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Las Vegas GOP Presidential Debate -- Romney Will Stay Content Free

Tonight’s CNN Republican presidential debate, moderated by liberal CNN host Anderson Cooper, will be coming live from the Venetian in Las Vegas.  If this location doesn’t remind viewers that these debates are about creating theater and ratings for the networks (and not for actually airing the issues GOP primary election voters care about), nothing will.

But then again, the location and liberal host may play strongly to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s desire to run a typical establishment Republican content-free campaign.

For going on five years now, Romney has been steady at his plus or minus 25% in the polls -- about the same number of Republicans who do not self-identify as conservatives – so Romney doesn’t really want a discussion of the issues that raise conservative passions and discomfit the establishment-types who are his core supporters.

Romney’s position as the favored candidate of the ruling class has created an interesting dynamic: no matter what happens with the other candidates, he keeps his core support -- so the other candidates go up or down based on being the not-Romney front-runner. 

Perhaps the most interesting pre-game speculation centers on whether former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will use tonight’s debate to go after Texas Governor Rick Perry and try to put Perry away once and for all.

Perry’s fundraising prowess and proven political team are more formidable than his debate performances might lead one to believe, and he remains the strongest “not-Romney candidate.” As a result, Romney may not want to give Perry the opportunity to reintroduce himself to the voters.

Romney is unlikely to convert many skeptics in one more debate; his goal will be to remain presidential, avoid committing himself to anything and continue to out-smooth the other candidates on the assumption that his superior fundraising and organization will carry him through to victory in the early primaries and sew-up the nomination for himself without the support of skeptical conservatives.

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