What to watch for in tonight's Republican debate

MIAMI – The remaining four Republican presidential candidates will duke it out tonight in the latest GOP debate, their last chance to make their pitches to voters ahead of critical winner-take-all contests in Florida, Ohio and Illinois

Tonight’s debate is sponsored by CNN, The Washington Times and Salem Media Group and will be held at the University of Miami and broadcast at 8:30 p.m. on CNN.

The matchup could prove to be a critical moment for several of the candidates on stage. Here are a few things to watch:

Will we see a newer, more polished Donald Trump? The billionaire lit up Twitter after he used most recent Republican debate to comment on his private parts. But he then went on to carry  three of Tuesday’s four voting contests, solidifying his lead in the Republican race and making it that much harder for his rivals to catch up him. As he’s pulled away from the pack, Trump has vowed to act more presidential. Have this week’s victories begun moving him in that direction? Can we see more careful rhetoric from the candidate?

Cruz the unifier? Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the only other candidate not named Trump to pick up a victory in Tuesday’s primaries, easily winning Idaho by more than 17 percentage points. He’s long made the argument that he has the best shot at beating Trump and that voters should unite behind him if they’d like a chance at beating the billionaire. Will Cruz step up such rhetoric in Tuesday’s debate? And how much will he publicly prod Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to drop out tonight? Or will he primarily use his time on stage to ding Trump?

Last stands for Rubio and Kasich. Tuesday is make-or-break for Rubio and Kasich, who have both staked the future of their campaigns on winning their home state contests on Tuesday. Recent Ohio polls put Kasich within striking distance of Trump, but Rubio appears to be well below the billionaire in the Sunshine State. What kind of vibe do we get from those two candidates this evening? Desperation? Confidence? Does Rubio continue his personal attacks of Trump, an eleventh-hour strategy he now says he regrets? Will Kasich maintain his above-the-fray attitude?

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...