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BLITZER’S BLOG: What to watch for in tonight’s debate
February 22nd, 2012
03:38 PM ET

BLITZER’S BLOG: What to watch for in tonight’s debate

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.

I know he would much rather be talking about the economy, taxes and national security. I also know he would love to be able to focus his attention on President Barack Obama rather than having to defend himself.

The pro-Mitt Romney, pro-Newt Gingrich and pro-Ron Paul camps are out there right now in full force going after Santorum. He has had an impressive run and now, arguably, he’s the front-runner. He leads in several national polls among registered Republicans. He’s doing remarkably well in Arizona and Michigan, which have contests next Tuesday.

He’s done all this with a much smaller staff than Romney and a whole lot less money. Money, of course, talks when it comes to politics, but it’s not always decisive. Santorum has proven that.

I will be carefully watching tonight how he handles his new front-runner status. Will he let the other candidates get under his skin? When he’s attacked - and he will be attacked - will he respond in a cool, calm manner or will he lose it?

The four candidates tonight and CNN moderator John King will all be seated. That will give the debate a bit of a different look and maybe even feel.

I know some people have joked that there have been too many Republican debates, but this political news junkie loves them, and they’ve made a huge difference in the primaries and caucuses.

CNN LIVE: Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for the last presidential debate before Super Tuesday, the CNN/Arizona Republican Party Debate hosted by John King. Follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate and on Facebook at CNN Politics. For real-time coverage of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, go to or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.

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Filed under: 2012 election • Arizona • Debates • Republicans • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Ashley

    What's a real man? Have you ever been in a fight?To me a fight is never about manlyness'. It's luualsy about some degree of both people not estimating how effective the other person is in a fight. Anybody will to some degree resort to physical violence if the scenario is right for them. That's male or female, gay or straight. Jean Genet was a murderer in prison. I've seen a lot of fights in my time. I've never had any question come up about manlyness. What I've seen of course is people saying a lot to distract the other into inaction. That luualsy is not realistic talk, just fantasy land.Doyle

    March 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  2. rtompkins

    After watching last nights debacle I am starting to think that the US is headed back to the dark ages. All of the crap about religion and bowing down to anyone that could get you a vote is sickening. The idea of the churches medical plans covering contraceptive items is realistic after all do only catholics work for the church? I doubt that is the case so what happens to freedom of religion when certain people are denied access to benefits because their employer doesn't believe in them? One needs to keep in mind that the catholics stand on contraception is from the dark ages when they were trying to become the only faith on earth. And Ricks argument about teaching abstinence rather than providing protection is so out of touch that it is unreal. After all wasn't it only 4 years ago that you had a candidate that believed that, as her children were having children out of wedlock? As a country it is time to seperate church and state and keep them seperated.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  3. Griff

    "Even CNN in the last few minutes are making excuses for Obama??"

    February 23, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  4. C Oliver

    I can not believe they talk of George Bush policy's, Obama must be very delighted, this clowns are the best GOP can offer!

    February 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  5. Katty

    Sure wish you had been the moderator. You have class, even though you may harbor convictions others may disagree with you never show it.
    John King, the guy from CBS, ABC are so obviously biased I have to turn the dial...I find them disgusting.
    BESIDES, there's been enough debates. I do believe the Republicans have made up their minds who they support – even if they say they haven't.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  6. EJ

    LoL, I'm waiting to see what the GOP candidate will run on in the general election. All of that silly talk will be on full display to the nation.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  7. tootleone

    "Today Christians ... stand at the head of [this country]... I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity. .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit ... We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past ... (few) years."
    [The Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1 (London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pg. 871-872]

    February 22, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • rtompkins

      That is a perfect statement on the ongoing events in the GOP, when you can't explain your short comings, resort to bare faced lies about the current president and are very short on ethics, try to appeal to the fanatics! No wonder the GOP wants to get rid of the federal dept of education, if the population is uneducated, they might actually appear smart

      February 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Kathleen

    I exclusively watch FoxNews; however, I must give credit where credit is due. I think John King was an outstanding moderator and this was one of the best debates so far. Now, if they would get rid of Gloria Borger I just may be tempted to tune in more often.

    February 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  9. Bob

    Romney was the ONLY candidate to advocate E-Verify to stop illegal aliens from taking our jobs. THIS ALONE would create millions upon millions of jobs instantly and solve our biggest economic problem.

    February 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  10. nothing new here

    If Santorum is having a "difficult few days", then he has reaped what he has sown.
    This man should know that he is a public figure, and that his words are being recorded for all to hear and read. But it sounds more and more to me like "backpeddling" at best.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  11. Med Student

    Santorum – is against all forms of birth control

    Ron Paul – thinks the government should not be allowed to stop organized school prayer in public schools

    Romney etc etc etc

    The entire selection of GOP front runners all have political policies intertwined deeply with religion. Scary.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Aqub

      Ravi,The quotes would have got me to unnerstadd.I think your point about if one goes looking for it in the real world they\'ll not find it so romantic\' is probably true. I\'ve been on the streets at night when something goes down, it lacks the framing that organized sort of basement sports events provide. Secondly, a gun trumps fists and feet, so there is always a question if someone has one sort of advantage.Or political demos with the cops all around ready for a little sport. Takes the idea of duking it out into another place. That place is where you lose go to jail and deal with jail life. All of which seems to me gives the fantasy of basement fighting a bit of delusionary aspect.To speak to being in fight, I\'ve been but there is always a question in my mind what will I do. I\'ve mostly lost the fear of losing. I\'ll walk into a bunch of teenagers who are being provocative to give them a little frisson of threat. Or if a guy is beating a woman or trying to really intimidate a women or children then I\'ll intervene, step between them. I never know when I do it if I can stay there or not. But it never feels like I\'m macho. It feels if I can use the moral framing thingy, the right thing to do at the time\' sort of thing. But scares the bejabbers out of someone with me.Doyle

      March 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  12. bill

    Santorum has no choice but appeal to religious and right wing branch of the party, moderate republican are on Romney's side.. Santorum's only hope is Jesus coming down and says to all, elect my boy.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  13. Arash

    All the four GOP candidates endorse strong belief in moral and religious values and have made strong opinions about matters that oppose those values. What would be their rationale for not fighting the pornography industry which is freely run in the United States? Why would not they ban it?

    February 22, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Scum1981

      These guys are all hypocrites, with the exception of Ron Paul. And I'm not voting for him either.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
      • Veni

        It doesn't bother me that Dems got to ask oinstuqes. This is a Presidential election and the candidates should be able to address all issues not just those that give them the best soundbites. Where CNN crossed the line was allowing the Clinton plant to grab a mic and start ANSWERING his own question. Asking oinstuqes is one thing... going on an extended rant is another.

        March 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • me

      The problem here is what is pornography for man on dog santorum?
      From the speech of Santorum it looks a lot like the views of Gilberte Côté Mercier (white berets)
      as well as those of Al Qaeda and Jerry Falwell.

      This is scary, we do not need some theocratic rules in our government.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  14. NoKidding

    I am shocked that people like Santorum even exists in these days and age. Hopefully this is just a nightmare and America will wake up to find out he doesn't exist.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  15. Doug Ericson

    I saw Romney on CNN earlier today touting lower taxes, but included in his new plan is dropping the mortgage Interest Deduction. If I heard that right, Romney is indeed in danger of handing the nomination over to Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorem. The mortgage interest deuction is the last thing the Middle Class can afford to lose. If Romney mentions dropping the Mortgage Interest Deduction in tonights debate, look for Newt to get back in the picture big time. I imagine Newt will pick Mitt apart on that issue.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  16. Hieronymus Pratt

    Religion with Politics are not acceptable

    February 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  17. ron

    Romney was ahead in Michigan, then Santorum went 10 points ahead. After Romney's millions for negative ads, the race has tightened. Guess we are going to find out if money and negative ads are what works.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  18. Will Colvin

    Wolf, the pronunciation of Marie Colvin's name that you are reporting is wrong. It is pronounced like Callvin. (Call Vin) I love your broadcast and watch it everyday and wanted to point this out. Thanks

    February 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Beyza

      So if Democrats won't debate at GOP News, they're airfad, but if Republicans won't debate at CNN, they're proving a point?Hey Jacob, RTFA. The Republicans did debate on CNN. Rush predicted the slimy attack job by CNN and said: I never said the Republicans shouldn't do it because of bias. We all know there's bias in the Drive-By Media. We all know that CNN's going to choose questions based on their agenda, based on what they get submitted to them. We know there's going to be bias.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  19. Perk

    The Congregation will now sing Etta James ,"I'll Fly Away." Diversity makes the world go round and leave the political spin off Obama's religion under attack.The devil is not attacking the USA either Santorium and he can't catch the good in the USA that will win every time in the end over evil.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  20. Paul Castagnini

    Mr. Romney: Former head of CIA'S Bin Laden Unit, Michael Scheuer made an recent appearance on Freedom Watch. In this interview he stated that 911 may have actually been a carefully orchestrated Mossad operation in order to gain military assistance from America. Hypothetically speaking, if intelligence proved this to be true... Would you defer your military efforts from Iran to Israel or would you adapt to a more non-interventional policy like Dr. Paul?

    February 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  21. Aida

    I'm Catholic, have always been against abortions. Young women of all ages are going to have sex no matter, and I believe that it is much better to prevent a pregnancy rather than abort one.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Jim in San Mateo

      The number of abortions would go down considerably if women had access to contraception, but we can't have that because they have to be Catholic and pregnant.

      February 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  22. Aida

    All this nonsense about the President's Religion. Is he not protected under the Constitution to practice whatever religion he chooses.
    I find it appalling also!!!

    February 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Nancy Kamm

      I find it appalling that Rick Santorum would question the President's faith. I've always considered that a private matter; but as long as Santorum brought it up then I'd like to know more about his association with the Opus Dei group of the Catholic church and does he wear a cilice like the more conservative of the group do? His virtue and beliefs are fair game, too.

      February 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
      • Sinai

        My question is if gay coelpus are not allowed the same benefits or rights as their heterosexual counterparts, then why should they be required to pay the same taxes or more taxes in many instances. To make an example. For single or gay people who don't have children, they shouldn't be required to pay a tax that benefits public schools, by the same token, in America where we are told to believe that all of its citizens deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but somehow we missed the part about only if you are heterosexual. Not asking for special rights, just equal rights; not asking for gay marriage, just marriage.

        October 10, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  23. cisco4

    Smaller government is their answer.. and smaller income for you is what they like.. They like big Business to rip you all off..Say the Republicans..

    February 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  24. Jim Thomas

    Do any of these politicans really care about the USA and it's people or just themselves?Convince us politicans.Jim Thomas Phx Az.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm |

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