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8 Things to Watch for at the Las Vegas Republican Debate

This time what happens in Vegas will be remembered — big league, as Donald Trump would say.

A Republican nomination contest far more wild than any expected will put itself to the test once again Tuesday night, when Republicans gather at the Venetian Casino on the Vegas strip.

The event will be broadcast on CNN, with a free online stream at The coverage starts at 6 p.m. E.T. for the undercard and 8:30 p.m. E.T. for the main event, though don’t worry if you are a little tardy. CNN has a tendency to vamp and go to commercial for between 15 and 30 minutes before the opening statements and questions.

In the meantime, here are eight story lines to watch for as the zingers start flying.

Foreign policy at the forefront
After the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., CNN, which is hosting the debate, has made clear that foreign policy will be the central focus of Tuesday’s debate. With fears of terrorism on the rise, candidates will be presented with the challenge of articulating their plans on combating ISIS in a format that doesn’t reward detailed answers. The more serious tone will likely reward candidates who adapt their messages to fit the new dynamic of the race, and may pose a problem for those who struggle on the substance.

Everybody vs. Ted Cruz
Cruz has surged to the top of polls in Iowa, where he has consolidated the support of evangelicals and nationally, where he’s been the main beneficiary of Ben Carson’s polling collapse. Now he will be rewarded with a big target on his back Tuesday night. The attackers will range from Donald Trump, who is looking to regain his lead in the Hawkeye State, to Marco Rubio and Chris Christie who see attacking Cruz’s perceived softness on national-security issues as beneficial to their cause. But don’t expect Cruz to respond to all attacks. He brushed off Trump calling him a “maniac” with a song, and has refrained from engaging in personal attacks with most of his rivals. The exception: Rubio, his Senate rival whom Cruz is looking to brand as soft on illegal immigration.

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