There are two New Hampshire debates for the remaining Republican candidates. One is tonight and one is tomorrow morning on Meet the Press. If you are reading this, they may have already happened. Then the big primary will happen on Tuesday.
I usually provide commentary after a debate. I am doing it in reverse this time. Personally, I will be flipping back and forth between the debate and football tonight. I suspect there will be millions of others doing the same. The Sunday morning debate may end up with higher ratings. I will watch all of the Ron Paul clips on Youtube, just to make sure I didn't miss anything.
If there is anything significant or game-changing in either debates, I will post an update on this post. I expect that things will be similar to past debates.
I expect Romney will easily win the New Hampshire vote. Ron Paul will probably take second, but it is possible that Jon Huntsman may slip in there. It will actually be more significant to see how Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry finish compared to each other.
Do you know who the biggest loser in the Republican primaries is right now? The answer is Tim Pawlenty. Does anyone remember him? He was the governor of Minnesota. He was in the early debates. He dropped out after finishing third in the Iowa straw poll back in August. Bachmann was first and Paul was second. It obviously meant very little, since Bachmann plummeted right after that. Just about every candidate has had their day in the sun now. Pawlenty may have gone up in the polls just by default at this point.
Perry made a good choice in not following in Pawlenty's footsteps and not dropping out too early. Michele Bachmann was done after Iowa (that was supposed to be her state) and she made a good choice dropping out. Perry gave a head fake that he might quit, but he has decided to press on. I think Perry still has a good chance of doing well. If I were betting on Intrade, I would put my money on him, given the odds. I think Romney is the favorite to win, but Perry is being written off by too many. Let me explain further.
The Tea Party people, who do not agree with Ron Paul on foreign policy, are still looking for their anti-Romney candidate. They have given an opportunity to Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich. The more they found out about these candidates, the less they liked them. Now Santorum is the flavor of the month.
They are going to like Santorum even less. He cannot beat Obama. He wants to shove his religion down other people's throats. He has a horrible record of supporting big-government Bush policies. He supported raising the debt ceiling numerous times. He supported expanding federal education. He supported the Medicare prescription drug plan. He also supported Arlen Specter (an outspoken supporter of big government). I can promise that Santorum will not be the Republican nominee. If for some reason I'm wrong, Obama will have a walk in the park.
So where are Tea Party people going to turn? Some will go to Ron Paul if they can accept his anti-war views. A few will go to Romney, only because they think he can beat Obama. But a lot of people who call themselves conservatives are still looking for an anti-Romney candidate. They should support Paul, but they are too militaristic.
This leaves Perry. His record is not as bad. Santorum and Gingrich have many years of votes in Washington DC. Perry's record is all around state politics. Perry also has money. While he has not been good in debates, he seems to be more likable than Santorum and Gingrich, at least for independents. I think he could still emerge as the anti-Romney and anti-Paul candidate, if he stays in it long enough.
I still believe this is a three-person race. I'm just not sure who the third person is yet. Romney and Paul are going to the end. I think Perry may emerge as the third person. If not, it will be a toss up between Santorum and Gingrich for the third slot.
UPDATE: Ron Paul took Gingrich and Santorum to school, particularly in the Saturday night debate. Where will the pro-war tea party people (a bit of a contradiction) turn to now?