What to watch for in the third GOP presidential primary debate?


Five candidates will compete in Florida on Wednesday night in the third debate of the GOP presidential primary, a day after voter support for abortion access — even in red states — emerged as a major electoral hurdle for the GOP, with White House hopefuls backing strict state limits and even bans. Federal.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will perform onstage in Miami starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Former President Donald Trump chose not to attend and will instead host a counterprogramming meeting nearby.

The debate stage is smaller than the second debate between two people: North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum did not qualify for the event, and former Vice President Mike Pence has since suspended his presidential campaign.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 27, 2023, file photo, Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Sen. Tim Scott look on as Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy speak during the second Republican presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, California.

In this Sept. 27, 2023, file photo, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Sen. Tim Scott as former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy speak during the second Republican presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, California.

Robin Beck/AFP via Getty Images, file

Here’s what to watch for Wednesday night.

How do candidates respond to the election night results?

Republicans suffered major losses in races on Tuesday, including the governor’s race in Kentucky, the abortion referendum in Ohio, and a bid to win unified control of state government in Virginia.

In those races, Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was expected to win a second term, the abortion referendum might ultimately lose by a wide margin, and Democrats were on pace to hold at least one chamber of the state legislature in Virginia.

Republicans have repeatedly underperformed since Biden took office, including in the 2022 midterms and 2023 special elections, despite the president’s weak approval ratings.

If GOP candidates are asked about this trend, more fault lines could emerge over issues like abortion and Trump’s role in the party.

Will the debate be important?

The previous two debates were not without fireworks, and they caused shocks and declines in opinion polls for certain candidates.

But they haven’t changed the basic dynamic of the primaries yet: It’s Trump’s party, and the rest of the candidates are just living in it.

Trump maintains a lead of more than 40 points in the average of 538 national polls, and his lead in early state polls is also diminishing, though not by as much.

His big, stubborn advantage comes despite his absence from the previous two debates and the pile of ongoing legal problems.

However, the debates offered the candidates the opportunity to compete for second place and emerge as Trump’s alternative to a large swath of the party — especially donors — eager to move past the former president.

Haley has seen her polls surge on the back of her strong debate performance, including coming close to or surpassing DeSantis in some polls, sparking a battle between the two over who will be better equipped to take on Trump if the primaries develop into one. One match.

DeSantis recently received a key endorsement from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, though it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to halt a slide down the ballot in the state.

How far can Hailey go?

Haley had two bounces in a row from the previous two debates. Now she is looking for more.

With Haley and DeSantis competing, Wednesday’s debate offers Haley a chance to put Florida in her rearview mirror — or allow DeSantis to regain his footing after his victory over Reynolds.

DeSantis argued that he is more electable than Haley and that anyone seen as a more moderate candidate cannot win over the GOP’s grassroots base. Meanwhile, Haley points to DeSantis’ months-long decline in the polls to suggest he doesn’t have what it takes to emerge as the Republican nominee.

The outcome of the Haley-DeSantis dynamic is crucial, as the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party seeks to see who can give the former president a run for his money — something that has yet to happen despite all the headwinds he faces. .

Does the younger stage change anything?

Although the debates so far have helped change some candidates’ poll numbers, they have mostly been characterized by shouting matches and moderators’ struggle to restore anything resembling civility on stage.

On the one hand, a smaller stage can give candidates more time to answer questions, delve deeper into politics and limit the opportunity for crosstalk. However, on the other hand, candidates may be more forced to push their way into the spotlight as the primary schedule tightens, especially with DeSantis and Haley winning, and candidates like Ramaswamy, Christie and Scott looking to make a breakout moment.

The debates have already produced memorable clashes, with Haley attacking Ramaswamy as foreign policy inexperienced and Christie going after Trump in absentia, barbs that have had varying levels of effectiveness.

This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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