Republicans Head Into Debate with Crazy Carson on Top and Rand Paul Mad About Being Dissed

It's that time again. CNBC will be airing the third Republican presidential debate of the cycle at 8pm ET. As usual, drama is expected. In fact, there's already been drama behind the scenes with some of the lower-polling candidates outraged over the greenrooms they've been assigned:

Trump was granted a spacious room, complete with plush chairs and a flat-screen TV. Marco Rubio got a theater-type room, packed with leather seats for him and his team of aides. Carly Fiorina’s room had a Jacuzzi.

Then there was Chris Christie, whose small space was dominated by a toilet. So was Rand Paul’s.

The campaigns have apparently been soothed with better spaces, which is a shame. Christie and Paul coming out on stage already fuming and angrier than usual would have been quite a sight. And it seems they'd have company in the anger department. On Tuesday Ohio Gov. John Kasich started previewing a new tone: Angry. Or, as he put it, "I am sick and tired of listening to this nonsense, and I'm going to have to call it like it is as long as I'm in this race." Since Kasich has been doing his best to play the role of the "adult in the race," this will be a net addition of outraged posturing to the stage.

But beyond the bottom-feeders, there could be drama at the top of the field. One key thing to watch is that there's been a major shift in the Republican primary since the last debate: Ben Carson is now ascendant, beating longtime frontrunner Donald Trump in some polls. Donald Trump is not a famously good loser, and has so far relied heavily on his strength in the polls to shut down questions and challenges. How will he respond without that argument, or will he ignore the recent smattering of polls that put Carson up and continue leaning on the ones that still give him the lead? And while he's clearly still prepared to claim he's been treated unfairly, those claims will look a little weak leveled against a network that has treated him fawningly over the years, doing a documentary about how awesome he is and giving him a regular segment for a time.

As for Carson, will the new polling dynamic change the expectations placed on him, and his treatment by other candidates, including Trump? But Mother Jones raises perhaps the biggest question about Carson in what's supposed to be a debate focused on economic issues:

Will the moderators treat Carson like a front-runner? Normally, a frontrunner gets scrutiny from the moderators. Trump and Hillary Clinton have been grilled by moderators throughout the debates so far. Will the CNBC team treat Carson—who has struggled with even simple economic policy questions—like a frontrunner?

Imagine if the first question to Carson was simply, "Define the debt limit. Don't tell us what you'd do about it. Just define it."


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