polls — not so well with people of color, veterans, immigrants, mainstream Republicans, or the Republican Party in general; refers to self in the third person; likes to talk about walls.
What to expect: He will not attack anyone unless he is provoked.
Who: Former Florida governor with a checkered history; baby brother and son of former presidents; has made a series of gaffes on domestic policy issues, women’s health, the Iraq War; also just has an awful lot of bad ideas; spells his name with an exclamation point.
What to expect: He’ll have to try very hard to protect his tenuous status as the frontrunner-whose-name-is-not-Trump.
Who: Union-busting, anti-choice Wisconsin governor, Walker has polled well and his SuperPAC raised more than $20 million in its first quarter — from under 300 donors; thinks ultrasounds are cool.
What to expect:: He will get fooled again.
Continue Reading: 6 Things To Know About Scott Walker and What Democrats Should Fear Most About Scott Walker
Who: Former Arkansas governor, conservative Christian, and evangelical favorite, Huckabee recently said President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran was like marching Israelis “to the door of the oven,” a very subtle reference to the Holocaust.
What to expect: He’ll invoke his four pillars: God, guns, grits, and gravy.
Who: Carson, a retired neurosurgeon with no political experience, at some point in June was somehow leading a poll. He’s says fixing the economy, by cutting taxes, is the best way to address poverty; compared Obamacare to 9/11, Nazi Germany, and slavery; really hates pork.
Who: Texas senator with some serious SuperPAC muscle behind him (they’ve raised a combined $37.83 million, with the biggest individual donor to any SuperPAC thus far giving $11 million, and another individual giving $10 million); staunch opponent of same-sex marriage.
What to expect: He’ll shout about same-sex marriage “infringing” on Americans’ religious freedom.
What to expect: He will duck a question about his personal finances.
Who: Kentucky senator and son of former GOP presidential candidate and libertarian luminary Ron Paul, Rand is a Tea Party favorite. Unfortunately for him, the head of his SuperPAC was indicted the day before the debate on charges of violating campaign finance laws related to Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign.
What to expect: He’ll go off about his “flat tax.”
Who: Bombastic, ethically challenged, “combat ready” New Jersey governor widely known for the Bridgegate scandal (to say nothing of the several other reasons he should really not be president); enemy of teachers, commuters, and Bruce Springsteen; put his arm around Obama once and got lambasted for it.
Who: Ohio governor, former Lehman Brothers honcho, and renowned “ass kicker,” noted for his anger management issues, and for bucking the conservative trend by expanding Medicaid in his state and standing down to unions, Kasich slipped into the top 10 after being one of the last candidates to enter the fray
What to expect: It’s his opportunity to introduce himself to Republican voters as a sensible, credible, and competent candidate with an enviable hometown advantage in a crucial swing state.