Republican debate will be 'do-or-die' for struggling candidates, analyst says

/ Source: TODAY

The next debate among Republican presidential candidates Wednesday night could provide a permanent winnowing of the crowded field of candidates, political commentator Nicolle Wallace says.

WATCH: Rivals take aim at Donald Trump ahead of the 2nd GOP debate

“This is the last two-tiered debate night for the Republicans. I think next time, they’ll all be able to fit on one stage,” Wallace said Wednesday on TODAY.

Like the first debate among Republican hopefuls, the second will split candidates into two groups based on national polling. Debate host CNN will hold an initial session with the lower-ranking candidates at 6 p.m. ET, while the top 11 candidates will appear during prime-time, at 8 p.m. ET.

The evening could prove critical for the struggling campaigns of Jeb Bush and other former and current governors, said Wallace, former communications chief for President George W. Bush.

“I think tonight is do-or-die for the establishment wolf pack, if you will — the group of former governors who are really struggling when compared as a group to Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Donald Trump, who are viewed as outsiders,” Wallace said.

WATCH: Donald Trump packs the house at massive Dallas rally ahead of debate

While Trump continues to soar above his rivals in polls, Carson has seen big boosts in his rankings and Fiorina also has seen a bump in her popularity.

“What Trump has tapped into perfectly, what Carson and Fiorina is starting to talk about more, is the abject disgust with politics as usual in Washington. It is at the other folks peril to fail to hear that," Wallace said.

“I think what Trump’s doing perfectly is listening to the sentiment, but at the end of the day, we don’t really vote for the person that echoes our anger,” she said. “We vote for the person that channels our hopes for the future and so far, Trump is not that guy.