LIVE Open Thread and Debate Preview

Helen Whalen Cohen

1/23/2012 8:00:00 PM - Helen Whalen Cohen

It's that time again, for another Republican debate, and the stakes are higher than ever. Fresh off Newt's upset in South Carolina, tonight could either augment his frontrunner status or check his momentum. Here's how the candidates stack up:

Newt Gingrich: Newt Gingrich is fresh off of his South Carolina win. Provided he doesn't flub the debate tonight, he will be a serious contender in Florida. As demonstrated in Thursday's debate, he can turn tough questions (even about the more unsavory parts of his personal life) into an answer that receives thunderous applause. We all know what kind of treatment frontrunner status earns a candidate though. In a state with the seventh highest foreclosure rates, watch out for attacks on his ties to Freddie Mac.

Mitt Romney: You don't need us to tell you that tonight will be critical for Mitt. The latest poll (Gallup, this afternoon) shows him ahead by all of one point, with Gingrich climbing rapidly over the past three days. Unless he gives a killer performance tonight, you can bet that those numbers will be reversed and then some tomorrow. Then there is the problem of his primary results thus far. A short while ago, it looked like Mitt would sweep the first three contests in the nation and have a historically easy time clinching the nomination. Now he is one for three, with Newt Gingrich's win in South Carolina and the recount in Iowa putting Rick Santorum over the top. Going on the offensive again, he'll be focusing on the housing crisis and Newt Gingrich's ties to Freddie Mac.

Rick Santorum: Rick Santorum doesn't have a lot left going for him. The Iowa recount should have been a boon, but it didn't improve his standings in South Carolina, and he did not impress the voters as a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. It looks like most of the values votes are moving towards Newt Gingrich, and Santorum's economic record leaves something to be desired. In the past he has defended his own earmark spending, voted in favor of foreign aid and suggested that Social Security payments should be used to pay down the national debt.

Ron Paul: Ron Paul's plans to partially skip the Sunshine State won't endear him to many Floridians. It is a particularly expensive state to campaign in, and Paul's campaign plans to spend more time and money in less expensive states. That said, he will participate in debates, and we can expect more fantastic answers on fiscal questions and foreign policy ideas that are less than pleasing to conservatives. It will be interesting to see if the TSA becomes an issue tonight. Paul's son, Senator Rand Paul made headlines today when he was detained after refusing a pat down.



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