Handicapping the New Hampshire Debate

Here’s my take, in alphabetical order of what to expect from the candidates in tonight’s debate:

Michele Bachmann stays on message all the time.  Expect her to stick to her main talking points–Obama must be a one term President and Obamacare must be repealed– and sell her personal biography.

Herman Cain “cain’t” replicate his first debate performance.  His lack of mastery of details and specifics will be obvious in this debate.

Newt Gingrich won’t like the questions he’s asked.  Gingrich wants to talk issues, but he’ll be asked about the resignation of his staff, his criticism of Paul Ryan, and his ability to continue campaigning.  He’ll alternate between being irritable, condescending, testy and flippant.

Ron Paul will be–Ron Paul.

Tim Pawlenty will offer the specifics that other candidates won’t or can’t.  He will distinguish himself as the candidate who tells the truths that no one wants to hear–Medicare is broke, the government doesn’t have any money, and the era of the free lunch is over.  You’ll either love him or hate him.

Mitt Romney will stick with a constant barrage of criticism of Barack Obama and avoid providing any details about what he will do differently as President.  He will tout his resume and avoid his past mistakes and flip flops.

Rick Santorum will hardly be noticed.  Someone has to get the short end of the stick on questions and face time when there are this many candidates on stage.  Unfortunately, Santorum drew the short straw.

And the winner is—according to CNN’s talking heads–Mitt Romney.  The real winner, however, will be Michele Bachmann with Pawlenty a close 2nd place.  Big losers are Gingrich (because he’s Gingrich), Cain (because he doesn’t live up to expectations) and Santorum.  Paul is a wash–nobody really cares except his supporters.