What Needs to Happen in Tonight's Debate

A candidate-by-candidate breakdown
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2011 7:16 AM CST
Republican presidential candidates stand together prior to a debate, Dec. 10, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(Newser) – Republicans will face off in yet another debate tonight, one that a GOP strategist dubs "the most important two hours of the campaign for Iowa," so the Des Moines Register asked political operatives, strategists, and scientists to weigh in on what each candidate needs to do. Here's what they said:

  • Newt Gingrich: To prove he has staying power, Gingrich will have to fend off attacks while remaining likeable—something he hasn't always been. "Newt Gingrich doesn’t have to hold a puppy and be overly warm," one conservative blogger said, but "if you want to be president, Americans have to like you as a person."
  • Mitt Romney: Romney needs to erase the memory of his $10,000 bet with some good zingers. To fare well in Iowa, all he really needs is to win over one more niche of Republican voters, predicts one GOP strategist.

  • Ron Paul: He's suddenly got real dark-horse potential in the state, with a campaign that's much more professional than it was four years ago. A strong showing could solidify third place for him.
  • Michele Bachmann: Bachmann's goal is to siphon support from Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, and to do it, one strategist thinks it's time for her to show off her brainy side. "She needs to give specific policy ideas and lose the clichés," he says.
  • Rick Perry: Weak debate performances have left a lot of people standing between Perry and the nod, yet Perry can't go after them too aggressively, one blogger warns, because he tends to do his worst in volleys with competitors.
  • Rick Santorum: So far, he's made no debate mistakes, but he needs to distinguish himself for once with a memorable moment or zinger.
  • Jon Huntsman: He's already toast in Iowa. "People had such great hopes when he started," a strategist said, but "he's neither the affable guy nor the intellectual one."
Tonight's debate airs at 9pm ET on Fox News. (Read more Republican debate stories.)

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