As a downsized lineup of GOP presidential contenders — condolences to Govs. Christie and Huckabee — prepare to claim their podiums on the main debate stage in Milwaukee on Tuesday evening, Fox Business is looking to anchor Maria Bartiromo and her co-moderators to set a much different tone from CNBC’s controversial third installment last month.

CNN Money took stock of the situation earlier that day:

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes could not have scripted this better if he’d tried. Two weeks ago CNBC’s GOP debate was widely panned. Now Ailes’ lower-rated rival channel, Fox Business, has a chance to be the anti-CNBC.

Ads for Tuesday night’s event promise that it’ll be a “real debate” — a not-so-subtle reference to CNBC’s shortcomings.

Ailes “got a kick out of the debacle,” a source close to him said. He wants there to be a clear contrast between CNBC’s chaotic “battle in Boulder” — where the candidates turned on the moderators — and a much more controlled Fox Business debate.

“This is an opportunity for us to make sure the world knows what the Fox Business Network is,” moderator Maria Bartiromo said in a debate-eve interview.

The channel has been creeping up on CNBC, but its Nielsen ratings remain stubbornly low, with about 100,000 viewers at any given time last month, half as many as CNBC. This debate is likely to attract 10 million.

Bartiromo also told CNN Money that she thought “what President Obama said is right” regarding the Republican candidates’ gripes about their treatment by CNBC in Boulder and that she and fellow moderators, Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker and Fox anchor Neil Cavuto, wouldn’t avoid relevant topics that have made headlines lately, even if they’re not strictly economic in nature. Even, she claimed, if they make certain candidates uncomfortable.

Some of those subjects, of course, might include alleged inconsistencies in Dr. Ben Carson’s personal history, whether Jeb Bush’s White House bid is in big trouble, Bush’s recent blitz on former mentee Marco Rubio, or any number of recent statements and/or stunts by Donald Trump.

And of course, there’s Christie and Huckabee, who’ll join Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum for the undercard debate this time. For his part, Christie is keeping a stiff upper lip, claiming that the stage change will offer him more room to air his opinions and policies without getting edged out by any number of sharply thrown elbows (via Politico):

“Look, the more he gets to speak to a camera and speak to voters through that camera, the better it is for us,” Tucker Martin, a strategist for the pro-Christie America Leads super PAC, told POLITICO on Monday. “Now look, ideally we would prefer he would be in the later debate, but the fact is he’s going to be speaking to millions of voters. And we have no doubt he’s going to do extremely well and millions of voters are going to see clips of that debate. So our goal is let Christie be Christie, speak directly to voters. It’s all good.”

Christie, officials for his campaign said, won’t be doing anything differently. Privately, though, they argued that the fewer people on stage with Christie would let him stand out more. “The more he speaks, the better reception he gets,” a top Christie campaign official said.

But other campaigns said a “win” on the undercard stage is, in some ways, a hollow victory, especially if you’ve previously been in the prime-time show.

We’ll see how that works out for him, but at least he can take comfort in the fact that governors in general, not to mention establishment politicians, aren’t doing so hot on the Republican side this election season.

Finally, perhaps taking a page from “Saturday Night Live” host Trump’s playbook, Carson’s team has decided parody could be the best policy when it comes to converting heat he’s taken from the media into fuel for his own campaign.

Watch this space for live-blogging on the debate, and catch our live updates on Twitter at @truthdig throughout the evening.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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