The 3 candidates to watch in Wednesday's Republican debate

With so many candidates on stage, here's how to focus on what matters - especially if you're flipping back-and-forth between the debate and the World Series.

(Image via CNBC's Facebook page).
(Image via CNBC's Facebook page).

Three candidates are a crowd on a debate stage, so the 10 GOP contenders scheduled to go behind their podiums on Wednesday night in Boulder, Colorado, could make for a downright bewildering scene.    

Luckily for the audience at home, it’s make-or-break time for those on the fringes of the race. That means Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Chris Christie (not to mention those on the undercard) will be under pressure to break out from the pack. With this group, there’s serious potential for combustibility.

Here are the three candidates I’ll have my eye on tonight, none of whom are named "Donald Trump."

Ben Carson
Surging in the polls, Carson has gotten under Donald Trump’s skin. But that’s the easy part. As the new and extremely surprising frontrunner, the soft-spoken-by-comparison neurosurgeon is bound to be on the receiving end of more attacks on Wednesday night than he saw in the first two debates combined. How he responds could be the focus of Thursday morning’s news cycle.

Jeb Bush
For a guy whose campaign logo has an exclamation point, Bush’s campaign has been downright sluggish. Team morale can’t be good, with salaries recently cut across the board. Wednesday is his chance to restore order and reassure supporters and financial backers that he’s in it for the long haul – sort of like Hillary Clinton did two weeks ago. The catches: Bush’s campaign is in worse shape, and it’ll be much harder for the former Florida governor to assert himself on a jam-packed stage.

John Kasich
Of all the candidates on the precipice, why focus on Kasich? The Ohio governor had a Bullworth moment this week, lashing out at rivals for pandering to the most extreme parts of the Republican Party. Will he keep the gloves off on Wednesday night?  

Frank Washkuch is news editor at PRWeek.

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