Donald Trump announces his candidacy for president on June 16. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The first Republican presidential debate Thursday promises to be epic. At least, that’s what we’re all expecting (hoping?) given the participation of Donald Trump, the braggadocious Big Apple billionaire who hasn’t been shy about insulting his opponents. But what else should you be on the lookout for? While the candidate lineup is not yet set, here are 49 questions rooted in style and substance to ponder while playing your drinking games and munching copious amounts of popcorn.


  1. Who will lob the first attack, and who will be the recipient of it?
  2. Who will attack Donald Trump first?
  3. Will Donald Trump NOT attack anyone?
  4. Who will Donald Trump attack first?
  5. Will Rick Perry be the first to attack Trump (as he has done) to gain the attention needed to help him stay in the Top 10?
  6. Will Chris Christie take on Donald Trump?
  7. What will Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and Scott Walker do if attacked by Donald Trump?
  8. Who will come to Trump’s defense if he’s attacked in the debate?
  9. Will Bush — NOT Trump — be the focus of attacks by the other candidates?
  10. Will any of the candidates NOT let the words “Donald Trump” come out of their mouths?
  11. Will Walker or Bush, expected to be on either side of Trump, NOT look at him during the debate?
  12. How many times will Hillary Clinton be mentioned/attacked?
  13. How many times will President Obama be mentioned/attacked?
  14. Will anyone attack Vice President Biden now that he is looking at possibly running for the Democratic nomination?
  15. Will anyone bother to attack Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)?
  16. Will any of the candidates approach the other candidates on stage?
  17. What does Carly Fiorina do?
  18. Who will be the most ignored debate participant?
  19. What will those who just missed being No. 10 do to protest/express displeasure over their exclusion from the main event?
  20. Will any of the under-card candidates do something outside the main stage to grab attention?
  21. Will any of the under-card candidates live-tweet reactions, rebuttals and/or snark during the main event?
  22. Which campaign will issue better rebuttals on Twitter during the debate than its candidate on the stage?
  23. Will this debate generate a signature comment or comeback?
  24. Will a candidacy die on that debate stage or the under-card gathering?

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files)


  1. How many of the candidates will promise to repeal Obamacare?
  2. Will any of the candidates present an alternative to Obamacare?
  3. Will any of the candidates articulate a “better deal” with Iran?
  4. Will Mike Huckabee reiterate his “oven door” remark about the Iran deal and Israel on the debate stage?
  5. How many of the candidates will present an economic plan?
  6. How many of the candidates will promise to defund Planned Parenthood?
  7. How many of the candidates will rail against the Supreme Court over legalizing same-sex marriage?
  8. How many will call for a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage?
  9. How many times will Benghazi be mentioned?
  10. Who will bring up criminal justice reform?
  11. Will we see a rhetorical divide on immigration reform?
  12. How aggressively will Jeb Bush defend his support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants?
  13. Will any of the candidates be asked about Samuel Dubose and Sandra Bland?
  14. Will any of the candidates say the words “Black Lives Matter”?
  15. Will someone say “All Lives Matter? Who will it be?
  16. Will Trump articulate a detailed policy on anything?
  17. Will Trump be pressed on previous support of Democrats and progressive issues?
  18. Will “Bridgegate” be thrown in Chris Christie’s face?
  19. Will New Jersey’s numerous financial downgrades be thrown in Christie’s face?
  20. Will Gov. Scott Walker have to defend his economic record in Wisconsin?
  21. Will Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) be slammed for working with Democrats?
  22. Will Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) be asked about his role in shutting down the government and his ongoing war with Republican leadership?
  23. Will Ohio Gov. John Kasich get called on the carpet for expanding Medicaid under Obamacare?
  24. Will Ben Carson play the invisible man to solidify his standing among the top five or will he go bold to try to knock down the four ahead of him?
  25. Will Trump be pressed by one of the candidates or the moderators to promise NOT to run a third-party campaign if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination?

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj