As Republican presidential contenders prepare to face off in a New Hampshire debate sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post tonight, here are six issues for viewers tuning in to consider. The debate will be broadcast on Bloomberg News and live-streamed on Bloomberg’s and the Washington Post’s websites.
1. How will Cain handle increased scrutiny?
Herman Cain has an opportunity to solidify his status as a top-tier contender. He has surged to second place in a recent New Hampshire poll and in a couple national polls. To date, he has deftly responded to many criticisms hurled at him and his policies. He will most likely get asked how states with high sales taxes will cope if the federal government adds another 9% to the national retail sales tax. It is a question Cain must be prepared to answer.
2. Will Perry or Romney attack Cain?
Do Mitt Romney and Rick Perry see Cain as a legitimate threat? We may find out during this debate.
3. Can Perry convince potential supporters that he is ready for prime time?
With his shaky debate performances, particularly when he said that those who do not support giving instate tuition to illegal immigrants do not have “a heart,” Perry’s stock has temporarily plummeted. Good news for Perry: He has the time and the resources to become the chief rival to Romney if he can erase doubts about his ability to not wither in the spotlight, and about his conservative laurels, which his potential supporters currently harbor.
4. Will candidates be asked about Solyndra?
GOP candidates have not been given a platform to discuss the Obama administration’s “venture socialism” in past debates. Will they be given opportunities to do so tonight?
5. How will candidates handle questions about the Occupy Wall Street protests?
Candidates will be asked about this, and while they should mock the protesters, they should be careful to ensure that their mockery is limited to those who have turned New York into Berkeley East, and not directed at, or misconstrued as aimed at, all Americans who are out of work and looking for jobs.
6. Will Mormonism be discussed?
After a pastor told reporters that he believes Mormonism is a cult at last weekend’s Values Voter Summit, the “Mormon issue” came up again in full force this week. With two Mormon candidates in the race, Romney and Jon Huntsman, will this issue be brought up by either the moderators or the candidates?