Tonight’s CNN debate, the last until August 5, will give the candidates their last opportunity to make a good impression for a long time. This race could also help decide weather McCain or Romney will round out the top three – the winner becoming the one to face Fred Thompson for the title of “Conservative front-runner.” Whoever holds that title come next January will be the biggest opponent of Rudy Giuliani for the GOP nomination.
By the time of the next debate in August, there is the potential that the race will look extremely different. By then, Fred Thompson should be in the race (or officially out of it), and several lesser candidates may run out of steam and drop out. Similarly, the rankings of the top tier candidates may change, possibly more than once. The summer is going to play an important role in the primaries, and this debate is the candidates’ last chance to compare themselves side-by-side.