At 9 PM ET on Thursday, Fox News Channel and Facebook will host the first Republican debate for the 2015-16 election season. On stage for the main event will be the current top ten presidential hopefuls on the Republican side. All eyes of course will be on current front-runner Donald Trump. He’s fearless and outspoken to a fault, and comes in with almost universal name recognition. He’s used to being the star, the center of attention, but he will be sharing the stage with nine other highly ambitious men. He’ll probably want run the show, but it remains to be seen if the others will let him. Jeb Bush is the establishment’s man, the unofficial rules say it his turn. Will he be able to ward of an insurgency from the right? John Kasich has the resume, but not the name. Will he be able to tick off all of his accomplishments in the short amount of time alloted? Will it be one of these candidates we talk about around the water cooler Friday morning, or will someone else steal the show?
Each candidate will have their own distinct challenge, a goal which they must meet:
Donald Trump: Everyone has seen the celebrity Trump, the bomb throwing Trump. Those watching will want to see if there is also a presidential Trump that they can see themselves pulling the lever for.
Jeb Bush: Jeb has to show conservatives that he is willing to work with and respect them. Those candidates too afraid of Trump will have no trouble taking shots at him, he needs to be ready.
Scott Walker: Walker needs to show us that he is just as tough as we think he is. He also needs to look credible on foreign policy.
Dr. Ben Carson: He has to show that he is more than just an intellectual, that he can lead and even be forceful. Being Mr. Nice-guy is good if you’re running for mayor, not leader of the free world.
Mike Huckabee: Governor Huckabee needs to show how Christian ethics can be applied to running a nation, but not in a way that will alienate the more secular voters.
Ted Cruz: He needs to do what Jeb Bush needs to do, only from the other direction. He needs to show that he can appeal to Republicans that think the party is fine just the way it is, or prove to them why it isn’t.
Marco Rubio: Senator Rubio has to show where he’s lead on the issues. He has wide appeal, he needs to sell himself as someone who can beat Hillary.
Rand Paul: He needs to do the same thing that Ted Cruz needs to do, plus prove that his is not an isolationist when it comes to foreign policy.
Chris Christie: Needs not to scare off any voters, especially Libertarians. He, more than any of the other candidates, can afford duel with Trump.
John Kasich: Kasich needs to take any opportunity he can to tout his experience. He must pick his moments if he wants to take on any of the front-runners while taking care not to be bated by them.
One subplot to watch for will be an inevitable struggle for dominance. A secondary order of business that will play itself out throughout the event will be who out of this group of men will emerge as the Alpha-Male. There will be tests and challenges, and each participant will be trying to establish themselves in the pecking order. The four top contenders for the top spot will be Trump, Bush, Christie and John Kasich. Unless there is a sociological surprise in the making, the rest will be made to either ally themselves with one of the top dogs or be cast out.