Monday, October 10, 2011

Republican Primary Debate in New Hampshire on October 11th

The first Republican primary debate of the month will be held on Tuesday. The debate, sponsored by the Washington Post and Bloomberg TV, will be televised on Bloomberg TV at 8:00pm Eastern. At this point, it's unclear how many people will actually watch the debate. Unlike previous debates, which have been aired on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, this debate will be on an obscure channel. Even people who want to watch the debate may have difficulty finding the channel. On the other hand, major gaffes can be broadcast in sound-bites on other networks. Thus, the post-debate coverage may be more important than the debate itself.

Once again, Rick Perry will have a lot to prove. Expectations for Perry are low, thanks to his poor debate performances last month. However, Perry's campaign promised he would be better prepared in future debates, and this will be his first opportunity to prove that he can improve. If Perry were to commit major gaffes during this debate, he could suffer further drops in the polls. If Perry acquits himself well--given the low expectations, an average performance may equal "well" for Perry--then his campaign will call him the "comeback kid."

Mitt Romney is likely to be in the crosshairs during the debate. Since Perry's fall, Romney has taken the lead in the latest Republican primary polls. As the new frontrunner, he will face attacks from Perry and perhaps the minor candidates. Questions about Romneycare have gotten stale--not a single debate has gone by without one. Yet Perry has new attack ads criticizing Romneycare, so Romney will probably be asked to address the issue once again.

Perry and/or Romney could be asked about the Mormon issue, as a Perry-allied pastor recently attacked Mormonism. If Romney is asked about Mormonism, he will brush the question aside, but it will be interesting to see if Perry disavows anti-Mormonism in the campaign. Meanwhile, Perry may be asked about recent news coverage of the racially-inflammatory former name of his ranch.

Another candidate viewers can expect to see in the crosshairs in Herman Cain. While Herman Cain is considered unelectable for a number of reasons, he has climbed in the polls thanks to Perry's fall. The debate moderators will feel it necessary to scrutinize his gaffes and policy positions. The bigger question is whether other candidates will also attack Cain. Do they consider him the "flavor of the week," or do they consider him a threat? Their decisions whether to attack Cain will enlighten.

The actions of the minor candidates with regard to Perry will also be revealing. Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann did great damage to Perry by questioning his conservatism. Will they keep at it, since Perry is putting all his resources into Iowa and South Carolina, where they must also win? Or will they respond to the polls by spending less time on Perry and more on Romney? Unfortunately for the minor candidates, there has only been one Iowa Caucus poll released since the last September debate, and none released in South Carolina. They may not know which candidate to hit harder.