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

The next Republican presidential debate is today at 9 pm Eastern. It will take place in Milwaukee and be aired on the Fox Business Network. An earlier undercard debate, with candidates who aren't polling as well, began at 7 pm Eastern. A free live stream will be available to all at this link on FoxBusiness.com.

This debate (the fourth for the GOP) will have the fewest candidates onstage yet. Fox set semi-arbitrary polling criteria for inclusion and decided to interpret them very strictly, even though some candidates would end up dropped.

The result is that there will only be eight candidates in the main event — Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Rand Paul. That's two fewer than last time, because Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie both failed to average 2.5 percent support in the four most recent national polls.

In the earlier undercard debate, Huckabee and Christie were joined by Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum. Two usual undercard participants, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, missed the polling cut for this round, since they failed to get 1 percent in any one of those four recent polls.

What to expect at the Fox Business Republican debate

In short, expect fireworks. Ben Carson has topped Donald Trump in some recent polls — and though Trump remains narrowly ahead in the averages, he's clearly feeling the heat, because he's been lashing out repeatedly at his rival in the press and on Twitter.

Carson, meanwhile, has been feeling some heat of his own, as media reporting has called attention to some apparent embellishments or factual misstatements about his background (and some just plain weird remarks, like his theory that the pyramids were constructed to store grain). Carson will have to try to explain these reports before a national audience — and, perhaps, deal with a head-on challenge from Trump.

As for the traditional politicians, since the third debate it's looked like Marco Rubio has been rising and Jeb Bush — Rubio's main rival for GOP establishment support — has been in decline. Bush's attempt to go after Rubio at the last debate was widely viewed as a disaster, so it will be interesting to see whether he gives it another shot, or instead decided to lie low and play it cool.

But don't expect any fireworks from the moderators: Maria Bartiromo and Neil Cavuto (both of Fox Business), and Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker. "My goal is to make myself invisible," Cavuto told Politico, responding to the controversy over the moderators' confrontational tone at the CNBC debate.

How to watch:

When: 9 pm Tuesday

Where: Milwaukee Theater

TV: Fox Business Network

Online: At FoxBusiness.com, a free live stream will be available