With the first real people soon to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Republican presidential candidates are grabbing at just about anything to score points in the polls. Their next big chance to show their stuff is Thursday's GOP debate, the sixth in the race so far.
Fox Business is broadcasting two debates, as has become standard, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST at the North Charleston Arena in South Carolina. The politicians on the undercard lineup are Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The primetime participants are billionaire Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Both Paul and Fiorina have been dropped from the main debate to the kids' table event due to low poll numbers. Paul's campaign released a statement saying the candidate would not appear Thursday.
"By any reasonable criteria Senator Paul has a top-tier campaign," the statement read. "He will not let the media decide the tiers of this race and will instead take his message directly to the voters of New Hampshire and Iowa."
December and January have shaken things up in the GOP race, with Carson falling out of favor as key staffers quit his campaign. Cruz has moved into the No. 2 spot and is facing Trump's wrath accordingly — the Canadian-born American citizen has been questioned this week over whether he's eligible to serve as president. Meanwhile, Bush and Fiorina, once top contenders for the nomination, have kept sliding. And don't expect to see South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham or former New York Gov. George Pataki at Thursday's debate, as they've both dropped out since the last go-around.
According to the HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates national survey data, here's where the candidates stood as of Wednesday morning:
1. Donald Trump — 37.2 percent support of likely Republican primary voters
2. Ted Cruz — 19 percent
3. Marco Rubio — 11.3 percent
4. Ben Carson — 7.9 percent
5. Jeb Bush — 5 percent
6. Chris Christie — 3.1 percent
7. Carly Fiorina — 2.6 percent
8. Rand Paul — 2.5 percent
9. John Kasich — 2.2 percent
10. Mike Huckabee — 2 percent
11. Rick Santorum — 0.4 percent
12. Jim Gilmore — 0 percent (not invited to the Fox Business debates)