2016 Presidential Race: Everything You Need To Know About the First GOP Debate

The anticipation is high and the stakes are even higher.

ByABC News
August 5, 2015, 11:29 AM

— -- The anticipation is high and the stakes are even higher.

That's the buzz surrounding the first debate of the 2016 election cycle on Thursday, where the current top 10 Republican presidential candidates will gather in Cleveland to vie for a piece of the spotlight in an overcrowded field.

Fox News unveiled the participants on Tuesday, and we are now learning details about what exactly is going to happen when the clock strikes 9 p.m. on the east coast.

Here's everything you need to know:


Current frontrunner and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who will be center stage for the debate, is leading the GOP field with 23 percent support. Trump is followed by former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Others on the stage include neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. The last two podiums belong to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who narrowly took 10th place after a late uptick in the polls.


Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry just missed the stage by 1.4 percent and is sitting in 11th place, according to an ABC News analysis of the five national polls used by Fox News. Notably, Rick Santorum, the 2012 winner of the Iowa caucuses and runner-up to eventual nominee Mitt Romney, will also be missing from the stage. The former Pennsylvania Senator says that national polls shouldn't be used because it strips early states like Iowa and New Hampshire from their influential role.

Other candidates who didn’t get enough support include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. These seven candidates will participate in a separate, one-hour forum at 5 p.m. on Thursday.


Each candidate will have one minute to respond to a question and 30 seconds to give rebuttals. Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace from Fox News will tag team moderating the ten-person GOP presidential field. Fox News has also said that they will try to give all 10 candidates equal time to talk on the stage, which would equal roughly 10 minutes per candidate. Wallace pointed to his binder of debate questions in an interview with the Washington Post, saying, “I’ve got some doozies in there.”


In just under a year, the Republican Party will crown their presidential nominee in the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland. But on Thursday night, the home to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers will be home to a different kind of competition.

Rick Gorka from the Ohio Republican Party says that there will be about 5,000 people in the area to watch the debate – the largest crowd in debate history, he says. Gorka says the party got more than 7,000 requests for tickets. “It would have been harder to get tickets to this debate than to the NBA Finals,” he said.


No matter how many fans these candidates have on Facebook, the social media network will play an important role in Thursday night’s debate. The general public will be able to send in Facebook posts and videos during the debate asking their questions – and Fox will use them to ask and frame questions throughout the debate.


Fox News had told the candidates that they would choose the top ten candidates based on an average of the five most recent national polls by major news organizations. But it wasn’t clear exactly which polls Fox was going to use, leaving political pundits to play a guessing game over the last week, calculating who would be in the debate and who would be left off based on every new poll. An influx of four polls in the 36 hours before the deadline left these final standings.

ABC News' Ines de la Cuetara contributed to this report.