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Republican debate 2016: start time, schedule, and what to expect

The next Republican presidential debate is tonight in Detroit, Michigan. It will air on Fox News and will begin at 9 pm Eastern. An online live stream will be freely available to all at FoxNews.com.

This debate will be the least crowded one yet. After Ben Carson's Wednesday announcement that his campaign is effectively over, just four candidates — Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich — will be onstage.

And the stakes are incredibly high. After a strong showing on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump is better positioned than ever to win the Republican nomination. Indeed, if he doesn't suffer some serious losses in the next 12 days, that's just what he's on track to do.

What to expect at the Fox News Republican debate

As Trump looks stronger than ever, his opposition continues to appear ineffectual and divided. Marco Rubio is so far behind in the delegate count that he'd need to win about two-thirds of all remaining delegates to get a majority, which is quite implausible. And while Ted Cruz is closer to Trump in delegates so far, that's mainly because of his home state of Texas — the calendar ahead does not look good for him.

Still, now that Trump's lead is clear, expect Rubio and Cruz to waste little time going after each other. They have to try to take down Trump at this point; there's really no other choice. Time is running especially short for Rubio, who has trailed Trump in recent polls in his home state of Florida, which votes on March 15. If Trump wins Florida, Rubio's campaign will be effectively over.

That's why Rubio has been more aggressively attacking Trump of late, pressing his case that the billionaire is a "con artist" hoodwinking conservatives. But that's also led Trump to hit Rubio right back — the mogul now regularly demeans the senator as "little Marco Rubio," accuses him of being weak on immigration, and alleges that he's a tool of corrupt special interests.

Another subplot of the evening is that Trump will, at long last, face off with his nemesis Megyn Kelly again. Kelly is hosting, along with Bret Baier and Chris Wallace. The same team hosted a Republican debate in January, but Trump ended up boycotting it. This is a moderating team that's not afraid to ask tough questions of Trump, so expect a great deal of talk about his brief refusal to disavow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan last weekend, and about Mitt Romney's speech denouncing Trump earlier today.

How to watch:

When: 9 pm Eastern

Where: Fox Theatre, Detroit, Michigan

TV: Fox News

Online: FoxNews.com, free live stream available