It's been nearly three weeks since the last Republican presidential primary debate, and a lot has changed since Rick Perry told conservatives that they "don't have a heart" and then word-vomited an attempted attack on Mitt Romney's flip-floppiness. Perry has fallen from his perch high above Romney in the polls, all the way back to third place behind Romney and Herman Cain, and now has a lot to gain, and lose, in tonight's 8 p.m. debate, an economy-focused event hosted by Bloomberg and the Washington Post at Dartmouth College. Perry can either erase memories of those bad debates with a sharp performance, or he can further convince donors and voters that he's not ready to compete on the national stage.
Speaking of stages, the format of this debate is a bit different than what we're used to seeing. Instead of standing behind podiums, the candidates will be seated around a large circular table facing debate hosts Charlie Rose, Karen Tumulty, and Juliana Goldman, and surrounded by the audience. "This format," Bloomberg News hopes, "will facilitate serious and substantive debate on issues of vital importance to the country." Good luck with that.
Another quirk of the debate is that, according to the Times, "the candidates have also been told they will be able to ask each other questions, and that the order will go alphabetically, with Mrs. Bachmann starting." Oooh, we like that a good opportunity for some "strategery," as Will Ferrell as George W. Bush once said. The campaigns must have thought long and hard about how they'll use this special arrow that the debate hosts have placed in their quiver. We've thought about it too, for the past 40 seconds. Here are our predictions for what each candidate will ask.
Michele Bachmann: Governor Romney, can you explain why you supported the slaughter of innocent unborn babies when you ran for Senate in Taxachusetts, but switched to being pro-life the moment you decided to run for president?
Herman Cain: Governor Romney, can you describe your tax plan in under two seconds, and if not, why is your tax plan so dang complicated?
Newt Gingrich: I refuse to participate in your Mickey Mouse Hollywood game-show stunts.
Jon Huntsman: Everyone raise your hand if you believe that the universe has existed for more than 10,000 years.
Ron Paul: How's Al Gore doing these days, Rick? You're still close with him, right?
Rick Perry: Governor Romney, I'd like to know, was it was before you was before thezzzzzzzzz. [falls asleep]
Mitt Romney: Governor Romney, how much do you love living in New Hampshire in the house you've owned since 1997?
Rick Santorum: Governor Perry, if you could spend $100,000 of taxpayer money on an illegal immigrant's college education or on tearing down the existing segments of the border fence, which would you choose, and why do you hate America?