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Republican debate 2015: start time, schedule, and what to expect

Update: Tonight's debate has concluded. Click here for the schedule for the next debates.

The third Republican presidential debate was scheduled to begin Wednesday at 8 pm Eastern — though it actually ended up starting at 8:15. It is taking place at the University of Colorado Boulder, and being aired on CNBC. But unfortunately, the network is only making an online live stream available to people with access to a cable account.

There will be 10 candidates featured in the primetime debate: Donald TrumpBen CarsonMarco RubioCarly FiorinaJeb BushTed CruzMike HuckabeeJohn KasichRand Paul, and Chris Christie. Those are the same candidates as in the most recent Republican debate, except for Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race last month.

As with the other two Republican debates, the network will feature an earlier "JV" debate segment for candidates who aren't polling as well. This took place at 6 pm and featured Bobby JindalRick SantorumLindsey Graham, and George Pataki — again, the same lineup as last time.

What to expect at the third Republican debate

For one, expect Donald Trump to come out guns blazing. In the past few days, there have been signs that the poll leader may be losing his position. He's now clearly trailing Ben Carson in Iowa — and a new CBS/New York Times national poll released Tuesday is the first in weeks to show Carson passing Trump nationally, too, with the retired neurosurgeon jumping to a 4 percentage point lead. (All the traditional politicians are still far below both Trump and Carson.)

There's nothing Trump hates more than losing, so he will surely go after Carson, hard. He tweeted on Sunday that "Ben Carson wants to abolish Medicare — I want to save it and Social Security." And he's mocked Carson's low-key performance in debates, joking at a rally that Carson missed the news of his poll surge because he was "sleeping," and saying that he has "lower energy than Bush." But don't expect Carson to hit back too hard — being above the fray has worked well for him so far.

Jeb Bush, meanwhile, desperately needs a strong debate performance to reassure his campaign donors, who think his campaign is in deep trouble. Yet Bush's declining position in recent polls means he'll be farther away from the center of the stage. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, has risen to third place, and will take Bush's old spot next to Trump. He's coming off solid performances in the first two GOP debates, and another one could confirm the burgeoning belief that he's the establishment's best chance to beat Trump.

Rounding out the consistent top six in recent polls are Ted Cruz, who's trying to position himself to pick up Trump's supporters if the billionaire mogul should continue to decline, and Carly Fiorina, who's recently dropped off in polls after a brief bump from the second debate, in which she put in a stylistically compelling but factually challenged performance.

Filling out the stage are Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul. All of them managed to poll a bit above 2.5 percent in an average of national polls, and thus made CNBC's cutoff. But none has done particularly well in the previous debates or the campaign as a whole. So if future debates tighten their qualifying criteria, we might not be seeing these candidates on the primetime stage much longer.

How to watch

When: 8 pm Wednesday

Where: University of Colorado Boulder

TV: CNBC

Online: CNBC.com, but only if you have access to a cable account