ABC is gracing us with both the Democratic and Republican debates tonight from New Hampshire. I'm at the Freitai Estate watching on HD (which is actually a little frightening, most candidates are not meant to be seen in HD). There may be liveblogging to come, but I make no promises. Regardless, what to look for tonight.
Obama has to make the transition from insurgent to frontrunner, and continue the momentum. He has a tendency to disappoint in debates. Modern television debates focus on short, punchy moments. For all his many strengths, short and punchy is not one of them. Obama can meander during his answers, and often will answer questions that haven't been asked. Clinton and Edwards will both attack, the question is how and where. Clinton could go on experience, and her surrogates have been pointing out the more leftward postilions Obama has taken in the past. Edwards has tested out a fairly clunky “tool of the man” line over the past two days. We may see variations on that theme. The wild card is Bill Richardson. He has virtually no chance for the nomination now, and it's a question of who he thinks gives him the best chance for the VP slot. It seems that would be Obama. He could come out swinging against Hilary.
For the GOP, it will be as weirdly disconnected as it has been in the recent past. Like Obama, Mike Huckabee has to make the transition to frontrunner. Unlike Obama, he's basically flatlined in New Hampshire, and the state lacks a natural evangelical base for him. Due to continuing money problems, this will be his best shot to reach New Hampshire. No one is expecting anything from him in the Granite State, and any good showing will count as an expectations game win. New Hampshire is doubly important for Romney and McCain. Both are aiming for the anti-Huckabee faction, and the loser of this primary is dead on arrival. The debate between the two of them will be negative, ugly and oftentimes preposterous. As for Guiliani, he needs a big moment to find some traction after a difficult month. The debate will almost certainly turn on immigration and terrorism, and will almost certainly be negative. Really negative.
Have I mentioned negative?