Just in time with the end of the rest of the fall shows, the season finale of America’s new favorite reality show has arrived. We have seven candidates with seven roses left but that will be dwindled down to one winner in the next coming weeks and months. I am not talking about The Bachelor though, I am talking about the GOP primary. Just like any proper season finale, the stakes couldn’t be any higher for the contestants hoping to win over the people of Iowa and New Hampshire so that they can stay on for another season. Each candidate has much to lose or gain in their last major opportunity to contrast themselves with their opponents head on. Tonight will be the last chance to make an impression on the early state voters.

Whoever was producing this show did one hell of a job. This year’s GOP primary has been the most entertaining in my relatively short exposure to politics. Gone are any talk of Palin, Giuliani, Christie, Daniels, Ryan, Trump, Pawlenty, or Cain becoming our next President. That leaves us with our current field. We have had a “flavor of the month” candidate for most of the season. Bachmann withered away with each gaffe, Perry stumbled … and stumbled … and stumbled yet again, and Cain was brought down in the ugliest of circumstances. Meanwhile, the campaigns of Huntsman and Santorum could not even get their engines started for the race.

 

I would like to add as a side note how disappointed I am in the Huntsman campaign. He showed a lot of promise and intellect. I gained a lot of respect for Huntsman when I listened to him speak and met his family. While he may be too moderate, he is a sane enough candidate to at least be considered. But instead of the rival to Romney that we all expected, we got a man hiding out in the middle of New Hampshire somewhere, stuck at the bottom of the polls. I propose a Hail Mary attempt for Huntsman; he puts up his three gorgeous daughters on the debate stage tonight instead of himself because they have unfortunately been the only memorable part of his campaign so far.

 

This brings us to good ole Ron Paul. There has been some chatter recently about Ron Paul’s climb in the Iowa polls. He is the dark horse in what is slowly but surely shaping to become a two man contest. Ron Paul is consistent both in his policy and in his poll numbers. With his strong and loyal base in Iowa, there may be a chance for him to sneak in a win and turn this whole primary upside down.

 

We are now at the two front runners. These two men could not be more different and both will be looking to make that point in tonight’s debate. Romney has been the consistent slow and steady front runner for the majority of this race. He has stubbed his toe in recent weeks but still remains relatively unscathed. Gingrich is the newest opponent to grab the lead over Romney with his sharp debate performances and surge in the polls. The tension between these two has grown and the Romney campaign continues to attack Gingrich on all fronts. It seems like it just may be starting to work.

 

In the last two Iowa polls, Gingrich has seen his once significant double digit lead slip. Gingrich has had to take on blows from all sides. We all knew that Newt had a lot of baggage to deal with and the candidates have not been shy to talk about his infidelities, his ethics trial, his flip flopping, his Tiffany’s bill, his two week cruise, his commercial with Nancy Pelosi, his view of the Palestinian people, or his time making money as a D.C. insider. Expect more of the same for Gingrich. However, don’t expect Gingrich to play nice and absorb all of this criticism. This is actually when Newt is at his best, he is clever enough that he can turn around an attack and use it against his opponent. We saw it in the last debate with his comment to Romney about losing the Massachusetts Senate election in 1994 to Ted Kennedy.

 

Romney will also be scrutinized but not nearly to the same level that Gingrich will have to endure. Rather, Romney’s main focus will be on making a strong impression with Iowans. He needs to stick out. So far he has debated strongly, avoided any major gaffes, overcome his flip flopping charges and his healthcare bill, so what’s his problem? Romney doesn’t make a strong impression. On paper he is perfect but because he has been playing it so safe this year, it’s hard for people to really feel like they know him or can connect with him. This debate is his chance to really show why he has been at the top or near the top the whole primary. I believe Romney has the most to gain in this debate and Gingrich is set up to have the most to lose.

 

It is still anyone’s game heading into the last turn. We have our favorites but they aren’t in safe position. The entertainment of this reality TV series has been above anyone’s expectations and it all comes down to this thrilling finale. Tonight’s debate will mark the last time many Iowans will see these candidates before they line up to cast their votes. Stay tuned folks.

 

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