7 Ways the Second Republican Debate Changed the 2016 Presidential Race

The debate gave a boost to some and impacted others negatively.

ByABC News
September 17, 2015, 3:51 PM

— -- When 23 million people have their eyes on the television, the stakes are high.

The Republican presidential candidates were offered yet another major opportunity in the road to the White House Wednesday night, a chance to jockey for a place in the spotlight and shake up the field.

We’ve seen debates tank the bids of some candidates -– like Rick Perry’s “oops” moment four years ago. And we’ve seen some ignite a spark in the campaigns of candidates like Carly Fiorina a month ago.

Here's how the second Republican debate from Wednesday night could shake up the 2016 field.

1. Carly Fiorina

BEFORE: As the only female candidate in the crowded GOP field, Fiorina was hoping to replicate her strong performance in the first undercard debate and use her outsider status to capitalize on widespread content among Republicans. Questions swirled about how whether sparks would fly when she went head-to-head (or face-to-face?) with Donald Trump.

AFTER: She nailed it. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was passionate and articulate, not backing down to jabs from the frontrunner. “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” she said stoically in response to Trump's earlier comments about her appearance. While Fiorina is sure to receive a boost from the debate, she hasn’t been able to top 5 percent yet in a national poll, so it’s unclear where the debate will leave her.

2. Donald Trump

BEFORE: It’s been smooth sailing for Trump so far this cycle, leading by double digits in most national polls and becoming the first candidate in the field to garner more than 30 percent support. But escalating attacks from candidates and new efforts from outside groups since the first debate may soon cause trouble, as neurosurgeon Ben Carson is quickly closing in.

AFTER: The Donald took a beating during the second debate from all sides in one of his weaker moments of the campaign so far. But it likely won’t prompt any kind of major drop in the polls. The brash billionaire’s supporters have not abandoned him despite several blunders and attacks up to this point. Still, the days of Trump “the frontrunner” may be numbered -– instead making Trump “one of the frontrunners,” thanks to a surging Ben Carson. It’s not clear whether Carly Fiorina’s likely rise –- particularly among women -– will come at Trump’s expense.

3. Ben Carson

BEFORE: Carson is climbing rapidly in the polls, feeding off Republican voters’ desire for an outsider with no elected experience. He has been particularly successful in the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, where evangelical Christians and social conservatives hold sway.