Gingrich in Hot Seat at Tonight's Debate
Will new frontrunner keep his position?
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2011 7:42 AM CST
Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry acknowledge audience prior to a presidential debate at Wofford College November 12, 2011 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Tonight’s GOP debate in Washington will focus on foreign policy—though, as Politico notes, “foreign policy isn’t going to decide the 2012 presidential race.” The topic just “isn’t where the interest has been for voters or the media,” a strategist tells the Economic Times. Even so, there will be lots of things to keep an eye on, particularly since we have a new not-Mitt-Romney frontrunner: Newt Gingrich.

  • Gingrich has the most to lose, with the Washington Post noting that he's the fifth contender to top the polls this year. He has performed well in previous debates—in fact, debate performance is largely what resurrected his campaign—but he'll have to live up to a higher standard now that he’s seen as a serious candidate. Longtime observers expect him to do well, since foreign policy is one of his strengths.

  • Mitt Romney has focused on his ability to create jobs; tonight he will have to prove that he is strong enough to compete with a president who oversaw Osama bin Laden’s death, Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster, the Afghanistan surge, and the Iraq draw-down.
  • After his embarrassing Libya gaffe, Herman Cain will have another shot to explain his position—and if he wants to recover, he’ll have to prove he actually knows something about foreign policy.
  • Jon Huntsman, the only candidate with foreign policy experience, could get a chance to shine—but his positions so far haven’t resonated with voters. Will his message—opposition to US foreign entanglements—finally break through tonight?
  • Previous debates have not showcased many policy clashes between candidates—but this time, look for quite a few differences when it comes to how we should deal with Iran’s nuclear program, Pakistan, an Afghanistan withdrawal, waterboarding, and more.
The 8pm debate airs live on CNN. Click to see why Gingrich thinks he’s the best debater of the bunch.