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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Third GOP Debate Could Be A Game Changer

Expert says "politics of personality" may continue to define candidates.

Listen to the radio story as broadcast on ARN on October 28th, 2015.

The media circus surrounding Donald Trump’s occasionally inappropriate rhetoricwas still overshadowing GOP candidates’ political agendas as they were preparing for their third debate.

This time, however, a lot more was at stake than Trump’s stance on immigration or his jabs at opponents. Ben Carson recently topped him in the polls.

“Republican voters are now finally beginning to pay attention. Opinions are changing, and I think we will start seeing more people fall out very shortly after this race and stronger numbers begin to surge for those that remain,” said Michael Madrid, a Republican political consultant based in Sacramento.

That said, it is still difficult to predict at this stage who will stay in the presidential race, as there is little variation in the candidates’ respective policies.

“It’s really the politics of personality, and I think that will probably continue for the foreseeable future,” Madrid said.

According to him, the only differentiating factor that might set candidates apart after tonight’s debate will be clearer responses to specific questions that will solidify some of their positions or policies. That will make it easier for the voters to decide.

“The frontrunner now is probably not gonna be the frontrunner in the next 30 to 60 days,” he added. Madrid also pointed out that current Republican candidates are more diverse than they have ever been, which is what the Democrats are traditionally known for.

“There is Libertarian, there is foreign policy hogs, there is social conservative, there is social moderate, all of which have a discernable leader,” he clarified.

While some students and staff at USC praised candidates such as John Kasich and Marco Rubio, because they are “more moderate,” others were quick to dismiss the entire Republican Party.

“Kasich is the best, judging from what I saw at the first debate,” David Lee said. But he had less kind words for Kasich’s opponents. “I think they are all kind of bigoted, Carson and Trump especially,’ he added.

“I hate him, he’s awful. I don’t trust him to do our international relations policy,” USC student Swini Tumnala said about Carson. Another student, Drew Lane, thinks the Republican candidates are “all terrible.”

“If Trump gets the nomination, I feel as if he has a very good chance of losing in the general,” he said.

As the debate started, the hashtag “#GOPDebate” quickly trended on Twitter. However, reactions were mixed.

“Where is the off switch for their mics? That would make this so much better,” posted Twitter user Luke Forsberg. Twitter user Billy Bob Orsagh directed his criticism at the network hosting the debate, CNBC.

“@CNBC you are a joke! These questions are a disgrace! @RealBenCarson you tha man!!!!” he said.

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