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GOP Debate: What to Watch for on Fox News Tonight

Just hours after the latest Republican debate ends on Fox News, Netflix will be posting the entire fourth season of “House of Cards.”

As Variety‘s Brian Lowry pointed out in his review, real-life presidential politics have caught up with “House of Cards,” giving the drama “a run for its money in sheer outlandishness.”

The last few days have been a binge-watch of the escalating civil war within the GOP, particularly on Thursday, as 2012 nominee Mitt Romney delivered a scathing takedown of very possible nominee Donald Trump.

That was followed by a response from Trump, who boasted that in the last cycle Romney was “begging” for his endorsement. “I could’ve said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees,’ and he would have dropped to his knees,” he said, in a line ready-made for retweeting.

Tonight’s debate in Detroit could mark a turning point in the effort to stop, slow or just stymie Trump’s march to the nomination. Or it could shed light on how Trump has outmaneuvered them all in his race for the White House and, like Frank Underwood, has yet to meet his political match.

Here are some key moments to watch for:

Megyn Kelly and Trump, the Next Chapter. This will be the first time that Trump will face Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, with whom he sparred at the very first GOP debate in August. It started when Kelly questioned him about his past comments about women, and Trump complained that her line of query was unfair. But that was only the start. Over the next six months, Trump erupted into grievance tweets about Kelly, culminating in his decision to skip a Fox News debate in Des Moines after the network refused to remove her as co-moderator. Trump went on to lose the Des Moines caucuses, and there has been little drama surrounding his appearance at this gathering. There’s every reason for Trump not to get into a tiff with Kelly, or for Kelly to avoid one. But what’s to stop rivals, determined to throw everything at the GOP front-runner to see if anything sticks, from dredging up Trump’s comments about the Fox News star?

Trump, presidential. As he racked up victories on Super Tuesday, Trump appeared before a row of American flags at his Mar-a-Lago estate and held a press conference. It wasn’t as stately as something that would happen in the East Room, but it was perhaps a preview that Trump would be a tad more subdued as a general election candidate. What tone will Trump take on Thursday? He’ll be the target of attacks from rivals, perhaps in a way we have yet to see, but he also will be appearing before what is expected to be a huge audience.

The audience. The most recent debates have seen a more active debate audience cheering and booing pretty much when they want. Trump has criticized the composition of the crowd as stacked against him, and that could be a factor again as the anti-Trump rhetoric has been amplified. Controlling the crowd may turn out to be just as important as controlling the candidates.

Mitt Romney. Given the coverage that Romney got for his blistering speech on Thursday, it’s difficult to see how it won’t get some mention. His father was the former governor of Michigan, and when Romney won the state in the GOP primary in 2012, it was a crucial victory. So it will be interesting to see if Trump, on the debate stage, gives any response to Romney in quite the same biting and ribald way that he did earlier on Thursday. It seems likely that Trump, as he has before, will not so much respond to Romney as he will dismiss him as a “failed candidate.” It actually may have new urgency with reports that Romney is plotting to take a significant role at the convention.

Rubio vs. Cruz. If Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz  tone down their attacks on each other, it’d give credence to reports that the stop-Trump effort has shifted to merely denying Trump a majority of delegates before the convention in July. In other words, as Bloomberg Politics reported, it’s actually a good thing for Rubio, Cruz and John Kasich to stay in the race and rack up wins in their own strongholds, rather than coalesce around one rival. Romney pretty much said that in his speech today.

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