Every four years we hold Presidential elections, and every four years, I am subject to so much pandering, yellow journalism, and outright lying in the name of a campaign that I am convinced it is taking years off of my life span. In this overly litigious society, I believe that when I am diagnosed with any heart diseases in my middle age that I will be able to sue the big two political parties for being culpable for my illness. We shall see.
Regardless, I apparently lack the self-control to stay away from the television during these political exhibitions, so I will be glued my TV tonight when the GOP contenders take to the stage. I will expect to witness more of all the candidates ganging up to take shots at Mitt Romney the entire debate. I will expect to Ron Paul beat the drum of sound fiscal policy, calling a spade a spade, and then bringing out the crickets from the crowd with is often bizarre answers when the debate turns to foreign policy. I will expect a frustrated-by-his-lack-of-airtime former Senator Rick Santorum to proactively seek out a confrontation with both Romney and Paul, as well as Rick Perry if he meanders into Santorum’s sights. These few things have characterized the first several debates of this campaign season, and I doubt anything has occurred that would halt that from continuing.
That said, there are a few unknown things that I will be watching for. First, will Rick Perry show up prepared, or will he again struggle through the debate as if he didn’t know where he was and just thought he would stand behind a podium. With Romney’s stances on multiple issues changing over the last decade, it is hard for me to believe where he stands on things, regardless of what he has said consistently the last three years. That is precisely the reason why, when he first threw his hat into the race, that Gov. Perry was my guy. His first debate performance was lackluster to be nice, and the second was a complete implosion. Like many, it was his liberal, subsidizing of illegals stance on illegal immigration that poisoned the well for me in regards to voting for Perry. Perry’s support has nearly halved in the few weeks since his disaster of a debate performance, but with his incredibly strong fundraising, he remains one of the top favorites at this point. However, another performance like the last one will be the final nail in the coffin of a Perry candidacy. How he responds in crunch time will likely be the lead story of the debate when all is said and done.
Herman Cain has a huge opportunity tonight. Polling this past week has shown huge Cain momentum, and since it nearly coincides with Perry’s decline, I believe it is reasonable to say that Cain has turned into the backup candidate for conservative voters as Perry has collapsed. If he has continued to improve his presentation (which has come a long way in recent months, IMO), as well as an ever-improving grasp of the facts of policy, Cain could come out polling number one from the GOP field, or at worst, 1A with Romney. Cain’s fundraising has been abysmal, but time and effort have definitely been the keys to the Cain campaign. He is far from a finished candidate, not near ready for a big-time general election against President Obama, but at this pace, he will be. Nobody on the stage has shown as consistent a message, or such marked improvement as Herman Cain.
While rumors of campaign turmoil have plagued former Speaker Newt Gingrich almost since the day he declared, Gingrich has consistently been one of, if not the, star performer in every debate he has participated in. Gingrich is a policy wonk, and I doubt there is anyone else on the stage that can recall and place into context more policy minutia than Newt Gingrich. What’s more is that his engaging, conversational style (along with a few well-delivered, scripted one-liners) reveal Gingrich as someone who is totally at home on the big stage. What I don’t understand is how this has not translated into huge poll numbers. Gingrich has seen a mild bump in recent weeks, but it doesn’t do much good to knock ’em dead in these series of debates if it doesn’t result in people going to the polls for you.
I felt a desire to post about this debate because, as has been noted nearly everywhere, this may wind up being the last shot, and in some cases, the best shot for some of the candidates. Perry has to come up big, or he may as well return to the Governors Mansion in Austin. Cain can legitimize himself as a true, upper-echelon candidate for President. Gingrich could perhaps take a mild rise in support and convert it into a full movement that could provide real steam to his campaign. Opportunities, and pitfalls, await the GOP candidates tonight. Stay tuned!