Welcome to our pre-debate open thread. I’ll be updating periodically until the festivities begin. Refresh your browser frequently for the latest updates… if you dare.

Tonight’s debate

Back on the main stage: Sen. Rand Paul
Joining the undercard for the second time ever: Jim Gilmore
Throwing his own party: Donald Trump

Our coverage of the debate will begin just before 9:00 ET. No undercard coverage from us this time.

What will a Trumpless debate look like?

It will have much better hair! Hey-o. Tip your waitresses. I’ll be here all week. Seriously. I will be here all week.

But seriously, with Trump gone, we have a few possible scenarios:

1) A good Rubio v. Cruz fight. We saw a few of these moments during the last debate.
2) Cruz spends a good portion of his time insulting The Donald from afar.
3) Carson falls asleep on stage for real this time.
4) Rand Paul gets in at least one “Audit the Ted” quip.
5) Kasich talks about his father, the mailman. Did you know his father was a mailman? Because his father was a mailman.
6) All of the above.

My money’s on #6.

Is Cruz’s campaign beginning to view Rubio’s growing support as a threat? Certainly looks that way:

Senator Ted Cruz, who has been harshly criticizing Donald J. Trump all week on the campaign trail and in television commercials here, is now broadening his attacks to include Senator Marco Rubio, an unmistakable acknowledgment that Mr. Rubio is gaining support in the closing days before the Monday caucuses.

Mr. Cruz incorporated a critique of Mr. Rubio into his closing stump speech at a rally in West Des Moines on Wednesday night, arguing that his colleague had effectively given up the fight against same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court ruling last year legalized those unions.

“Several of the leading Republican candidates, including both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, said publicly this decision is settled, it’s the law of the land, we should accept it, surrender and move on,” said Mr. Cruz, drawing boos. “Those are word for word the talking points of Barack Obama. There is something profoundly wrong when Republican presidential candidates are reading Barack Obama’s talking points on marriage.”

Just as striking, Mr. Cruz’s campaign quietly began running an ad in Iowa Thursday targeting Mr. Rubio over his support of “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

Showing images of Mr. Rubio standing with the so-called Gang of Eight senators who wrote the 2013 immigration overhaul, the spot features a clip from Rush Limbaugh explaining that the Florida senator was a part of that group while Mr. Cruz was not.

The ad, which Mr. Cruz’s campaign did not release to the media, also flashes a message on screen: “Rubio betrayed our trust.”

For the Democrats, Rubio is Public Enemy No. 1:

What if Trump decides to make an appearance at the primetime event anyway?

IJ Review’s Joe Perticone has that scoop:

Exclusive footage from the RNC headquarters:



Trump threatened to sit out tonight’s debate if Fox News did not capitulate to his demands; demands which included replacing Megyn Kelly as a moderator. For the backstory of that alleged fight, see here.

When Fox News refused to boot Kelly, Trump announced he would not attend the debate but would instead throw his own party.

donald trump megyn kelly fox news debate

Later, we learned Trump demanded $5 million dollars to appear in the debate. Naturally, Fox told him to keep steppin’.

Is there really a raging war between Fox News and Donald Trump?

Doubtful. More feasible? This is political theater at its absolute worst.

Further, it’s conceivable Trump’s decision to abstain from tonight’s debate was calculated. In doing so, Trump avoids sparring with Cruz, particularly after their latest round of verbal assaults, on live TV mere days before the Iowa caucus. Trump might be good at talking trash, but doesn’t fair so well when slapping Cruz on stage. And that whole amnesty thing? Neither Cruz nor Trump are blameless. Both have changed their positions on amnesty, however, one of Trump’s biggest selling points has been his big beautiful wall. There’d be no escaping that discussion tonight. Finally, Trump gets to reinforce his standing as Ultimate Outsider by being “at war with Fox News” who has quite literally been one of his biggest promoters.

Also likely:

Trump is bringing friends!

Both Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee will join Trump at his party, though I’ve seen no confirmation regarding their attendance in the undercard debate.

Will CNN air Trump’s event?

Great question. The Internet is also confused about this. At first the network announced they would broadcast Trump’s party, then later said they would not. We’re working on confirmation and will update when we have it.

The entertainment has arrived:

Trump claims his temper tantrum exclusive party will benefit veterans, but is that true?

Veterans might get something, but it will be peanuts compared to what Trump makes off this sideshow. All donations to his “pro-veteran” cause go straight to Trump’s personal foundation. From The Federalist:

GOP front-runner Donald Trump announced that he would hold his own pro-veterans event during the debate to raise money for veterans. Trump even set up a special website to solicit donations to help veterans.

“Honor their valor,” the website, donaldtrumpforvets.com, states. “Donate now to help our Veterans.”

The website, which is nothing more than a single page with stock photos and a credit card donation form, claims that “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs.”

There’s only one problem: 100% of the money raised on the site goes directly to Donald Trump’s personal non-profit foundation, according to a disclosure listed at the bottom of the page.

“The Donald J Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization,” the disclosure reads. “An email confirmation with a summary of your donation will be sent to the email address provided above.”

But the Donald J Trump Foundation gives lots of dough to vets, right? Um, yeah… not exactly. The Weekly Standard has that story:

As Emily Canal of Forbes reported in October: “The Donald J. Trump Foundation has donated $5.5 million to 298 charities between 2009 and 2013 (the most recent year available), according to the non-profit’s 990 tax forms from those years. Of that, only $57,000 has been donated to seven organizations that directly benefit military veterans or their families, Forbes found. Wounded Warriors was not among the organizations Trump’s foundation gave to in that time period.”

Some veterans say that the billionaire has been AWOL when it comes to helping veterans. “Donald Trump is not a leader in veterans’ philanthropy, unless he’s donated a lot of money that nobody knows about,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the New York Times in July. “We were founded in New York. We are headquartered in New York. I’ve been here 10 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Donald Trump.”

Rieckhoff, an Iraq war veteran, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “If offered, @IAVA will decline donations from Trump’s event. We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts.”

In an email to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks said that “Mr. Trump has made significant financial and in kind contributions to many Veterans organizations, personally and not through the Donald J. Trump foundation.” Trump’s spokeswoman did not reply to an email asking if she could share an estimate of Trump’s personal donations to veterans organizations.

The Trump Foundation’s $57,000 in donations to veterans groups from 2009 to 2013 amounted to far less than Trump’s donations to the Clinton Foundation. “Trump is listed on the Clinton Foundation’s donor page as having given somewhere between $100,001 and $250,000,” the Daily Caller reported last year.

Trump campaign spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, was asked which veterans organizations would be participating in or benefiting from tonight’s event. She couldn’t name one. Brutal. From our friends at Red State:

Wait, so who the heck is this Jim Gilmore guy?

Our next sideshow-hating President, of course:

The former Governor of Virginia has an impressive resume and pleasant demeanor. Here’s Gilmore in the last debate he attended:

Speaking to The Blaze, Gilmore said his goal was spread good ideas:

“My goal here is to exceed what people think and to actually put some good ideas out there,” he added.

When asked about his low poll numbers, Gilmore had a brazen response: “I don’t care.”

“You know you asked me the wrong question,” he said. “You asked me about polls. What do I care about that? What I care about is getting the ideas out there for the people of New Hampshire then the winning and losing will take care of itself.”

Gilmore 2016?

If you’re watching the undercard debate, I want to hear from you!

Cast your vote now:

Meanwhile, in the Land of the Democrats…

Current status:


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