The Bar Is Set Higher for Some Than It Is for Others In 2nd Republican Presidential Debate

Bookmark and Share    On Monday, June 13th, New Hampshire’s St. Anselm College will be hosting a two hour long Republican presidential debate that is sponsored by CNN, WMUR-TV and The New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper. The debate begins at 8:00 PM and will feature Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann; businessman Herman Cain; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Texas Rep. Ron Paul; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. This will be the second official debate for the G.O.P. presidential field. Last month, FOX News and the South Carolina State Republican Party sponsored the first debate in the Palmetto State. That forum featured Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

This time around, due to Gary Johnson’s inability to achieve a high enough threshold of support in public opinion polls, has made him ineligible to participate in this particular debate.

This second debate is in many ways a much more important than the first. The first forum did little to establish any of those who participated as front runners but it proved to benefit Herman Cain the most. It was one of Candidate Cain’s first introductions to the national electorate and in it he created a positive first impression that boosted his standings more than any of the others. While Tim Pawlenty did well and performed in a way that gave good reason to consider him, people like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson simply reinforced their already known positions but did little to broaden their base of support. As for Rick Santorum, he managed to the do same by reinforcing his attractiveness to the social conservatives which he needs to build upon to remain viable.

But the addition of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney in Monday’s forum makes this debate far more important than the last one.

Mitt Romney

Romney is a very tentative frontrunner. As such he has been making many strategic decisions regarding how much of a presence he should have on the scene at this early stage in the game. Romney has been quite cognizant of the need to not be overexposed, thereby giving his opponents the ability to tear him apart and cause him to peak too early. But the fact that Romney has only the most tenuous hold on front-runner status makes him an extremely vulnerable front-runner and must therefore make a critical decision. Does he come out now with guns blazing and try to solidify his lead in the field to such an extent that it prevents other potentially strong candidates like Sarah Palin and Texas Governor Rick Perry from jumping in the race? Or does he not risk peaking too early and try to build up a slow but steady pace to victory and the G.O.P. presidential nomination?

Insofar as Monday’s debate goes, Romney had no choice but to participate. For numerous reasons, New Hampshire is a must win state for him. And it is for that reason that his agreeing to participate will make him an obvious and very large target for the six other participants. Each one of them will be trying to land a knockout punch on Mitt. He will be taking numerous upper cuts and body blows but most of the punches will be powered at RomneyCare and aimed right at his face.

For Romney, his goal in Monday’s debate will be to prove that he can withstand the hits and not only block those RomneyCare punches to the face, but that he can turn them around into knockout blows of his own. The bottom-line for Romney…………he must find a way to convince voters that his state based healthcare plan was an experiment and exercise in states rights. Romney somehow needs to use the much used conservative argument that the fifty states should have the flexibility to experiment with healthcare policies that are best suited for them and allow them to act as fifty different laboratories that can help find the best solution. Romney’s problem will be trying to make this point succinctly and convincingly.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann has not yet even made her campaign official and the bar she must meet in the debate is important but much lower than the other participants. Bachmann’s main goals in the debate are to prove that she is presidential, can be taken seriously, and has the ability to appeal to a broader base than her social conservative grass root supporters. If she can establish herself as a reasonable and legitimate candidate, she will be a winner.

Newt Gingrich

Whereas Romney has a lot at stake in this first debate and Bachmann has a low bar to reach, New Gingrich has the most at stake and a very high bar to reach. Recent events have put Newt in a position which forces him to prove that he is a force to deal with. In many ways, Newt needs to come out of this debate as the clear winner of it. He must make some points that makes voters want t give him a chance to prove that he has the ability to take his ideas from the drawing board and to the practical application of government. At the same time he must demonstrate that he can turn his ideas into a viable candidacy that voters should be open to considering.

The Primary Within the Primary

The only other real challenge in Monday’s debate is the early social conservative primary that exists within the larger Republican primary.

Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, are competing for the diehard movement conservative wing of the Party that will have an incredibly inordinate amount of influence in the Iowa Caucus and South Carolina Primary. These are two of the three earliest contests and their impact on the rest of the nomination could be quite significant. The early winner of the social conservative primary within the Republican primary will likely become the alternative candidate to the establishment’s frontrunner. Much the same way that Mike Huckabee became the candidate to challenge John McCain the longest in the 2008 primaries and caucuses.

Bachmann, Cain, and Santorum are the candidates dividing the social conservative vote the most. If one of them were to have a surprisingly strong performance in the debate, they could begin to consolidate enough support to make one of the others to consider dropping out of the race before or shortly after Iowa.

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  1. […] The Bar Is Set Higher for Some Than It Is for Others In 2nd Republican Presidential Debate […]

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