Politics

Fox News Republican debates FAQ: Everything you need to know (plus bingo cards!)

News organizations begin setting up outside the Quicken Loans Arena for the Fox News  GOP presidential candidate debate scheduled to take place tomorrow evening on August 5, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top ten polling Republican candidates were chosen to participate in the debate.
News organizations begin setting up outside the Quicken Loans Arena for the Fox News GOP presidential candidate debate scheduled to take place tomorrow evening on August 5, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top ten polling Republican candidates were chosen to participate in the debate.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Republican primary is starting to get into full swing, with Fox News throwing one of the first major debates for primary candidates on Thursday. (Many of the candidates previously appeared separately answering questions in a C-SPAN forum.)

When is the Fox News debate?

It takes place Thursday at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern.

Can I watch the Fox News debate online?

If you're a cable subscriber, you can watch the debate online by signing in through your cable provider. It'll also be available to cable subscribers on the Fox News Go app for mobile devices.

Anything I should watch for in the debate?

Supporters will be watching in hopes that their favorite candidate does well; rivals will watch in hopes their opponents do badly; and many others will be watching in hopes that they'll be entertained. 

Still, the first debate could have a real impact in this incredibly crowded Republican primary. NPR breaks down the stakes: 

The top debate does have plenty to look forward to, mainly because of Trump's presence.

"It's 'must-see TV,' but the 'must-see' starts with Trump," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "Is he going to be a statesman or is he going to be an outspoken bomb thrower? Who knows."

Both O'Connell and Bonjean said the other top candidates, like Bush and Walker, would be wise to avoid taking on Trump directly, since they have nothing to gain and more to lose by doing so. But other candidates who need a surge of momentum might benefit from some direct attacks.

"Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and even John Kasich need to rise in the polls, and by taking on Donald Trump, that could really help shine a positive light on them," Bonjean said. "Trying to get Trump into a verbal wrestling match could be extremely helpful to their candidacy."

Kasich nabbed the last spot on stage, capping off an impressive rise after announcing his candidacy relatively late, just a few weeks ago. It would have been an embarrassment for the Ohio governor had he been left off the stage in his home state.

But Kasich's surge seemed to come at the expense of Perry. Perry has tried to shed the bumbling image of his failed 2012 campaign — personified by his infamous "oops" moment in a 2011 debate — and he's been getting better reviews on the campaign trail this time around. But it wasn't enough for Perry.

"He's got to be just livid," O'Connell said. "It's unfortunate for Rick because this time around, it's hard to make a first impression the second time."

Perry's absence robs Republicans of one of their loudest attack dogs against Trump. The former Texas governor have exchanged barbs over immigration and the border. Perry said Trump was "unfit" to be president after he dismissed Arizona Sen. John McCain's time as a Vietnam prisoner of war.

The snub of Perry, along with Graham and Gilmore, also means there will be no military veterans on the main debate stage at a time when foreign policy has emerged as one of the top issues in the race. Graham has also been highly critical of Trump, calling him a "jackass" after his comments against McCain.

Many Republicans had also wanted Fiorina, the only woman in the field, to be on stage as well. She's emerged as one of the GOP's most effective attack dogs against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a party in need of diversity and to close the gender gap.

But the earlier debate, airing at 5 p.m. ET on Fox News, has one big benefit, according to the GOP strategists — it won't have Donald Trump. And that means it could be more substantive and give new candidates a chance to rise ahead of the next debate.

"It's the warm up bench," Bonjean said. "It's the minor leagues. But at the same time, they get a chance to work on their presentations — and they don't have to deal with Donald Trump either."

One option to add to the entertainment value: There are several bingo cards available. Yahoo has one for some likely topics and phrases:

One of the more colorful bingo cards comes from the Chicago Tribune, with squares like "Christie punches someone in the face" and "Trump shoots money cannon into crowd." It may not be the most likely card to produce a Bingo!, but hey, if any of these squares get checked off, it should be a fun watch.

You can also try out the Sun-Sentinel's bingo card which, like the Yahoo one, is based largely around topics and common phrases of the various candidates.

Who's going to be in the Fox News Republican debate?

The top 10 candidates, based on an average of national polling, were invited to participate. Here are the Thursday night debaters:

1. Businessman Donald Trump
2. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
3. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
4. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
5. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson
6. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
7. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio
8. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul
9. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
10. Ohio Gov. John Kasich

When is the forum for candidates below the top 10?

2 p.m. Pacific/5 p.m. Eastern.

Who is in the one-hour forum for lower tier candidates?

Several high-profile candidates — including California businesswoman Carly Fiorina — did not make the cutoff the be in the main debate. She and others will take part in a one-hour forum for the rest of the Republican primary field that will take place earlier in the day, along with:

— Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry
— Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
— South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham
— Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum
— Former New York Gov. George Pataki
— Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore