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First TV Debate Since Iowa

New Hampshire GOP debate feb 6, 2016The first TV debate since the Iow caucuses – or Cruz-gate as many are calling it – is being held tonight in Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

It should make interesting viewing.

This is a significant debate, not only because it comes just 3 days before the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday February 9th, but also because it will be the first public debate since the Cruz campaign tried to cheat Ben Carson out of votes in the Iowa caucus.

With Rand Paul’s withdrawal from the race it will be a smaller main stage debate, although the star of the show, Donald Trump, is back.

ABC News, which is hosting tonight’s debate, has said the lineup on stage, from left to right, will be Kasich, Bush, Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Carson, Christie.

Missing is Carly Fiorina even though she beat Kasich and Christie in the Iowa caucus.

 

Kasich

Kasich is there on the strength of recent polling figures that show him in third place with 13 percent.

This debate will be a big moment for him. He needs to have a good night or he may be saying goodnight to the race. More importantly he needs to be seen as a more personable candidate than in his previous performances.

 

 

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Trump

Almost every media report is telling us that Donald Trump suffered a set back in Iowa by taking second place. Even if Cruz hadn’t cheated to get into first place, the result for Trump is not a bad one. He picked up 7 delegates in Iowa, only one less than Cruz, who may now be privately wondering if his underhand move again Ben Carson was worth that extra delegate.

No doubt tonight Trump will face questions about the Cruz cheating claim but he will handle them as he usually does, hitting hard when he needs to.

 

Cruz

Cruz should face questions about the vote scandal. It will be interesting to see how he can justify, not only the unacceptable tactics employed by his campaign staff, but also why he has taken no disciplinary action against them. Refusing to fire those responsible makes any Cruz’s apology for the incident ring mighty hollow.

A Boston Globe/Suffolk poll has Cruz in 5th place, trailing both Kasich and Bush, so he has not gained any momentum from his Iowa result, presumably at least in part because of the vote stealing scandal. Cruz needs to have a spectacularly good debate performance tonight.

 

Carson

Carson’s performances on previous TV debates have not been good. Tonight he has a chance to correct that, especially since he will start with a certain amount of audience sympathy as the undeserved victim the Cruz vote stealing controversy.

Carson claims Cruz played dirty on the day of the Iowa caucus vote by announcing Carson was pulling out of the race, and urging voters to support Cruz instead.

At the debate Carson will have to make sure he drives home these points. The main problem he has is that his reserved demeanor at debates may make his appear less than a match for career politician Cruz.

 

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Rubio

As for Rubio, we want to see if he has come back down to earth since his performance in Iowa. Before the Iowa caucus, the polls put Rubio in third place. In the caucus vote he was supposed to come third. And it turned out he did indeed come third. No great surprise there, but to listen to Rubio’s comments after the Iowa vote one could have been forgiven for thinking he had just clinched the nomination. Over the top and then some!

Now, according to the new poll from The Boston Globe and Suffolk University, he is in 2nd place behind Trump in New Hampshire with 19%. In the debate, however, he will have to contend with attacks from Cruz, Bush and Christie, too. The New York Times reported that Christie and Bush have supposedly teamed up to battle Rubio. This will be a stern test for Rubio.

 

Bush

Bush is the other candidate who, more than any other, needs a good debate performance tonight. New Hampshire is his “must win” state and that has to make tonight’s debate a “must win” debate for himself also.

Above all he must take on fellow establishment man Rubio who has consistently outclassed him in all the previous TV debates. Like Cruz and Carson, ABC has them standing next to each other which could make it even more interesting.

 

Christie

Christie, on the other hand, needs a great debate performance just to save his campaign. Even when he has done well in previous debates he has never been able to convert that into increased poll numbers.

In the Iowa vote he came next to last pace. The only candidate he managed to beat was Rick Santorum, who isn’t even in the race any more.

Christie may well choose to join Jeb Bush and go after Rubio, who he has already criticized strongly on issues such as abortion. Christie recently called Rubio “the boy in the bubble”. We will see tonight if Christie can burst Rubio’s tonight or whether he pops his own instead.

 

Let The Battles Commence

So there it is. Trump versus Cruz; Cruz versus Carson; Rubio versus Cruz, Bush and Christie; and probably Kasich versus himself as usual.

There are bound to be a few sparks flying somewhere tonight. Grab a seat and hang on. Let the battles commence.

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