Tonight's Debate Could Change the Race
Santorum's on the hot seat, Romney's back is to the wall, Gingrich needs a comeback
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Feb 22, 2012 7:58 AM CST
Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney participate in a debate in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Newser) – It's been a while, but America's favorite political game show is back. Yes, the Republican presidential candidates will square off in Mesa tonight for their first debate in nearly a month. Here are the storylines in play:

  • The final showdown—The stakes are "about as high as they could be," the Washington Post observes, because this might be the last debate of the GOP primary, and certainly the last before Super Tuesday. And since losses in Arizona and Michigan could be fatal for Mitt Romney's campaign, he has to perform tonight.

  • Rick Santorum on the hot seat—This will be Santorum's first debate as what Politico calls the "de facto frontrunner," meaning he's going to take heat, particularly from Romney. But Santorum has actually proven to be pretty good at counterattacks, and his team is confident—one adviser mocks Romney as easy prey because he sticks to "Pavlovian" responses.
  • Ron Paul, Romney pal—Paul has developed a friendship with Romney and, given that he's never used debates as his major platform, he's likely to have his back in the face of attacks.
  • Newt Gingrich: Mr. Nice Guy?—"Ironically, Newt is in a position to look less negative than Romney or Santorum," one campaign source says, because those two will be beating up on each other. "Newt can rise above it and seem statesmanlike."
  • John King's revenge—Newt Gingrich left moderator John King with serious egg on his face during the Jan. 19 debate. "I would be surprised if John were not more aggressive," one Republican pollster tells the Arizona Republic.

View 2 more images
More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Tonight's Debate Could Change the Race is...
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Showing 3 of 23 comments
Feb 22, 2012 6:41 PM CST
If I didn't have class tomorrow, I'd be drinking to every stupid comment they made. Then again, I don't want alcohol poisoning.
Feb 22, 2012 12:47 PM CST
Santorum is a deeply religious man. He preaches the teachings of Jesus Chrisrt. After all, the bible tells us not to feed the hungry or treat the sick. Jesus would want a repeal of health care reform law. And, he'd tell the homeless: "You're on your own. We have to pay for Bush's war." God bless.
Feb 22, 2012 12:17 PM CST
The clown car has arrived!