I read with interest the Huffington Post’s “Five Things” column, so I thought I’d take a crack at my own list.
Without further ado, here are the five things I’m looking for in tonight’s debate:
1. How will Mitt respond to health care attacks? We know they’re coming, especially after Pawlenty’s “Obamneycare” crack over the weekend, and I expect that one or two of the attacks will be cutting and memorable. Will Mitt dive into the details? Will he counterattack his rivals’ own checkered (or nonexistent) healthcare records? Or will he brush it off and stay focused on his “economy first” message? I think (and hope) he’ll do the latter.
2. What will Newt do? While Herman Cain may be the most interesting debater, Newt could well be the most unpredictable. His staff abandoned him, and he’s got to do something to show he’s still relevant. Newt is intelligent, quick-witted, and has nothing to lose. That could be a formula for debate greatness.
3. Will Pawlenty be memorable? There’s no doubt he’s a strong candidate with a formidable resume, but he’s not a fiery speaker, his resume — as formidable as it is — doesn’t outshine Mitt’s, and he might get lost in the crowd. After Newt, I think the most pressure is on Pawlenty. After all, it’s not yet clear that he’ll even be the top Minnesotan in the race. And that brings us to number 4.
4. Could this be the beginning of the Bachmann surge? Make no mistake about it: Michelle Bachmann is good. Very good. She’s smart, has an amazing personal story, and she has unquestioned Tea Party credibility. It is early, and it’s hard for anyone to stage a breakout when most voters aren’t (yet) paying attention, but I could easily see Bachmann using these debates to move into a top three polling position, especially in Iowa.
And finally . . .
5. What will Rick Perry think? Looming in the background is the Texas governor. Flush (according to the rumors) with Gingrich’s former staffers, able to raise money by the bunches, and backed by Texas’s astounding economic success, Rick Perry is the new wild card. Will he watch the debate and see a void that he can fill? Or will the field look too crowded to him? Has he already made his decision to run, and is he just sizing up the opposition? The (conservative) world wonders.