I have a few brief predictions about tonight’s GOP debate (8EST/7CST on CNN).
- Newt will come out punching, trying to overcome the mass exodus of his campaign staff last week.
- Tim Pawlenty will be smart & well-spoken, but perhaps too dry to catch any momentum.
- Michele Bachmann will be participating for the first time. I am very curious to see how she does. I have heard her speak in person on various occasions. She seems to be heavy on the attack & weak on any substantive policy proposals. She’ll have to change this if she wants to compete.
- Mitt Romney will be assailed from all sides–not only is he the clear front runner, but his health care baggage is all too tempting for the rest of the field that is desperate for a headline.
- Gary Johnson was told to stay home (which is sad for Libertarians because he makes Ron Paul actually look sane).
- Rick Santorum will be bold & direct, but may come across as too brazen, desperate to make some headway, as he did in the first debate.
- Herman Cain will be funny & charming, but also direct & concise. He’s the likely winner of those one stage tonight.
- Ron Paul will be erratic & answer questions about Medicare with things like, “We are in an unconstitutional war that is costing us billions of dollars and we need to audit the Federal Reserve!” He’ll get plenty of loud applause from his fifteen apostles, but he’ll make everyone else on stage glad they’re not him.
The real winners: Sarah Palin & Rick Perry.
Both of these potential candidates have enough name ID to not jump into these early debates. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by getting involved this early. Their presence would be threatening to the other candidates, making them clear targets for attack. This is why I am a bit surprised to see Romney participating so soon–he will receive 95% of the inter-party attacks tonight & throughout the rest of the debate process (until Palin or Perry jump in).
Another prediction: Perry is going to jump in & Palin will throw her support behind him. I have been speculating about this for a while. It’s no secret that Palin & Perry are close personal friends, and even on her bus tour last week, Palin mentioned Perry as a top-notch candidate for president when she was questioned by reporters.
Also of note: the senior advisers that left Newt’s campaign last week are former Perry advisers. I’d say it’s likely they resurface in a Perry presidential campaign.
If Perry gets in, I think he will be the immediate front-runner (and this isn’t just wishful thinking). I see a large group of wandering conservatives who have been searching for a candidate–those like myself who aren’t quite committed to Romney, but not quite crazy enough to support Ron Paul–coalescing around Perry. I’d say his path to the nomination is fairly clear.
I’ll have some post-debate comments tomorrow.
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