There have been a lot of Republican presidential debates in recent months, but tonight’s event in Iowa could actually be both important and fascinating. Important because it’s do-or-die time for some of the strugglers, and fascinating because we’ll get a chance to see who really heads into the upcoming Iowa vote with confidence.
Mitt Romney’s task is to keep his head down and avoid making any more offers of $10,000 bets. He’s looking stronger in Iowa than elsewhere, and just has to keep things on track. His main rival Newt Gingrich has the harder task, and needs to show he’s likeable while also fending off what are likely to be regular, carefully-rehearsed attacks.
Then there’s Rick Perry, for whom this might be the final chance to show he’s still in the race. Ron Paul, meanwhile, is looking more convincing by the day and needs to keep his momentum going by making sure he’s heard, which isn’t going to be easy. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman need a miracle.
But this isn’t a debate anyway. Not really. It’s a chance for the candidates to blather on and occasionally interact in a stilted way. A debate would be a long, back-and-forth event where they would be able to focus on a topic long enough to draw out some actual arguments. Still, it should be fascinating to see whether the candidates can change their positions ahead of the imminent vote.