November 22, 2011

What to look for in CNN's GOP debate tonight

CNN is hosting another in a series of seemingly endless GOP primary debates tonight.  The topic: foreign policy and national security.  This will be the second foreign policy debate, and it provides candidates one more opportunity to make an impression on voters for better or worse.  There's two things I'd expect to see in the debate tonight.

Seeing as the candidates have debated this topic in a previous debate, not long ago, there's the media angle.  Since Herman Cain had the brain freeze on Libya recently, this provides ample opportunity for the president's friends in the media to go after candidates and provide gotcha moments.  The media desire for multiple debates in the GOP primary is twofold - content and campaign fodder for their chosen candidate (Obama, need I say it?).  Look for trick questions, look for answer-baiting and look for challenges to points made by the candidates.  In other words, look for partisanship from the media.  Cain especially, after his gaffe, will be subject to harsh questioning.

Secondly, time is running short in the primary lead-up period, for some candidates every debate has to count big time now.  For Santorum, Paul, Huntsman and particularly Bachmann, there needs to be a big score.  That may be the case for Perry too, but perhaps it's less likely.  Look for some Hail Mary attempts.  They need to be perceived as having won the debate to climb into contention.  They need to have the headlines tomorrow to win the poll momentum next week.  The Hail Mary attempts may or may not work, but look for them.  

For the others, status quo is the desired outcome.  Look for Newt to probably play it safe (but smart), and of course Romney will.  Don't blow it will be the thought process going into this.

In roughly an hour, we'll see if those things transpire and what the outcome will be.

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