Tonight will be the eighth Republican presidential debate. All of the usual suspects will gather in Las Vegas, except for Jon Huntsman, who is boycotting the event in solidarity with the New Hampshire Republican Party (more on that later, though if Huntsman's poll numbers and finances don't improve, his non-appearance could be a harbinger of things to come).
Mitt Romney and Herman Cain will both be targeted throughout, though Romney has been difficult to throw off his game in previous debates. Cain will be under scrutiny for his 9-9-9 tax plan and his fuzzy foreign policy knowledge as the other conservative candidates -- and perhaps Romney? -- try to deal with his rapid rise in the polls.
Rick Perry is facing another now-or-never moment, since his underwhelming performance in recent debates has threatened to drop him from the top tier. But it's hard to count Perry out entirely even if he does poorly, because has raised significant funds. Nevertheless, he is running out of time to make a good impression.
In the background, there is the drama between New Hampshire and Nevada over the timing of their contests. New Hampshire would like Nevada to move back its caucuses from Jan. 14 to Jan. 17. Nevada so far isn't budging. Huntsman, who is banking on a decent performance in New Hampshire to stay in the race, isn't even showing up at the debate. But Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum have also promised to boycott the caucuses if they aren't moved back.
This puts Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in an awkward position. Romney is hoping to win both states and doesn't want to alienate either. Paul also has a significant following in both states. In 2008, Romney won the caucuses while Paul finished a distant second.
I'll be providing some commentary during and after the debate. Presumably others will join in.
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