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Watch the bizarre candidate pile-up that started Saturday's Republican debate

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The Republican debate Saturday night started with a traffic jam.

After ABC's moderators called Chris Christie to the stage, they called Ben Carson. But Carson missed the cue and stayed in the wings even as the camera panned to him, and Sen. Ted Cruz walked past.

Backstage, someone waved frantically at Carson, urging him to the stage, but he stayed put, smiling with equanimity.

Carson started a pile-up. The moderators called Donald Trump's name, and then called Marco Rubio before Trump had made it to the stage. That left Trump and Carson both backstage while Jeb Bush headed to his podium.

The moderators, who were facing the audience the whole time, didn't realize that half the candidates were missing until they turned around. Even getting Carson and Trump onstage didn't end the chaos: It turned out everyone had forgotten about Ohio Gov. John Kasich.