Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Blog

This evening The Washington Post and Bloomberg will host a debate for the Republican presidential candidates at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. While the debate season got off to a slow start, recent debates have caused definite shifts in the momentum of various campaigns. The focus of tonight’s debate will be on the economy. Given the importance of this issue to voters, this particular debate has the definite potential to make or break the chances of Presidential hopefuls and launch a new phase of the Republican primary race. Here are some stories to watch for in tonight’s debate:

  • Rick Perry has had two sub-par debate performances in a row, leaving him in a do-or-die position going into tonight’s debate. Tonight’s debate in New Hampshire could afford Perry the chance to dismiss these previous performances as aberrations, or it could seal voters’ perceptions of him as inarticulate and defensive. Perry has an exorbitant amount of cash on hand, so if he is able to turn in a better debate performance at Dartmouth his struggling campaign could see new life.
  • It will be interesting to see who, if anyone at all, is able to land a punch on Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has emerged unscathed from each of the past debates, having been able to easily dismiss attacks from his rivals. However, tonight Romney is likely to face a pile-on from his rivals more so than any of the other debates. Romney is going into tonight’s debate with a comfortable lead in the polls and having secured the endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Thus, yet another solid debate performance could cement his front runner status making it all the more likely that his opponents will be trying their best to unseat him, attacking him on his perceived strength, the economy.

All eyes will be on Herman Cain, who has seen a rapid surge in support over the past few weeks. Cain will quite literally be the center of attention, as his newfound support has earned him a spot on stage in the center between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. The economic focus of tonight’s debate poses a challenge to Cain, who has proposed the field’s most radical reforms to our nation’s tax code and entitlement programs. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza will likely be required to go into more detail on his 9-9-9 tax code plan, which has raised eyebrows among economists on both sides of the aisle.

Even more so than his tax policies, Herman Cain will likely face questions on his stated preference for the “Chilean model” of social security. Differences over Social Security reform has been the subject of the sharpest attacks between Romney and Perry; thus, Cain might very well find himself being attacked on this issue now that he is in between them on stage. All in all, Herman Cain’s performance in the debate tonight will show voters whether he belongs between Romney and Perry, or whether he should be back on the side of the stage with the “without a prayer” candidates where he was just a few short weeks ago.

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