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The Lid: Marquee Matchups of Tonight’s Debate

Hundreds of reporters and political operatives have descended on Simi Valley, California, where they are feverishly making last minute preparations for tonight’s debate. And despite all that, every single one of them has still found the time to Instagram their In-N-Out order.

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GOP Candidates Get Ready to Rumble In Second Campaign Debate 3:49

’16 AT 30 THOUSAND

If you’re like us, you’re buckling down for a LOT of consecutive hours of debate tonight. By the end of the night, much could have changed in the 2016 presidential race (and many political reporters will be significantly closer to needing carpal tunnel surgery, too, but we digress.)

In the links below, we’ve laid out eight of the candidate matchups we’ll be watching the most closely tonight. But here’s the top two: Trump vs. Carson and Trump vs. Fiorina.

For the first: The personality difference between the real estate mogul and the former neurosurgeon is just going to be fascinating to watch. Unlike in August, the two men will be positioned right next to each other. Trump appeared to indicate today that he’s aware that his big personality might be turning off some voters, particularly evangelicals. “I can understand the evangelicals to a certain extent saying, 'Well, maybe he's not as nice as we want him to be,” he told CBN’s David Brody. Left unsaid: those voters may have been gravitating to Carson. But, outsider status aside, can Carson project the strength that Trump voters say they love about The Donald?

And for the second: Fiorina is certainly indicating that she’s not going to hold back, telling CNBC’s John Harwood that Trump will ‘be hearing quite a lot from me.’ And after Trump suggested today that he could ‘tone it down,’ how will he react to a question about his Fiorina “face” comments?

POPPING ON NBC POLITICS

CAMPAIGN QUICK READS

Word Clouds! Gallup made some clouds showing the terms most people associate with the leading 2016 candidates. For Trump, “immigration.” And for Clinton, “emails.”

O’MALLEY: The Baltimore Sun panned his appearance on Seth Meyers last night.

JINDAL: “A federal judge in Baton Rouge denied Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's attempt to block Common Core nationally Wednesday,” the Times-Picayune reports.

BUSH:Politico headline: Is Jeb tough enough to survive Trump?

FOR THE RECORD…

“I hope so, that would be great. There will be a putting green on the White House lawn, I’m sure of that.”

  • Tom Brady on Donald Trump’s chances in 2016.

TOMORROW’S SKED

Hillary Clinton does a series of events in New Hampshire before traveling to Chicago for fundraisers.

Donald Trump holds a rally in Rochester, NH.

Jeb Bush rallies supporters at Veterans Memorial Leisure Center in Las Vegas.