Essential Politics: Your guide to tonight’s GOP debate


I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host for debate day. Get your bingo cards ready, and join us tonight.

The economy is the topic du jour at this third meeting of the Republican men — and woman — who would like to be the 45th president of the United States.

Expect Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO who enjoyed time in the spotlight following the last faceoff in Simi Valley, to get even more scrutiny from moderators about the layoffs under her HP tenure. (Catch up here on our robust Fiorina coverage.)

But the focus could be more on Ben Carson than ever before, as one new CBS/New York Times survey found the neurosurgeon leading Donald Trump 26% to 22%. Those numbers come as the two sparred over Medicare policy and as Trump jabbed at Carson’s Seventh Day Adventist faith.

Another clash to look out for is Jeb Bush versus Marco Rubio. The two Floridians have been focusing increasing attention on one another while attempting to regain traction in the race.

It’s a safe wager the GOP candidates will turn more attention to Hillary Rodham Clinton, enjoying freshly renewed front-runner status in key states and nationally.

One lingering question is why the party is still holding undercard debates. After weak performances at the Democratic debate, former Sens. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee ended their candidacies. But since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out more than one month ago, the GOP field has remained the same. Appearing earlier in the day will be Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The warmup debate at the Reagan Library actually delivered several memorable exchanges on terrorism and immigration, and some of those questions didn’t get asked during the main event.

As for Wednesday night’s primetime matchup, David Lauter reports that Trump will keep his place at center stage thanks to the composite of poll numbers, even as he has slipped in recent surveys. At least four polls released over the past several days in Iowa show Trump seriously trailing Carson in the first caucus state.

Will CNBC's moderators ask Trump about his comment insisting "it’s not been easy for me" because his father gave him "a small loan of a million dollars" that he had to repay with interest? His rivals took note of the tone-deaf remark, which you’ll likely hear again.

And don’t be surprised if marijuana policy comes up, given the debate will be held in Colorado, where recreational use is legal.

Subscribers to this newsletter will get a reminder before the main debate begins with a link to our bingo cards. And follow along on our politics page.


Javier Panzar reports New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will venture to Silicon Valley next month to attend a fundraiser at the Atherton home of Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, his national finance committee co-chairman. Attendees will have to cough up $2,700 each, according to an invitation obtained by Seema Mehta.

The host committee for the Nov. 19 event, which includes a ticket to receive a photo and attend the reception, is listed on the invite as: Pam and Steve Eggert, Paul Martino, Carole McNeil, Nick Loeb, Mark and Karen McLaughlin and Jeff and Kellie Randle.

Whitman claimed just 40% of votes in her 2010 loss to Gov. Jerry Brown despite dumping $144 million of her own money into the campaign. The other big 2010 loser? That would be Christie’s presidential rival Fiorina, who lost her bid that year to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer by 10 points.

We noticed Whitman is active again on Facebook after a four-year hiatus, noting on her public figure page that Sheryl Sandberg has encouraged her to do so.


-- The city of San Diego agreed to pay $99,000 on Tuesday to settle one of five unresolved sexual battery and harassment lawsuits against former Mayor Bob Filner.

-- Los Angeles County Probation Department Chief Jerry Powers said Monday he had been summoned to a closed-door meeting with the Board of Supervisors to respond to allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

-- Chris Megerian reports from Gov. Jerry Brown’s event in La Jolla that the governor is vowing to defend President Obama’s actions on climate change.

-- Members of the California delegation tell Sarah Wire they would have preferred more time to read the budget compromise before a vote, but so far were warm to the deal. Get the details from Lisa Mascaro, who reports how the deal could complicate Rep. Paul Ryan’s bid for the speakership.


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