As the presidential debate season kicks off on Thursday, no one knows for sure what to expect from the first Republican debate since the event is kind of an anomaly. Not only is the GOP field extremely large, but Thursday marks the first time since 1987 that a debate will be held five months before the first primary. (To give you a sense of how long ago that was, that's when the first Bush, Papa George H.W., ran and later won. Now, his son Jeb Bush will be taking the stage.) Times have changed, and a very different Republican Party will be talking it up in Cleveland. With candidates such as Donald Trump running, it's anyone's guess how the night will go down.
But, as with all presidential debates, some things can be expected. The event, hosted by Fox News, will be moderated by Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace, who, according to The Washington Post, is known for pushing candidates and has "some doozies" planned for the debate. Though some of the candidates' behavior might be a wild-card factor, some debate tropes will never change. Candidates are sure to dodge questions while trying to squeeze as many campaign buzzwords in a one-minute response as they possibly can. And there are some issues that we can be sure will pop up throughout the night.
With Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Obama rolling out strong plans on climate change lately, it's unlikely the candidates will be able to avoid a question on the matter. None of the Republicans are particularly vocal supporters of environmental issues — in a preliminary debate on Monday, Scott Walker dodged the question. Only Ted Cruz is sure to stand out on this issue, as he is adamantly against the concept of humans causing climate change and was a strong supporter of the Keystone Pipeline.
The Iran Deal
Every single Republican candidate spoke out about the Iran nuclear deal announced by the Obama administration earlier this month. The Iran deal is sure to come up, and candidates will likely be asked how they would have handled it or how they as president would negotiate with Iran. Be sure to look out for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who likened the deal to the Holocaust and said it was like marching Israel "to the door of the oven."
Immigration has been a hot issue throughout the election already, and Trump and Bush are likely to be the heavyweights in the conversation. No one has forgotten Trump's inflammatory rhetoric about immigration, particularly when it came to Mexico. In addition, Bush has made immigration reform a cornerstone of his campaign. If Rick Perry makes the cut, he is likely to throw his hat in the ring and reference his experience as governor of Texas.
Since Americans routinely say the economy is the most important issue facing the country, you can be sure there will be multiple questions about the economy. Trump could actually dominate this part of the debate because the economy is really the only area he can claim some kind of authority over. Even more interesting is the fact that he's been kind of quiet about his economic policies, which means that his answers on Thursday may be very illuminating and surprisingly earnest.
Student debt shows up in pretty much in every debate, and the question often comes from some nubile young college student who is met with uproarious applause. Be sure to watch out for Rand Paul's plan, which focuses on furthering students' ability to write off loans on their taxes. "Essentially your college is a working expense," Paul said in Monday's preliminary debate in New Hampshire. "This makes more sense than the president who says, ‘Hey, this is going to be free.'"
Although the Senate voted against the Republican bill to defund Planned Parenthood, the GOP's war on women, as Democrats say, is far from over. The issue is set to be the main event of the upcoming Congressional session. Efforts to defund the women's health organization may even lead to a possible shutdown in October. Both Cruz and Paul are leading the efforts to pull funding, so many of the debate questions are sure to go toward them. Fingers crossed that Wallace finds a way to grill them on whether they'll force a shutdown.
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