Come on. We’ve heard these candidates in just over one million debates so far this year. Another one? Another two actually, this weekend leading up to the New Hampshire debates. And these two debates could definitely wreak havoc on the standings going into New Hampshire.
Mitt Romney is the undisputed front runner. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum fans at this point are dreaming if they think their candidates are on a solid trajectory to win. Not winning Iowa should be a clear sign to heavily religious social conservatives like Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and Newt that getting past Romney is going to be nearly impossible with a crowded field. Bachmann got the hint, and Perry almost did. As for Ron Paul, maybe if he runs two more times he can win enough support to break out of his traditional 5-10% polling finish. Look, he’s already doing better this year than last time, and last time he did better than the time before. That was Ross Perot’s and Ralph Nader’s problems. They quit trying too soon.
Back to Mitt Romney. You know he is back on the punching bag hook tonight, a place he hasn’t been since the very first debates. Santorum wants a piece of him, Newt wants a piece of him, Jon Huntsman finally qualified for another debate and you know he wants to take Romney down a peg. I think Perry will try to just get through the night and might take a few shots at Santorum. As far as the #1 conservative attack dog of other conservatives, Michele Bachmann will not be there tonight to claim that Perry is in bed with pharmaceutical companies, Newt Gingrich is pro-partial birth abortion and the number one Freddie Mac adviser responsible for the economic collapse, and whatever she might cook up about Rick Santorum while mostly leaving Paul and Romney alone. So I think Romney will be taking the hits and the other candidates can relax their guard a little bit.
Now, on to the x factor in debates. Newt Gingrich was finished this summer after his campaign collapsed and he proved he was in the top 1% by buying his wife jewelry. I mean how out of touch can you get. But, he has climbed back into contention through powerful and commanding debate performances. Just two weeks ago, Gingrich was the front runner. The difference between Gingrich’s fall and other candidates falls is that their demises can be tied directly to debate performance. Bachmann with her claims about HPV and other wild attacks on the candidates, Perry with his glaring gaffe, Cain who offered 999 and 999, oh yeah and 999. It wasn’t enough substance to save him when scandal gave nervous supporters a reason to doubt. Huntsman affirmed his global warming stance.
Gingrich hurt himself with his illegal immigration stance, but his downfall can be attributed to the harsh attacks he faced over the last two weeks from Romney’s friends, paid allies, and former foes. Ron Paul also attacked Newt, not Romney, with harsh ads in Iowa. Paul has probably done the same math I have, but mistakenly thinks he has a shot with Newt’s base over Romney’s.
The debates are ad free. They are also friend free. The only way Romney can attack another candidate tonight without attacking that candidate directly is to pay off the moderator or a fellow candidate. On that stage, it is going to be Santorum’s “what smells” debate face versus Perry’s memory versus Huntsman’s out of touch moderate stances versus Paul’s old shaky finger wagging versus Romney’s slick hair and nice demeanor versus Newt’s heavy hitting and quick wit and ideas.
If these debates garner an audience, this is all upside for Newt, and downside for front runner Mitt Romney and social conservative front runner Rick Santorum. In an instance of incredible luck for the candidates in this New Hampshire debate, the New England Patriots get this weekend of playoff action off.
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