A preview of Thursday’s GOP presidential debate

THE CRITICAL MOMENT

For the remaining candidates fighting for the Republican nomination, this is likely one of the most important debates to this point, if not the most. Super Tuesday is just days away, where a number of states are going to be throwing down their support and hundreds of delegates are going to be handed out.

While a number of scenarios could play out, it’s more than likely we’ll be looking back at the first of March as Super Trumpsday. As I noted recently in my Nevada predictions article, 3 out of the 4 largest delegate offerings on Super Tuesday are going to Trump. After Trump won 45% of the vote in Nevada, additional polling data came out showing Trump is further securing the nomination. Trump is leading Ohio’s March 15th contest for 66 delegates and New Jersey’s June 7th contest for 51 delegates.

However, a brand new poll this morning shows Donald Trump has closed the gap in Texas, tying Cruz, according to TEGNA/SurveyUSA. Texas represents 155 delegates on Super Tuesday.

The Republican Party establishment at this point is desperate for any answer to stopping Trump. The field is too crowded for united anti-Trump vote and it doesn’t appear anyone is dropping out soon. Governor John Kasich is likely to hang on until Ohio, after Super Tuesday, and Ben Carson is anyone’s guess.

The real battle is going to between Senate colleagues Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are vying for the anti-Trump vote.

THE OPEN WAR DEBATE

The establishment needs a guy and these two are fighting for it. Though, admittedly, Governor John Kasich could be a dark horse too. Senator Marco Rubio is attracting former Jeb Bush supporters and donors, making him the obvious pick for the establishment vote. Senator Ted Cruz is still there, while regularly claiming third place and continuing to poll there.

No doubt, this will be a chaotic display of open war. The crazy part? It won’t be incited by Donald Trump.

Senator Cruz has a reputation among Senate colleagues as being abrasive and not playing well with others. His campaign tactics reflect this personality. He will likely take swings at Trump, but go more after Senator Marco Rubio.

Senator Rubio can’t keep ignoring his opponents while focusing on fancy soundbites about the President. He has to go after his opponents. But let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

There is a slim chance, very slim but its still there, that Governor Kasich could emerge above the two as the only adult capable of taking on Trump. If this became the case, you could see him make a leap. His delegate count isn’t far behind Senators Cruz and Rubio.

The window for defeating Trump is closing quickly, though. This urgency will create a lot of hostility.

AFTER THE DEBATE

It’s very unlikely the game changes for Donald Trump. He has had great debate performances and bad ones, with the same result coming after each time: he continues rising. With very little on the line, he will continue doing what he is doing.

Trump will benefit from the chaos among his opponents however. Senator Marco Rubio is polling in second in a lot of contests, with Senator Ted Cruz in third. Debates are often Senator Rubio’s moments to shine and he’s only had one bad performance while regularly claiming the spotlight in the rest.

If Senator Rubio can dent his colleague, Senator Cruz could continue losing steam in Texas and hand the biggest contest of Super Tuesday to Trump. If Trump wins Texas, along with the three other top delegate offerings on Super Tuesday, Trump becoming the nominee changes from “likely” to “inevitable.”

Chris Dixon

About Chris Dixon

Chris Dixon is a libertarian-leaning writer. In addition to writing "Undercover Porcupine", he is also the Managing Editor for The Liberty Conservative and writes for Cleat Geeks and Medium.