It’s crunch time. Over the next six days there will be three Republican debates, although one will only have two participants. After that, the next serious event will not occur until January 7.
The first one is scheduled for Saturday night at 9:00 pm on ABC and will feature six of the seven top candidates. Jon Huntsman was not invited because of his polling numbers. The early buzz is that this will be — as one site phrased it — the “alpha dog” showdown between long-presumed nominee Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, the current leader in most early state polls. According to the pundits, this will be the first time for Romney to demonstrate that he can recover from Gingrich’s surge, and for Gingrich to show that he has what it takes to stay on top. Everyone who follows this stuff is waiting for what most believe will be the inevitable Gingrich implosion, which, in turn, will lead to the once-inevitable Romney actually being inevitable.
The next event is one that I think will be very interesting. It is a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman. Gingrich is a big fan of this style which, as I understand it, involves actual debating between two opponents without time limits or even a moderator, although I am not clear on that last point. He favors such an approach because as the smartest person on the planet and a skilled debater, he will win every time. He has proposed seven such encounters with President Obama after he becomes the nominee, and has already had such a debate with Herman Cain. Jon Huntsman is not Herman Cain. He is smart, articulate and, as a former ambassador to China and popular governor, one must assume he is quite savvy. For those looking for the Gingrich implosion, I think this event has considerable potential to produce it. He will not be able to use his bullying style or pompous platitudes against Huntsman. Just go back to the way he backed down from Mitt Romney when challenged on his support for an individual mandate in health care. At this point (Friday afternoon) I am not aware of a time or carrier for a debate scheduled for Monday.
Then there is the debate scheduled for December 15 at 9:00 pm on Fox News. After that it is a hiatus of more than three weeks for the next serious event on January 7. In between, however, is the Donald Trump debate scheduled for December 27. Five of the seven leading candidates have declined to participate, with only Gingrich and Rick Santorum agreeing to show up. The latter can use all the publicity he can get. I think this is another opportunity for Gingrich to implode. He will be seeing himself as half-way to the nomination and I anticipate he will be in all his pompous glory. That could spell trouble for advisers hoping he avoids intemperate remarks. That’s all I need, though, to be watching this spectacle.