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2016 election: Reagan Library Republican debate to center on immigration, race

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the first Republican presidential debate Aug. 6 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the first Republican presidential debate Aug. 6 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
John Minchillo/AP

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All eyes will be on Southern California on Wednesday night, as 11 Republican presidential hopefuls prepare to face off for a second time.

A lot has changed since the last debate: Rick Perry is out. Ben Carson is enjoying a surge in popularity, and Carly Fiorina's poll numbers have improved. Meanwhile, candidates like Scott Walker and Jeb Bush have been struggling to make their mark. Donald Trump continues to confound political pundits of every stripe, remaining the favorite in most polls.

The candidates will sound off on topics ranging from wages and taxes, to race and immigration. Each are expected to be top issues in the 2016 election.

Davin Phoenix is an assistant professor of urban politics at UC Irvine. He says moderators are likely to push the leading political outsiders on the issues, but he expects moderators to go easier on Trump.

“[They] have a vested interest in keeping the Trump phenomenon afloat, because it generates more attention to the media that covers his antics … [He] has shown in the past he’s willing to hold grudges against media figures that he deems are too challenging and will not engage them anymore.”

And that, Phoenix says, gives Trump a distinct advantage.

“[He’s] turning politics into the equivalent of a child that takes his ball and runs off the court if they don’t play by his rules,” he says.

Mary-Briana Perez is a junior at the University of Southern California, and a member of the student-led organization, USC GOP. She says Dr. Ben Carson is one of the only candidates to speak to one issue that is likely to be on the minds of young voters. 

“Minimum wage is something that we’re really concerned about,” she says.

“Dr. Carson is the only candidate that’s really willing to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25, and Mr. Trump said that the low minimum wage was not a problem.”

Continuing on Trump, Perez says the candidate’s stance on immigration could have far-reaching effects.

“I think it’s purely offensive. I feel definitely isolated and alienated, and if I had not held the conservative values that I had held for so long, I would definitely be less willing to be a Republican because of Mr. Trump’s statements.”

She says Trump’s recent exchange with Univision’s Jorge Ramos was particularly offensive to Latinos. 

“I think that he’s definitely alienating a lot of Latino voters that chairman Priebus and the RNC have really wanted to attract in this last election cycle.”

Trump’s controversial remarks on immigration have garnered ire from all sides, but National Journal reporter Ronald Brownstein tells Take Two’s Alex Cohen that he’s struck a major chord with voters.

“Donald Trump is reflecting --I think-- in many ways, the views of the growing blue collar segment of the Republican Party. What Trump --I think-- is showing, is that there is a distinct set of views that do appeal to those voters.”

Press the play button above to hear more from UC Irvine’s Davin Phoenix and USC GOP member Mary-Briana Perez.

Click the link under that to hear more from National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein.

Joining Take Two to discuss: