A veteran GOP strategist with decades of presidential campaign experience says that there's a lot on the line for the Republican White House contenders who will take the stage Wednesday at the second primary debate.
"I think this debate becomes almost a cage fight because the candidates need to differentiate themselves," Dave Carney predicted. "The seven or eight guys can’t keep dancing like this all the way through the primaries. So somebody’s got to break out. It’s high risk, high reward."
Longtime Republican consultant David Kochel, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns, emphasized that "the second debate is about trajectory and who’s capable of really sustaining some momentum."
The debate, which will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, will be televised on the FOX Business Network (FBN) and Univision from 9-11 pm ET.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced Monday that seven of the eight candidates who took part in last month's first GOP presidential nomination debate will be on the stage in Simi Valley.
They are, in alphabetical order, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, biotech entrepreneur and political commentator Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Former President Donald Trump, who has reached the donor and polling thresholds required by the RNC to make the stage, did not sign the RNC's pledge, in which the candidates agree to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee.
Pointing to his commanding lead over his rivals for the 2024 nomination, the former president did not attend the first debate and is not showing up for the second showdown.
Thanks to her well-regarded performance at the first Republican presidential nomination debate, expect plenty of attention on Haley at this week's second GOP primary showdown.
"I’ll continue to be myself. I’ll continue to say what I think," the former South Carolina governor, who later served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a recent Fox News Digital interview.
For Scott, who was far from the loudest voice at last month's debate, Wednesday's showdown could be an opportunity to paint contrasts with his rivals for the nomination.
"Having an opportunity to talk about where we're different, I think it's important for the audience, frankly, at home to understand that there are real differences between the candidates on the stage, and we should have an opportunity to discuss those differences," Scott told Fox News Digital last week.
Pointing to last month's first debate, a Fox News-hosted showdown in Milwaukee, Kochel said that "everybody gets an introduction. Do a little bit of biography. Make your full opening statement."
And he highlighted that Wednesday's second debate gives the candidates a second chance.
"You’ve got to fix what was wrong in the first debate, or you’ve got to maintain the momentum that built from it," Kochel emphasized.
To do that, the candidates may have to point more fingers at Trump rather than Biden. The current president was a much more frequent target at the first debate than the former president.
Carney spotlighted that the candidates who "have a breakout night" at the second debate "can put some of their rivals to sleep and can start formulating themselves as the alternative to Trump."
But he warned, "If it doesn’t go well, you can pack up your bags and go home and spend more time with your family."