Debate Weekend: The Nasty Newt Show

The Republican presidential candidates will have back-to-back debates this weekend on Saturday at 9 PM and Sunday at 9 AM, amounting to what Politico is calling "Mitt Romney's weekend from hell." Santorum will have the spotlight as he never has before, but expect Newt Gingrich to steal the show by doing everything he can to take Mitt Romney apart.

The big moment everyone is waiting for is when a moderator asks about how Gingrich flatly called Romney a “liar” over the anti-Gingrich ad campaign in Iowa by a pro-Romney Super PAC. Gingrich followed that with: “Somebody who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president.” He’s repeatedly called him “timid” and a “Massachusetts moderate” that Obama will "laugh at" in a general election.

“Obama’s going to say, ‘I developed Obamacare based on Romneycare. I even brought your staff into the White House in order to develop it,’” Gingrich said in making the case against Romney’s electability. He accuses him of raising taxes on the blind, funding abortions, and allowing gay marriages. Gingrich mocks him for only getting 25% of the vote in Iowa and says Romney is "out of the mainstream of the Republican Party." If you doubt that Gingrich will get this personal on stage, consider the fact that he refuses to congratulate Romney on his victory in Iowa.

Gingrich’s camp discussed forming an alliance with Santorum to double-team Romney in the debates. This did not materialize and Gingrich is softly going after Santorum. He questions his ability to oversee a national campaign and referred to him as a “junior partner.” Gingrich’s overall message is that he’s the man that can bring change to the government, doubling-down on the theme of Obama’s 2008 campaign.  Gingrich is focusing on Romney and apparently hoping that Santorum won’t survive the scrutiny he gets as the new member of the top tier.

Mitt Romney generally coasted through the earlier debates as his rivals battled to claim the right-of-Romney vote. This won’t be the case this weekend, as every single candidate will be gunning for him. His theme will be tailored for a general election and he will accuse Gingrich of doing President Obama’s work for him. His main goal will be to appear presidential by not getting flustered as he has in past debates and interviews.