Saturday night’s Republican presidential candidate debate in Greenville will feature the most compact lineup of the year, as attrition has boiled the field down to six candidates.
The participants are Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson.
The debate will air at 9 p.m., televised by CBS News live from the Peace Center in downtown Greenville.
John Dickerson, host of “Face the Nation,” is the debate moderator. Other questions will come from Major Garrett, CBS News’ chief White House correspondent, and Kimberley Strassel from The Wall Street Journal.
This is the first debate since the New Hampshire primaries and the last one until the South Carolina Republican primary on Feb. 20. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Here are five things to watch:
Energized by his unexpectedly close third-place finish in Iowa, the Florida U.S. senator was pegged to start riding a crest. But he bombed in the next televised debate. He repeated himself, got stuck on talking points and sounded robotic. Social media had a field day and so did his stage opponents. He finished fifth in New Hampshire.
This could be the most important TV appearance of his White House run.
The governor will be in the audience Saturday night, but her staff is being tight-lipped about her plans for endorsing a candidate.
Three of the state’s top four elected statewide Republicans have all made picks: Sen. Tim Scott for Rubio, Sen. Lindsey Graham for Bush and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster for Trump.
Haley, who is open to being courted as a possible vice presidential pick, has been silent after endorsing Mitt Romney four years ago.
Always unpredictable and bombastic, sometimes vulgar, the billionaire businessman is leading by double digits in South Carolina polls, though most of those surveys are dated to last month. While he’s widely expected to finish first in South Carolina, his schedule for next week remains one of most ambitious of all the candidates, with five events or rallies planned.
South Carolina has been friendly territory to the Bush family, starting with Barbara Bush going to school at Charleston’s Ashley Hall, then running through previous primary and election wins for father George H.W. Bush, and brother George W. Bush.
But Jeb Bush has to win over a more skeptical GOP electorate in 2016. Expect him to play up the importance of the state’s military ties and maybe even name-drop The Citadel, where he gave his defense policy speech last year.
Greenville represents the symbolic buckle of the state’s Bible Belt, and evangelicals will make up more than 50 percent of the GOP turnout. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is making the biggest appeal to this group.
There may not be direct questions about religion during the debate, but Sunday morning marks the last holy day before the primary in a vote that’s all about turnout.