4 Things to Watch in the South Carolina GOP Debate

More
After the most eventful day of the campaign thus far, candidates meet for what should be an exciting debate in Charleston on Thursday night.

scdebatepreview.banner.reuters.jpg

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Thursday night's Republican debate comes on the heels of one of the most exciting days of the 2012 campaign. First it turned out Mitt Romney didn't really win the Iowa caucuses. Then word leaked that Rick Perry would finally pull the plug on his doomed campaign. And that was just before 9 a.m. Meanwhile, anticipation of the evening's broadcast of ABC's damning interview with Newt Gingrich's second ex-wife hung over the day's proceedings.

All that, and a debate too? Indeed. The four remaining candidates -- Romney, Gingrich, newly crowned Iowa victor Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul (remember him?) -- meet onstage at 8 p.m. Eastern for a debate co-sponsored by CNN and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. A few things to watch for:

* All eyes on Newt. Gingrich's surge in South Carolina is real. It's now apparent in multiple public polls; Thursday afternoon, polling guru Nate Silver upgraded his chances of winning the state to 48 percent (to Romney's 52 percent). Gingrich is a good debater, but he hasn't always shone when he's been confronted with the more uncomfortable parts of his record. Recall how Michele Bachmann made him squirm by hammering home his don't-call-it-lobbying work for Freddie Mac, repeating over and over the words "government-sponsored enterprise." With three candidates onstage gunning for him and his ego puffed up to historically dangerous levels, Gingrich could soar -- or stumble.

* Rick Santorum, punching up. He finally won Iowa, two weeks late. But Santorum is a desperate man these days, fighting to avoid finishing last. Santorum relishes being on the attack and has nothing to lose. Expect to see him take out his frustrations on all of his rivals.

* How's Romney feeling now? The calmly complacent front-runner has suddenly been replaced by a candidate who's won nothing but a gimme in New Hampshire and faces the prospect of South Carolina slipping through his fingers. Romney tends to get irritable when his confidence is shaken. Does he let Gingrich get under his skin, or try to rise above?

* Remember Ron Paul? Paul left the campaign trail for Thursday's debt-limit vote, and there's an increasing sense that his campaign is operating in a parallel universe. But he still has the potential to do damage, as evidenced by this brutal ad.

Image: Reuters
Jump to comments
Presented by

Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Do People Love Times Square?

A filmmaker asks New Yorkers and tourists about the allure of Broadway's iconic plaza


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Do People Love Times Square?

A filmmaker asks New Yorkers and tourists about the allure of Broadway's iconic plaza

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In