Republicans will gather to debate at the historic Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Here are 10 questions worth examining before the debate gets under way. The debate will be significant as the first in which someone other than Mitt Romney enters as the front-runner. What happens in this one is likely to set the table for the following debates.
1. Will POLITICO and NBC be fair?
Will POLITICO and NBC, organizations that often caricature, stereotype and exoticize conservatives, be fair? Or will they again shamelessly push their center-left agenda while trying to bruise and soften Republican candidates for President Obama?
2. Will Rick Perry show up (literally and figuratively)?
Hunkered down in Texas while the state battles horrendous brushfires, Perry may or may not show up to the debate. If he shows up, how will he perform as the established front-runner? Will he act like Romney did in previous debates and just focus on Obama? Will he be attacked from the right on issues such as immigration, abortion and gay marriage? Will he attack Romney, as he has implicitly done on the campaign trail, or rise above any bait that is thrown him?
3. Will Mitt Romney attack Perry or Barack Obama?
If Romney starts attacking Perry, it will show that he sees Perry as a legitimate threat that is ahead of him at this stage in the race. If he attacks Obama, one could assume he still sees himself as the front-runner. If you’re Romney, though, even if you knew internally that you were behind Perry, would you gamble with a head-fake and act like you are the front-runner? Romney has improved as a candidate since Perry entered the race, and it will be interesting to see him in his first debate since Perry’s entrance into the race. Romney introduced an impressive, detail-oriented job plan on Tuesday, which contrasts him with Obama who has yet to release any significant plan of his own.
4. Will Jon Huntsman find a way to use his job’s plan to elbow his way back into the race?
Huntsman released the boldest jobs plan to date that has been praised by fiscal conservatives and publications such as the Wall Street Journal. His pro-growth plan has established him as the fiscal conservative that he always has been. The question for Huntsman is, will Republican primary voters get past his “civil” image and the mainstream media’s
embrace of him to give his conservative policies serious consideration?
5. Will Michele Bachmann steady her wobbly and erratic campaign?
In recent days, she has avoided the press after the Palmetto Freedom Forum, lost a deputy campaign manager and replaced her campaign manager. Meanwhile, Bachmann seems intent on attacking Perry to elevate herself in South Carolina. She has not received a bump after her Straw Poll win, so the question is will this be the debate where she pivots and changes her campaign to give it some more life.
6. Will Ron Paul find his sweet spot?
On issues dealing with the debt, civil liberties and war, the party is closer to him than it was in 2008. But will enough people take him seriously for him to become a serious contender? Can he be less professorial and all over the map during debates and be crisper and more disciplined in a way that allows him to pick his battles without scaring off people in order to capitalize on the momentum and the organization that his campaign has?
7. Will Newt Gingrich begin his comeback?
His summer was turbulent, but he is not that much worse off than he was when it started. Gingrich won the last debate and he performed the best out of all the candidates at the Palmetto Freedom Forum in South Carolina. He’s proposing ideas on getting rid of regulations such as Dodd-Frank and using social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Google+, effectively. He speaks of American exceptionalism in a way that resonates. Gingrich has a chance to keep the momentum going at a debate held at the library of a President (Reagan) he not only worked with, but whose life and ideas he has so richly chronicled.
8. Will the moderators take jabs at Reagan or his legacy?
Will those moderating the debate have the audacity to distort Reagan’s legacy or use or twist aspects of Reagan’s legacy to make Republicans look bad?
9. Will Republicans cowardly run away from Reagan’s legacy?
While Ronald Reagan is to conservatives what Martin Luther King Jr. is to the Civil Rights Movement, some so-called conservatives and Republicans continue to annoyingly and incessantly call to get past Reagan, perhaps because they think the President who ended the Cold War without firing a bullet despite what his naysayers said, and brought not only prosperity but a sense of self-worth and pride back to America, is too passe. I don’t think so. Conservatives or Republicans who run away or call others away from Reagan’s legacy should be ashamed of themselves.
10. Will questions of concern to California voters such as immigration and California’s failures in government and the private sector come up?
Because the debate is in California, will issues dear to Californians be asked? Will immigration come up? How about issues dealing with the nonpartisan redistricting of California’s lines? How about California’s record of job creation versus that of a state like Texas? How about questions dealing with the gridlock in California’s legislature. California, as the recall elections of 2003 showed, is often ahead of the nation. The same was true when the anti-tax Proposition 13 sentiment was the precursor of a national Reagan revolution. While some may not think issues that impact California today matter to them, they often will, if the past is prologue, within the next decade.