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Karl Rove's Tips for Tonight's GOP Debaters

Perry must stop getting beaten up, Romney needs to light a fire
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2011 7:28 AM CDT

(Newser) – It’s debate time yet again tonight, and Karl Rove offers four of the 2012 presidential contenders some advice in the Wall Street Journal:

  • Rick Perry: Instead of focusing on turning Social Security over to the states, he should continue making the “compelling case” for reform that he started in the last debate. He also needs to get out of the “piñata” role and put Mitt Romney on the defense where it comes to the latter’s health care law.
  • Mitt Romney: He should continue to press Perry on Social Security, without “[undermining] his own conservative credentials." He also needs to prepare a stronger explanation for his health care law, but most importantly, he must “light a spark among GOP voters,” who like him but aren’t excited by him yet.

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  • Michele Bachmann: She has to find a way to mop up the fallout from her now-infamous HPV vaccine comments. She can be a “formidable debater,” but if she doesn’t hold her own tonight, she could lose her chance at Iowa.
  • Rick Santorum: Rove asserts that, along with Romney, Santorum is “the most consistently impressive debater.” If he can replace Bachmann tonight as the “social conservative favorite,” he just might have a shot at Iowa.
Remember, Rove reminds us, Perry and Romney might be leading now with 28% and 20% respectively, but at this time four years ago, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson led with 28% and 23%. The contest is still wide open, and the economy is still the No. 1 issue. All the candidates must offer “a compelling agenda for growth, jobs, fiscal discipline, and reform.” (Read more GOP Debate stories.)

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