The Republican 2016 hopefuls relegated to Wednesday’s preliminary GOPpresidential debate have a new sense of urgency after their ranks were culled last week with the withdrawal of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry from the race and the elevation of one of their own, Carly Fiorina, to the main stage.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former New York Gov. George Pataki are all hoping to score the kind of performance that will help them emulate Ms. Fiorina. But operating low-budget campaigns without the kind of attention reserved for the big-name candidates, they are in danger of following Mr. Perry, who flamed out last week.
Most of the attention will go to the 11 candidates in the main event at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The preliminary affair begins at 6 p.m. East Coast time, while the main debate begins after 8 p.m.
Debates can be crucial for cash-strapped candidates who are looking to gain some traction against some of their better-funded rivals. And being part of the preliminary debate could even be beneficial for the four lower-tier candidates, because they’ll get more airtime per person to make their pitch, compared to the 11-person free-for-all that will ensue later.
But Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, said it will be tough for the candidates to make gains.
“I don’t know that any of them can get out of the losers’ table,” Mr. O’Connell said. “I mean, seriously, they might need an act of God.
“For Fiorina, she is a special case. She is the only female in the field, and she presented herself well. The others are careers politicians, and the voters are not up for a career politician being up there right now,” he said.