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Republican debate live stream: how to watch the GOP candidates online, TV

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

So you've heard about the Republican presidential debate thingy with Donald Trump happening at 8 pm Eastern time tonight, and you're interested in information about how to tune in. Cool.

The good news is that the answer is really simple! The debate is on CNN, and a free live stream will be available for everyone at That's a nice contrast to Fox News, which only made the first GOP debate, which it hosted, available online to viewers who had logged in with a cable account.

Eleven candidates will be debating during the primetime event: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Chris Christie. It is expected to last nearly three hours.

But if you're a true fan, you won't miss the earlier debate segment for candidates who aren't polling as well, at 6 pm Eastern time. Only four candidates will be onstage there: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

That's a reduced field from the earlier portion of August's first Republican debate. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has since quit the race, Carly Fiorina moved up to the primetime event, and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore's poll performance was so atrocious that he failed to qualify even for this (he only hit 1 percent in one national poll from CNN's select list of polling organizations, rather than the three necessary to make the cut).

To be honest, the primetime debate will probably be much more exciting. Since Donald Trump has been leading the polls for more than two months, you can expect several candidates to try to take him down. Yet taking on the billionaire live is a risky prospect — Trump is a great improviser and a reality TV star who's been quick with withering put-downs. We'll see who's bold enough to go against him — and who, if anyone, can pull it off.

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