After Donald Trump staged an emphatic victory in the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday, and Marco Rubio emerged as his latest top challenger, voters want to know when the pair will debate next on the same stage — along with evangelical Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who finished just fractions of a percentage point behind Rubio in South Carolina.
The next Republican debate will also be the last before the March 1 Super Tuesday primary extravaganza, in which 11 states will hold primary elections or caucuses on the Republican side of the campaign — with 595 delegates on offer. To win the GOP nomination requires 1,237 delegates.
The debate will follow Tuesday’s Republican caucus in Nevada, a contest Trump is expected to win easily.
Despite finishing below former former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who ended up dropping out of the race after gaining just 7.8 percent of the South Carolina vote, Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson remain at least nominally in the race and will also share the debate stage with Trump, Rubio and Cruz later this week.
Taking 32.5 percent of the South Carolina vote and with it, all 50 of the state’s delegates, Trump surprisingly beat Cruz among evangelical Christian voters there. The 69-year-old New York real estate mogul’s ability to cut into the base of Cruz’s support — despite an all out effort by the Cruz campaign to paint Trump as a closet liberal who supports gay rights, opposes display of the Confederate flag and who will “tear down American values” — had to be alarming to the Texas ultra-conservative.
Trump blasted back at Cruz during the last Republican debate, condemning the Texas Senator as “the biggest single liar” he knew.
To see a 60-second breakdown of exactly how Donald Trump defeated Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in South Carolina, take a minute to view the following video produced by The Washington Post.
The Republican candidates will get their next shot at taking down Donald Trump on Thursday, February 25, when the remaining five take to the stage in a debate held at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas — the state that offers the biggest prize on Super Tuesday, March 1, with 155 delegates up for grabs.
Rather than aim their collective attacks at the frontrunner Donald Trump, however, Cruz and Rubio have been turning their sites on each other, in a puzzling battle for second place. In fact, on Monday, Cruz fired his campaign communications director after the campaign directed a smear at Rubio suggesting that the Florida senator had spoken disparagingly of the Bible, saying that “not many answers” were to be found in its pages.
Rubio had actually asserted that the Bible contains “all the answers.”
For a possible preview of the next Republican debate, watch a full replay of the last one, held in South Carolina February 13, in the video below.
Winning Texas may the last hope for Ted Cruz to remain a factor in the Republican race. Cruz currently leads his home state by a healthy margin with 37.6 percent support compared to 26.2 for Trump and only 9.8 for Rubio, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average last compiled on February 20.
To retain any credibility in the campaign, however, Cruz must hold on to as much of that lead as possible.
“He absolutely has to win Texas. If he wasn’t to win his home state, that’d be a huge PR blow,” Steve Munisteri, former Texas Republican Party chairman, told The Austin American-Statesman newspaper.
Trump has complained loudly that the Republican National Committee is, he claims, stacking the debates against him by packing live audiences with supporters of his opponents.
“Every time I go to a debate, I walk in and it’s like death,” Trump told Fox News on Sunday. “And when other people — I won’t mention names — when other people speak, they say something stupid and they get standing ovations. It’s very unfair what the RNC is doing.”
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The next Republican debate, with Donald Trump once again facing Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, will be hosted by CNN and Telemundo, and moderated by CNN Situation Room anchor, Wolf Blitzer. The debate goes live at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, on Thursday, February 25, 5:30 p.m. Pacific, and will be streamed live by CNN Go at this link.
[Featured Photo By Spencer Platt / Getty Images]