Will Thompson’s absence at the debate hurt? Thompson’s opponents are crowing over the clip of Thompson advisor Mary Matalin declaring that Leno is more important because more people watch. (But are they Republicans and do they vote in early primary states?) Romney today emphasized the supposed slight and his own rigorous schedule. Gurus are mixed in their evaluations. Professor Andrew E. Smith, Director of the Survey Center at University of New Hampshire says via email: “They will set up the stage with a podium for Thompson, just in case, but won’t leave it on the stage if he doesn’t show. I don’t think he has helped himself by not showing up – the Union Leader has already criticized him for that. In 1999, the beginning of Bush’s decline in NH was when he skipped the first debate at Dartmouth in October.” Others like Charles Arlinghaus of the Joshia M. Bartlett Center for Public policy sin’t buying it and says that ” no one will care. Personally, I think it would be better if we could get two candidates a night on Leno and two on Letterman. Normal humans actually watch those shows.” One potential outcome: Thompson may now need to devote a bit more time than he otherwise would have planned to in order to mend fences and to show he really does care about that state.