The Republican presidential candidates will face off tonight in the 9th debate this year — and the second devoted to economic issues — in what will be a crucial test for the GOP field.
With the state of the economy the #1 issue on the minds of voters, the candidates will have to prove their mettle to the Republican primary electorate.
Since the last debate nearly three weeks ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s support has cratered, Herman Cain has been ensnared in a sexual harassment scandal, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is facing renewed criticism for his record of flip-flopping.
The candidates’ economic plans have also come under scrutiny in recent weeks — with the candidates fielding rival tax plans that have received tepid responses from economists.
Here’s what to expect from tonight’s debate:
Democrats and conservatives alike have been targeting him for his flip-flops. While social issues won’t come up tonight, Romney will be forced to give a clear answer on his decision to oppose the auto bailout. But as the presumptive nominee, Romney will try to keep above the fray — attacking President Barack Obama to beef up his electability argument.
Under siege over sexual harassment allegations, Cain will get a brief respite from the charges tonight. CNBC is not expected to press Cain on the issue, though one or more of the candidates (Read: Michele Bachmann) may bring it up. Cain’s more immediate issue will be his 9-9-9 plan, which drew intense criticism from each of the candidates at the last debate. He needs to get back on message, but if his signature message is no longer safe, then he will be in serious trouble.
The media has branded his bump in recent early state polls “Newtmentum.” Traditionally dominant on the debate stage, expect Gingrich to try to prove that he is the real deal — despite his lackluster fundraising, lack of organisation, and stunning collapse earlier this year.
He’s trying to reintroduce himself to voters after five poor debate performances. Expectations for him are low, and if he manages to lay a few blows on the rest of the field without appearing anemic, he may well be judged to have a good night.
Paul’s core of supporters doesn’t grow or shrink — but his ideas and positions have shaped many of the debates to date. His anti-Fed stance and proposed massive cuts to the federal government will continue to influence the direction of the debate tonight, but he isn’t going anywhere.
Huntsman’s quirky asides and unfunny jokes have overshadowed his first five debate performances. In the past few days Huntsman has tried to reintroduce himself to conservative voters who (falsely) believe him to be to the left of Romney. In recent days they’ve been checking him out once again. If Huntsman can drive that point home in tonight’s debate, he may start gaining some momentum too.
Yes, she’s still in the race. She’ll try to remind you of that tonight, while she attempts to capitalise on Cain’s scandals in order to get a second look in Iowa. Indeed, attacking Cain may be the only way she can get the attention she needs.
As the most socially conservative candidate in the race, he’s going to try to inject those issues into the debate. He doesn’t really have an economic plan, and may be left by the wayside when the discussion turns to job taxes and job creation.
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