×

8 debate questions GOP candidates should expect

Right now, the moderators and producers of the next GOP debate are cooped up inside a conference room, (probably with empty pizza boxes in the corner) trying to identify the next curveball question that makes for great TV. And the candidates are huddling with their teams, trying to figure out what the moderators will ask.

I've been inside those rooms, brainstorming on debate questions. So, here's what I think are eight questions the candidates should prepare for most.


Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Getty Images
Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Donald Trump — Throughout this campaign, reporters have asked you questions on trade, immigration, foreign policy, but you never give specifics. You continually respond with generalizations on how you are great and you will hire great people to do it. Can you give us specifics on how you will create jobs in America?

Why this question? Trump captured the media's attention with his flamboyant approach, but he needs to start giving specifics if he is going to convince voters he is more than just a sound-bite president.


Ben Carson — You have advocated for a flat-tax plan, where all Americans, regardless of wealth, pay 10 percent in income taxes. You also advocate a Constitutional amendment that requires a balanced federal budget. Is this another version of Reagan's trickle-down economics, which ballooned our national debt? And if you plan on cutting services, can you tell us which programs you want to cut?

Why this question: Carson doesn't have a voting history like other candidates, so this question provides a closer look at how a Carson economic policy will look.

Mike Huckabee — You came out in defense of a Kentucky county clerk who defied the law by refusing to issue a same-sex marriage license. Is there a point when it is okay to break the law because of religious beliefs – and if so, where is it?

Why this question? Huckabee is a former Baptist pastor, but if he becomes president, he must convince people that he won't put religion above the law.

Carly Fiorina — Donald Trump has recently attacked your physical appearance. Is there anything you would like to tell him right now?

Why this question? Moderators want a fiery debate, while voters want to see how Fiorina will defend herself – and potentially our country - against threats and bully dictators. This is a legitimate opportunity to ignite the confrontation.

Scott Walker — On the campaign trail, you brag about taking on the unions in Wisconsin and beating them, but there are many Americans who believe unions fight for higher wages and working conditions for the middle class. What would you tell those Americans who say you are creating a larger wage gap by squashing the unions?

Why this question: Walker needs to show he has the interest of Americans who aren't in the 1 percent.

Marco Rubio — You were a strong, vocal proponent of immigration reform that included a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, but then you abruptly changed your mind, backing away from your own reform bill. What would you tell critics who say you abandoned your convictions for the sake of politics?

Why this question: Rubio needs to demonstrate that he is an independent thinker – and not dictated by his largest donors, financing his campaign.

Jeb Bush — You're at 3 percent in Iowa – 8th place, according to the latest CBS News poll. In New Hampshire, you're in sixth place with six percent. What do you think your campaign or message needs and is it realistically possible to climb a minimum of 25 percent between now and the first elections?

Why this question: It's the question everyone wants to know. How can he climb more than 30 percentage points between now and New Hampshire?

Donald Trump — You made a lot of enemies on the campaign trail with Republicans, Democrats, corporations, former business partners, even celebrities. There is almost not a group you haven't intentionally belittled. Can you tell us why this approach will work with world leaders when they refuse to do what you want? What will your diplomatic relations be like with these world leaders, strategic partners and even potential enemies?

Why this question: Trump must convince Americans he has the temperament to control the US nuclear arsenal.

Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.