What to Watch: The Republican 8 make another appearance tonight for a presidential debate. This time they appear in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for the CBS/National Journal Debate (hosted by fellow Mizzou grad, Major Garrett).
Here are my pre-debate questions:
How will Rick Perry attempt to recover from that horrendous performance in the CNBC debate in Michigan Wednesday night? Humor? Ignore the historic gaffe? Focus on Mitt Romney?
How will Newt Gingrich act? Now that he’s essentially tied at the top for the “front runner race” with Romney and Herman Cain, will he behave differently? Does he keep coming after the moderators to score a few cheap claps from the crowd or does he try to show that he is a serious contender for the nomination?
Does Mitt Romney keep surviving? His challengers primarily left him alone in the CNBC debate. He really got rattled when Perry came after him in a previous debate. And call me crazy, but even this last time in Michigan, I think I saw a few hairs out of place. He’s been “steady as he goes” for the bulk of these debates. But I wonder what would happen if Gingrich turns it up a notch on him?
What about the Hermanator? The audience booed moderators’ attempts to get that sex harassment scandal into the Michigan debate. Does everyone move on this time? Will we see any other candidates vaguely hint at the allegations in their responses, or do they feel Cain’s already had his high point in this race? Will Cain himself bring it up? He seems to like to do the “me versus the machine” bit. And his followers sure seem to like it.
And the rest? Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum didn’t seem to hurt themselves any in Michigan. But they also aren’t moving the numbers. Can either find a standout moment that will get played and re-played on the Sunday a.m. talk shows for a much-needed attention boost.
Ron Paul is another who isn’t moving his numbers much. Since this debate is about foreign policy, Paul, if given the chance, will stand out from the crowd with his anti-war, bring ’em all home stance. Will he get that chance?
Speaking of chances, Jon Huntsman keeps getting the chance to stand with the others in the debate, even though his poll numbers barely beat…well, no one, in the national polls. As the former U.N. Ambassador to China, he should have some thoughts to add to this debate, but will the moderators leave him mostly out of this conversation?