FixCam: Republicans Debate in Myrtle Beach
Six of the seven Republican candidates still standing will gather in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina tonight for the 1,567,000th debate of this primary season. (NOTE: That is a rough estimate.)
Coverage of the 90-minute debate begins at 9 p.m. on the Fox News Channel. We'll be offering analysis live on The Fix.
But, to hold you over until then, we offer up our take on the three candidates to watch tonight:
* John McCain: Now the old/new "hot" candidate in the race, the Arizona Senator got the win he needed in New Hampshire and is hoping to build on that momentum with a win next Tuesday in Michigan and next Saturday in the South Carolina. To do that he needs a strong showing in tonight's debate. Expect McCain to remind voters of his military service -- the state is heavy with current and former military men and women -- as well as his early support for the Iraq surge proposal. McCain is likely to come under fire for his support earlier this year of a comprehensive immigration reform measure that is anathema to many Republicans in South Carolina. While McCain has a ready answer -- "I got the message" -- it's not a topic he wants to spend much of tonight's debate discussing.
* Mike Huckabee: Once the star of the debate circuit, the former Arkansas governor has lost some of his shine. Huckabee's task tonight is to show voters that he is more than just rhetoric and one-liners; he needs to show that he is up to the job and has the serious policy vision to lead the country. Given the number of evangelical voters in South Carolina, Huckabee would also do well to remind voters of his faith and his background in the ministry. To win in South Carolina, Huckabee will need to replicate the surge of evangelical voters that propelled him to victory in Iowa. That effort starts in earnest tonight.
* Fred Thompson: The former Tennessee Senator is in a do or die situation in South Carolina. After a third-place showing in Iowa and a sixth-place performance in New Hampshire, Thompson needs a top-three finish in South Carolina to remain viable in the race. Emphasizing the importance of the South Carolina to his hopes, Thompson is in the midst of an extended bus tour through the state. Thompson has been inconsistent in the debates to date but, if he wants to have a serious chance at building momentum over the final nine days in South Carolina contest, he must show voters why he is the clear, conservative choice tonight. That means aggressively drawing contrasts with both Huckabee and McCain throughout the debate rather than simply dashing off one-liners from time to time.
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