The GOP candidates are slowly starting to arrive here in Sin City. Thankfully the rumored candidate boycott of tonight’s CNN/Western Republican Leadership Conference debate has been called off (for the most part) and fight night is ready and set to go at 8 pm Eastern Standard Time in the Sands Expo and Convention Center located in the fabulous Venetian Hotel (the only non-union hotel on The Strip.)
Tonight’s debate will take place in a state where unemployment sits at 13.4 percent, one of the highest in the nation. Nevada also has the highest foreclosure rate in the country, setting the stage for a humbling discussion about where America stands as a whole economically. Demographically, the voting population in Nevada is heavily Hispanic, so the issue of illegal immigration could become the main focus tonight.
Here is your pre-game warm-up:
Fresh off of topping the latest polls and securing front runner status, businessman Herman Cain will not only be at the center of the stage tonight, but so will his 9-9-9 plan. As always, the man in front gets the majority of the attention and the attacks. Cain’s rich business background will play well in Las Vegas, a city that has been hit extremely hard by not only the recession, but by President Obama telling companies not to travel here for conventions. Cain will also be asked to clarify statements he made recently about electrocuting illegal aliens crossing the southern border as a way to stop illegal immigration. Cain has the most at stake tonight if he wants to keep his frontrunner status.
As Guy has said before, Romney’s campaign is banking on the ‘slow and steady’ wins the race tactic. Other candidates like Bachmann, Perry and even Cain have fluctuated in the polls, but Romney has remained a consistent serious contender for the nomination. However, the continued surfacing of Romney advisors being used by the Obama Administration and vice versa on issues such as healthcare and climate change could become a problem tonight if Cooper decides to ask about the connections. As usual, if none of the other GOP candidates are willing to really hit him on RomneyCare, he’ll walk away with another smooth debate victory.
Everybody ready for a Newt vs. Anderson Cooper showdown? Newt Gingrich is a candidate who has been slowly gaining momentum over the past few weeks as Perry has been drowning. Look for Newt to once again take on Obama directly and to point out Nevada as a specific example of the failed policies of not only the President, but of the state’s Senator Harry Reid as well.
It’s make it or break it time for Rick Perry. Although Perry has been running effective ads this week promoting his pro-growth, pro-jobs record and agenda, he’ll have to do well tonight to keep his head above water in this race. Hopefully the Perry camp learned from the last debate that although a certain topic may be the desired message for the night (last time it was domestic energy policy), Perry is going to have to talk about other things relevant to the questions asked. With Iowa setting their caucus date for January 3, it’s crunch time.
Like Mitt Romney, Ron Paul has remained consistent in terms of the support he has been able to garnish. Once again, being in Nevada will help Paul as he can use big government polices in the state to support his limited government approach. The Washington Post/Bloomberg debate last week was strictly based on economics, where Paul was able to thrive, but if the border fence issue comes up tonight, lets just hope he doesn’t say, “It might be used to keep Americans in.”
Bachmann is now polling in single digits and even with a stellar debate performance tonight, she doesn’t have much of a chance at having a comeback. With Cain’s rise to the top and the tea party support going with him, Bachmann doesn’t have much to gain or lose tonight.
Rick Santorum has yet another chance tonight to present himself as the only person on stage really willing to dive right into social issues and connect them to the economy. Although this approach may not do much to boost his chances or polling numbers, it is an important role for him to play.
Jon Huntsman is boycotting tonight's debate, making himself even more irrelevant.
Las Vegas is a place known for its wild entertainment, will the candidates deliver? Unfortunately for them, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," doesn't apply to politics. Let us know in the comment section.