Thursday night at 9pm, Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party will co-sponsor the first debate of the 2012 Presidential election. Five presidential possibles will be present for the debate: Herman Cain, former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza; Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico; Ron Paul, U.S. representative from Texas; Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, and Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania.
What’s also important to note is that the candidates polling at the top of the most recent polls, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin will not be in attendance.
For those that chose to show, two main themes will more-than-likely be omnipresent: pot shots at President Obama and attempts for each of the candidates to differentiate themselves from each other.
Gary Johnson and Ron Paul will likely stress their libertarian roots by attacking the Fed’s monetary policy, shrinking the size of government and stressing the need for the U.S. to get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Johnson’s laser-like focus on the legalization of marijuana may place him firmly in the fringe camp especially since he’s been largely out of the limelight since leaving the New Mexico Governorship in 2002.
Tim Pawlenty will likely stress his executive experience as the Governor of Minnesota and crafting the image that he is the only realistic candidate in the race against Obama. In the past, Pawlenty has struggled to create an image of himself that excites the Conservative base. The debate could prove a pivot-point for him in becoming the most-serious contender for the GOP nomination.
Herman Cain has a tough push in the debate. While an effective communicator, he has some unclear positions on more liberal-leaning policies such as affirmative action and government intervention in the workplace. If those issues come to light, he will be hard pressed to either distance himself from prior stances on these issues or avoiding answering them altogether. Either one may not play well with the GOP base.
Rick Santorum will likely do well in the debate if it focuses on foreign policy, a strong point for the former Pennsylvania senator. A key concern is Santorum’s electability. While he will likely be fiery and exciting in the debate format, his loss of his recent Senate seat may cause many to question if he can beat Barack Obama in the general election.