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5 things to ponder about the fifth Republican presidential debate

The fifth Republican presidential debate is tonight on CNN.

The debate arrives in the wake of terrorist attacks that rocked Europe and the U.S. and the focus will be on national security. Who does that favor? Maybe folks like tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney. Or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is fluent in foreign policy. More than anybody, it might help South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, maybe the most hawkish of GOP candidates. One problem though. Graham didn’t make the main debate stage. The topic could be a problem for Ben Carson. Despite a recent trip to a Jordanian refugee camp to establish some bona fides on the subject, Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, still suffered a recent precipitous drop in the polls, in part, many pollsters say, because of his lack of foreign affairs knowledge and recent verbal stumbles.


Will Trump backpedal or charge ahead on Muslim ban remarks?

Trump's proposal on Dec. 7 to ban any Muslim from entering the U.S. drew the ire of two prominent organizations that track violence against minority groups, members of the Republican party and the press. Politico reports: 

According to experts at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center who monitor hate groups and anti-Muslim sentiment, Trump’s call on Monday to halt the entrance of Muslims to the United States is driving online chatter among white supremacists and is likely to inspire violence against Muslims.

“When well-known public figures make these kind of statements in the public square, they are taken as a permission-giving by criminal elements who go out and act on their words.” said Mark Potok of the SPLC. “Is it energizing the groups? Yeah. They’re thrilled.”

The Philly Daily News ran this front page: 

At least one group likes what Trump has to say. The Ku Klux Klan is using Trump's remarks on Muslims and immigrants to energize white supremecists,  even upgrading its servers in part to cope with the Trump bump, Politico reports. Trump refused to comment on the Politico piece, which notes he does not to belong to or endorse white supremacist groups. 

What remains to be seen is if he will backpedal or charge ahead on his remarks about a Muslim ban.

Will trump take on Cruz?

The Donald doesn’t like second place. And some recent polls show that’s exactly where he stands now to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz among Iowa voters. Cruz has avoided public criticism of Trump, and Trump has mostly reciprocated.

That is, until he branded his rival a "maniac" on Fox News Sunday.

Cruz replied on Twitter: 

Cruz has soared into the lead in the first key voting state. Like we said, The Donald doesn’t like second place.  

CNN's podium lineup has Trump positioned center stage and flanked by Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Will Sen. Rand Paul sound out of touch? 

The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have Americans worried about their safety. And that’s often the time when people are willing to compromise on civil liberties. Paul is the most libertarian of the candidates on protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government _ the issue at the heart of the 4th Amendment. Because of that, he opposed the collection of so-called by metadata by the National Security Agency. Paul would also be the most reluctant to send troops to fight the Islamic State or beef up the Defense Department budget.

The Tea Party favorite Cruz may also get hit on the metadata issue, particularly if one of the other candidates suggests that the San Bernardino massacre might have been stopped. Though hawkish, Cruz has also been opposed to the collection of phone call records without warrants.

Will there be any serious talk about gun control?

The San Bernardino killings have also prompted more calls for gun control measures, including a ban on gun sales to people on the terror watch list. Republicans have responded by saying that the watch list is compiled secretly and sometimes mistakenly and shouldn’t be used to bar people from exercising 2nd Amendment rights.

Gun control could also come up in the context of a Supreme Court decision not to review an Illinois town’s ban on semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines. By not getting involved, the court let the town’s law stay in effect.

How will the hopefuls address the climate change agreement?

Some climate experts are already predicting that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, and the debate follows a weekend when many cities in the northeast had temperatures 20 degrees above normal. The signing of the historic agreement in Paris doesn’t lock the United States into mandatory emissions reductions, but it is a statement of intent. How would the candidates view the agreement?

Thanks for reading. Make sure to tune in to for live coverage of the debate from reporter Chris Casteel in Washington, D.C. and enterprise reporter Juliana Keeping. Pick up a copy of The Oklahoman Wednesday for additional coverage.

Here's the rundown on how to catch it: 

When: Main debate is Tuesday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. Central time. The under-card begins at 5 p.m.

Where to watch: Aired on CNN. will stream it live. Cox Channel 43 and U-verse Channel 202

Debate moderators: The debate will be moderated by Wolf Blitzer, with CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash joining Salem Radio Network talk show host Hugh Hewitt as questioners.

Round 5: Tuesday's Republican debate podium lineup 4 ways to follow the Republican debate tonight GOP Debate: What will Trump say tonight?

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Juliana Keeping

Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award... Read more ›

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›