4 p.m. ET on CNBC, the elephant in the room finally speaks up. Why they decided to hold an event as momentous as this in the middle of the day, I have no idea. It’ll re-air tonight at 9 on MSNBC but highlights will be all over the web by then, I’m sure. If you’re not in front of a TV but want to watch, the livestream is being carried at CNBC.com.
The question of the hour: Are expectations for Fred sky high or knee high? I figured he’d need a star turn to rehabilitate himself with disappointed Republicans but the CW I’m seeing today is that if he doesn’t bore the audience into a stupor it’ll be considered a moral victory. Which is another way of saying that an unusually strong performance could turn the race on its head and an unusually weak one could sink his candidacy, which is why he’ll probably proceed cautiously to protect his second-place position and go for broke at a later debate if he has to.
While we wait, here’s Howard Kurtz theorizing that Rudy’s rudeness (i.e. pugnaciousness) is a major draw for Republicans, which is silly given that he’s gone out of his way not to show that side of himself during the campaign thus far. If he’s nominated and faces Hillary, you’ll see it in spades. Although I’m not sure it’ll matter — check out the trend in this Angus Reid poll. What was it Bill Kristol was saying yesterday about electability?
He’s still got a fairly healthy lead over Fred, though, whose own trends aren’t encouraging. We’ll see how that looks tomorrow. At least one important number is about to change dramatically — or is it? Mitt’s been in every debate thus far but judging from those figures the public must think he’s part of the set.
As always, sound off below if you’re watching and e-mail us if you see something that deserves to be clipped. An unlikely but possible subplot to watch out for: the candidates smacking Chris Matthews for his comments about Republican “criminals” last week and Matthews, eager to prove his alleged independence, smacking back. Even money says that if anyone does it, it’s Huckabee.
Update: The Rudy/Mitt feud bubbles up over the line-item veto, culminating in a clever applause line for Giuliani. I think he’s right about the LIV.