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October 11, 2011 4:35 PM Tonight in New Hampshire

By Steve Benen

The latest in a series of debates for Republican presidential candidates starts tonight at 8 p.m. ET, in New Hampshire, and under the circumstances, this one might actually have some significance to the race.

Eight Republicans candidates will take the stage tonight in New Hampshire for the seventh debate of the GOP nomination fight. But, the dynamics of this debate, which is being sponsored by the Washington Post and Bloomberg News will be different for several reasons.

First, the debate is focused exclusively on the economy, which should allow for a more detailed dive into each of candidates’ thinking on an issue that is at the top of voters’ minds.

Second, businessman Herman Cain has gone from an afterthought (at best) in past debates to a centerpiece of this set-to. How Cain handles himself and how former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry approach him will be a fascinating — and new — storyline.

One thing viewers will notice is who’s at center-stage — literally. Where candidates are positioned is determined by polling, so while Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have been standing next to one another in the last few debates, tonight, Perry will by bumped over one slot, leaving Romney to stand alongside his next closest competitor, Herman Cain.

This will probably interfere with Perry’s ability to reach Romney and throttle him, but I’m still cautiously optimistic that the Texas governor will be better prepared to go after the frontrunner tonight. Yesterday’s hard-hitting video from the Perry campaign certainly set the stage for a confrontation. Jamil Smith argued yesterday that Perry should have learned a lesson from Pawlenty — attacking before a debate, then flubbing the offensive during the debate, is a bad idea — and it’ll be worth watching to see just how aggressive the former frontrunner is.

And what about Cain? He vowed earlier today, “I’m going after Romney…. I don’t need to go after Perry.”

Oh, and Bachmann, Santorum, Paul, Gingrich, and Huntsman will be there, too.

With the Iowa caucuses 12 weeks from today, and the race at a fairly volatile stage, tonight might manage to be slightly less sleep-inducing than the last few.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • Noam Sane on October 11, 2011 4:38 PM:

    The only question is, at what point will the audience boo Cain? They've covered gays, veterans, and the poor. Minorities would seem to be next in line.

  • T2 on October 11, 2011 4:42 PM:

    as I've said, don't expect to see a different Rick Perry...he is what he is. Just because he hired some guys to make a slick video....I mean, Rick didn't write it or direct it.
    He'll probably get a chance to talk about Ni**erhead, and immigration and tell some lies about the Texas economy. If he can stay on the attack, he'll tread water. If someone goes after him he'll get flustered. Personally I can't see any advantage of Cain going after Perry on Ni**erhead...after all, the GOP is a party of racists. What's the upside for Cain?

  • Tuffy on October 11, 2011 4:46 PM:

    Feel the Cainmentum! I'm going to eat a pizza tonight to send him good vibes.

  • zandru on October 11, 2011 5:00 PM:

    Thank You, Washington Monthly

    for watching and reporting on tonight's latest display of The Best the GOP Has to Offer America - so I don't have to. One was enough for me. There's no there there, either from the candidates or the celebrity media gameshow hosts.

  • DAY on October 11, 2011 5:57 PM:

    zandru, I'll be watching. The Daily Show comes well after Geezer Nitey Nite time. . .

  • NickNayme on October 11, 2011 6:58 PM:

    A pity Buddy Roemer won't be allowed in the debate. But he would look entirely out of place in that crowd.

  • emjayay on October 11, 2011 7:14 PM:

    According to NPR, Perry has been working really really hard on his preparation - even rehearsing with a Romney stand in. Which is the kind of thing of course that has been going on for decades with actual presidential debates, but I don't know how many primary debaters have done actual dress rehearsals.

    So watch out America, he's gonna be hot. Whoooeee!

  • nono on October 12, 2011 3:30 AM:

    Dank u voor sharing.maybe zul je net als de uggs in nederland.Have een mooie dag!

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