The final Republican presidential primary debate of 2015 will look very similar to the four previous GOP match-ups this year with front-runner Donald Trump taking center stage both literally and figuratively. The real estate mogul will be joined in Las Vegas Tuesday night by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. But Tuesday’s contest — hosted by CNN — will likely sound much different than the prior debates as the nation’s focus has turned to security and foreign policy in light of recent deadly terror attacks at home and abroad.
In response to the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, Trump immediately called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. until our country’s leaders can “figure out what is going on,” a move that drew both praise and condemnation. The proposal is resonating with some in his party according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which shows that 42 percent of Republicans support the plan. Another 77 percent say although the businessman can come off as brash, they like what he’s saying.
But the idea of implementing a ban on Muslims doesn’t sit well with most Americans, according to the same NBC/WSJ poll. Some accuse Trump of playing into the terrorists’ hands and inflaming fear of Islam. The billionaire and his proposal got a sharp tongue-lashing from the GOP establishment, which has had to tread very carefully in trying to reel back Trump for fear of alienating his supporters.
Frustration within Trump’s own party may be starting to affect his numbers in the all-important Iowa caucuses, which are just seven weeks away. A poll by The Des Moines Register has Ted Cruz leading the Republican race by 10 percentage points over Trump. The two have largely steered clear of attacks on each other to this point, but cracks in their relatively congenial relationship are starting to show.
GOP rivals are trying to steal some of the spotlight in the wake of the carnage in southern California. Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio have hit the talk show circuit to outline their strategies in fighting ISIS. Trump has been critical of President Obama’s efforts to battle the terrorist network and is positioning himself as the best candidate to keep the country safe.
One point the Republican presidential hopefuls can agree on after the recent mass killings: gun control. All say new legislation on the issue isn’t warranted and they will defend the Second Amendment’s provision of the right to bear arms.
To see Tuesday’s debate live at 6 p.m. ET and for all the latest news on the presidential candidates, go to att.net.
—By Paul Martella