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master debaters

Things to Expect at the National Security Debate Tonight

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 18:  CNN's Anderson Cooper (L) moderates the Republican presidential debate with candidates (L-R) U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former CEO of Godfather's Pizza Herman Cain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on stage duirng the debate airing on CNN, October 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seven GOP contenders are taking part in the debate, which is sponsored by the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas and held in the Venetian Hotel's Sands Expo and Convention Center.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) The stage is set ... LITERALLY!

After a couple of weekend debates that nobody saw or paid attention to, the endless parade of GOP primary debates returns to the work week tonight in Washington. The 8 p.m. debate, which will air on CNN, is co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, two conservative think tanks, and will focus on national security issues. So expect the following:

• Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, et al, telling us that we need to stay in Afghanistan until every last general unanimously agrees it's time to go.

• Jon Huntsman differentiating himself from the rest of the field's interventionists, but in an utterly emotionless and unmemorable way.

• Ron Paul being being asked, every so often, whether he agrees with the over-the-top hawkish thing another candidate just said.

• Herman Cain making up dubious excuses for why it took him 45 minutes to answer a basic question about the war in Libya

• Lots of unspecific critiques of President Obama's handling of Libya. 

• Rick Perry being asked to elaborate on his support, voiced last night on Fox News, for the unilateral creation of a no-fly zone over Syria.

• Unanimous assertions that President Obama is "soft on terror," despite everything.

• Newt Gingrich castigating the moderators because they asked him about something he'd rather not talk about.

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Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images