GOP DEBATE: Will Trump rebound? Things to watch

Posted at 12:22 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-06 20:06:17-05

Seven candidates continue to lobby for the lone GOP presidential nomination. 

Point spreads and fraud allegations aside, Saturday's GOP debate may provide some clarity in a still muddled race. 

Watch the debate NOW on ABC15!

Here's what we're watching for:

1. Is winning (in Iowa) really everything? 

Ted Cruz's Iowa win was a surprise to many, including Donald Trump, who accused the Texas senator of "fraud." Trump alleged that Cruz told voters that Ben Carson dropped out of the race and to vote for him. Either way, recent history tells us that a GOP candidate winning in Iowa doesn't mean much - Mike Huckabee, who dropped out of the 2016 race this week, won Iowa in 2008. And, Rick Santorum won in 2012. 

It will be interesting to see how Trump responds to losing in Iowa and whether he can sway New Hampshire voters during Tuesday's primary. Expect references to this tweet too:

2. Rubio a possible dark horse?

Don't be mistaken, Marco Rubio did not win Iowa, but he acted like he did, saying he will be the GOP nominee in a victory-like speech after losing the caucuses.

The Florida senator finished third in Iowa, with 23.1 percent of the vote, but he only trailed Cruz by 4.6 percent.

Beyond the Trump and Cruz debacle, Rubio has quietly gained ground in the race. A University of Massachusetts Lowell poll published Friday has Rubio second with support from 15 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters, second to Trump at 34 percent. 

That's just one poll, too, so Rubio's popularity is something to watch. 

3. Sink or swim for fringe candidates 

We're looking at you, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

The trio underperformed in Iowa. In fact, Bush and Christie finished with almost the same percentage of votes, combined, as Rand Paul, who also dropped out of the race this week with 4.5 percent of the vote. Carson, on the other hand, did not even crack double digits, getting just 9.3 percent of the vote. This may be the final opportunity to reach voters as the race to November thins out. 

Carly Fiorina did not even make Saturday's debate stage, despite a push from several inside the GOP, including Mitt Romney.