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By Wolf Blitzer, CNN
Mesa, Arizona (CNN) – It’s been a difficult few days for Rick Santorum. Fairly or unfairly, you always know you have a campaign problem when media outlets are asking you about statements you’ve made about Satan and Hitler.
To his credit, he’s not ducking and weaving. He’s not shying away from answering these questions and others involving his stance on the most sensitive social issues out there, including gay rights, abortion, contraception, religion and a woman’s role in the military.
(CNN) – Because I’ve now moderated three of them, I know it will sound self-serving when I say I’ve really enjoyed watching all the Republican presidential debates. There have been about 20 so far, and they have been informative. Like the millions of Americans who’ve watched them on television, I’ve learned a great deal about the candidates. They’ve been really instrumental in shaping public attitudes.
Millions and millions of Americans who’ve watched the debates are now better-informed voters.
Ron Paul broke debate tension with amusing one-liners. CNN contributors James Carville & Alex Castellanos discuss.
RELATED STORY: Florida debate's most buzz-worthy moments
Wolf Blitzer talks with Anderson Cooper about his interaction with Newt Gingrich during the CNN Debate.
Jacksonville, Florida (CNN) – I am blessed with a great team of producers and researchers who have helped me craft a lot of strong questions for tonight’s Republican presidential debate here on the campus of the University of North Florida. First of all, let me thank them. Hopefully, I won’t disappoint our viewers tonight.
This will be my third Republican debate in this presidential cycle. The ones I moderated at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa and at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., I thought, were solid and informative. We focused on some of the most important issues impacting Americans. I will try to do that once again tonight.
The earlier debates had eight candidates on the stage. Four finalists remain tonight. That means each candidate will get some more time. And that is good.
My goal is that the voters in Florida and across the country will have a better appreciation of these candidates following the debate. I want the voters to know where the candidates agree and where they disagree. Undecided Republicans certainly need to know how each candidate would operate as president.
Four years ago, I moderated five presidential debates. Each was important, especially that final debate I moderated at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. At that time, only Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were left on the stage. The debate was substantive and important and no doubt shaped Democratic voters.
Having said that, I believe all these Republican debates in this current election cycle may in fact be even more important. Tonight’s debate will be the 19th. Millions of people are watching and learning and making final voting decisions. And that’s the way it should be.
One final personal note: I feel honored that I have this opportunity to moderate the debate. No matter how many times I do it, I feel blessed.
CNN LIVE: Tune in Thursday at 8 p.m. ET for the CNN/Republican Party of Florida Debate hosted by Wolf Blitzer and follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate. For real-time coverage of the Florida primary, go to CNNPolitics.com or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.
(CNN) - A week ago, the Gallup daily tracking poll of registered Republicans around the country had Mitt Romney at 37% with Newt Gingrich at only 14%. Guess what? That 23-point spread has now disappeared. The new nationwide Gallup numbers: Romney 29% to Gingrich’s 28%. That’s a statistical tie well within the 3-point sampling error.
It only goes to show you how quickly political fortunes can change. Fresh from his double-digit victory over Romney in South Carolina, Gingrich now certainly has the political momentum going with him into Florida’s January 31 primary. He seems to be on a roll.
(CNN) - And now there are four Republican presidential candidates left in the contest.
They were all on the stage Thursday night at the tough CNN debate in South Carolina.
One of them will almost certainly face President Barack Obama in November. There is still a tiny chance no one will emerge with enough delegates to wrap things up. I suppose, at least theoretically, there could be a brokered convention in Tampa, Florida, at the end of August.
The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer is the command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. Tune in weeknights from 5-7pm ET on CNN.
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