Seven Republican candidates will face off tonight in Iowa in a debate that will precede the Ames Iowa straw poll (if it produces some fireworks).
Arutz Sheva will post comments tomorrow.
However, the major media attention is centering around the candidate who is not there – Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Perry is expected to announce candidacy Saturday before a South Carolina audience of bloggers, with the South Carolina primary in mind. He will also be visiting New Hampshire and Iowa to complete the trio of states that vote early on in the primary process.
The expectation is that Perry, who combines social and fiscal conservatism together with a credible track record as the longest serving governor of Texas, will emerge as Mitt Romney's rival for the Republican nomination.
Perry provides the biography that is helpful to a candidate. He was a high school quarterback, Air Force pilot, flew and repaired civilian aircraft and followed it up with a political career. His home town of Paint Creek, Texas is going to get a great deal of scrutiny now.
It could end up an election pitting Obama's Chicago versus Paint Creek --a classic showdown between urban and rural America.
In anticipation of Perry's announcement, the pollsters have sprung into action to test his current appeal. On the positive side for Perry, the Gallup poll gives him the laurels on the intensity factor. This is the remainder when one subtracts intense dislike from intense enthusiasm.
As Barack Obama demonstrated, the enthusiasm factor is an important asset in a race. In 2008 Hillary Clinton was arguably better placed to capture the political center, but she was bowled over by the intensity factor that worked to Obama's advantage.
The flipside is a Marist poll that shows Perry currently faring badly in a head-to-head competition with Barack Obama. Perry does poorly among independents who voted for the Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections and then turned around and supported the Republicans in 2010.
It is worth recalling, however, that while the term independent conjures up the image of an extremely sophisticated voter who carefully weighs the issue and candidates till he makes his decision, that image is misleading. Studies have shown that independents are frequently voters who do not follow politics as closely as the partisans.Perry, who does worse against Obama than Romney in the polls among independents, may be suffering from a name recognition factor.
On the issue of Israel, Perry is on record proclaiming his support for Israel and like many of his fellow Republican candidates (Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul are the exceptions) he has criticized Obama's treatment of Israel.
More importantly, he has been consulting with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the former Deputy Secretary of Defense Doug Feith among others on security issues. The two are also good friends of Israel.
The most encouraging indicator on this issue is provided by Perry's close association with Rudy Giuliani. In the 2008 primaries Perry headed Giuliani's efforts in Texas, although by the time the primaries rolled around to Texas, Giuliani was finished. Giuliani has reciprocated by endorsing Perry in the Texas statewide elections. Giuliani ranks at the top in terms of being favorably disposed towards to Israel.