Simi Valley, Calif. - It's a big night for the 16 remaining GOP presidential candidates at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The stage is set, the candidates have made their preparations and their teams are ready to hit the spin room when the big event is over.
Tonight is the second GOP primary debate of the season and is hosted by CNN and Salem Communications, the company that owns Townhall.com. Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt will be moderating the debate and Townhall Political Editor Guy Benson will be hosting debate coverage throughout the evening on Salem radio stations across the country.
As the countdown to the debate winds down, Donald Trump still leads, Dr. Ben Carson is gaining and Carly Fiorina has made the main stage. In the past few weeks, Trump has defied political gravity by gaining more than 30 percent support in polls across the board as Carson has steadily gained momentum in second place. Carly Fiorina, who was relegated to the "kids table" during the first August debate hosted by Fox News, has worked hard to get her poll numbers up and it has paid off. Fiorina will be on the main stage tonight and based on her performance last time, the more people see her perform, the higher her numbers will go.
As for the rest of the crew, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, they have to make an impact tonight in order to keep moving forward and to break Trump's momentum. The establishment politicians have had a rough time up to this point and they don't have much opportunity to change the minds of voters. There are only four GOP debates left and we're now five months away from the first GOP primary. Time is of the essence.
Trump will be at center stage once again with Jeb Bush and Scott Walker to his left and right. At this point, candidates have a choice to make 1) attack Trump's record of "conservatism" as Rand Paul plans to do 2) stick to promoting their own records and policy plans for the country. At this point attacks on Trump, no matter how warranted, haven't helped any candidate increase their poll numbers. In fact, attacks have only given Trump more momentum and support.
According to the Real Clear Politics average, Trump, Carson and Fiorina take up 54 percent of the support at this point from primary voters. The establishment and politician candidates certainly have a lot of work to do.
The debate starts on CNN at 8 p.m. ET.