(David Mansdoerfer) – Tonight, Republican presidential candidates will take center-stage in a debate at the Reagan Library hosted just 20 minutes from my Alma Mater – Pepperdine University. For the most part, this debate will feature many of the same questions and participants as the last two. However, newly minted front-runner Gov. Rick Perry will be making his first debate appearance. That, more than any other reason, will make me turn in tonight.
Some things to look for tonight:
1. Perry vs. the room: Unlike the previous debate, in which Mitt Romney was the clear front-runner, Rick Perry will draw the attention of most of the other candidates. Expect Perry to ignore most of his competition and focus on President Obama while he is answering questions. If he manages that, he will walk away from tonight’s debate with a win.
2. Perry vs. Romney: Expect the two governors to openly confront each other at least once during the debate tonight.
3. Ron Paul vs. Perry: Ron Paul’s campaign has come out gunning for Rick Perry. Much in the same way Santorum and Paul highlighted the last debate; expect Paul to come out in a strong attack on Perry’s record and character.
4. Bachmann vs. Republican Boy’s Club: Expect another strong showing by Bachmann tonight. She will try and spend equal time attacking Romney and Perry.
5. Santorum: Won’t get asked a question until 20 minutes into the debate – unless he complains sooner.
6. Newt Gingrich: Will get asked more gotcha questions than anyone else on stage. To these, he will take one of the moderators to task.
7. Jobs: What is the government’s role in job creation? Expect each candidate to talk about their job creation strategy. Expect all of them to mention tax cuts and eliminating regulations.
8. Herman Cain: Expect Cain to get 1-2 media good one-liners in tonight. He is quick witted and will pounce if given the opportunity.
9. Huntsman: Expect Huntsman to withdraw after tonight’s debate.
10. Game Changing One-Liner: I thoroughly expect one of the candidates to walk away with a new campaign slogan tonight – most likely at the expense of Mitt Romney or Rick Perry.
All in all, I think the debate will be pretty clean. And, at the end of it, Rick Perry will show why he is the current leader.
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is the Director of Federal Affairs for Citizen Outreach)