In the political world, earlier is often better. The Iowa caucuses continue to leave their mark, despite not actually mattering, simply because they're first. States will fight to the death to keep their early primary schedules, seemingly moving them up every year. In theory then, the Republican debate tomorrow in South Carolina should be a fairly big deal. In practice, well, it's May 2011 - so it likely won't be.
Of course something big could happen. I even have hopes as to what that would be: In my perfect world, this is the moment America really sees Herman Cain and realizes he'd be ideal to lead this country after the haphazard leadership of Barack Obama.
I have an admitted soft spot for Cain, having worked on his U.S. Senate race in Georgia in 2004. Back then, I'd tell anyone who would listen about Cain and how he was the most impressive candidate I'd ever seen. He lost that three-way primary race, his first and last, by a very slim margin besting a sitting Congressman and narrowly avoiding a runoff with the current U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson who went on to win the Republican nomination and the seat. I was heartbroken.
I've been on a lot of campaigns, before and since, and none compared to that one (though working on Bush 2004 in Colorado was similar in intensity). When Cain spoke it was magic. The staff was permanently entranced. The fact is that very often candidates are megalomaniacs and unbearable to be around. Cain was the exact opposite. He was humble and real, passionate and brilliant. Everywhere we went people would go nuts for Cain.
It's been really gratifying see Herman Cain rise to prominence on the national stage along with the Tea Party, and not just because in typical hip New Yorker fashion I love that I knew of him first. He deserves it, he's amazing.
Do I think he can win? The truth is that I don't. It's not because he's not incredible, he is, it's the simple fact that I don't think you go from businessman to president of the United States. Americans just don't think that way. I thought the same thing, that mayor to president wouldn't work, but with additional reasons, about Rudy Giuliani the last time around. And like the last time, I would so love to be wrong.
Most people will be watching this debate to see if Tim Pawlenty is the real deal. He's considered the only "top-tier" candidate participating and this debate might give him the chance to become the presumed front-runner.
Rick Santorum is at the absolute bottom of my list. It's partially because I hold a grudge against him for backing Arlen Specter instead of Pat Toomey in a U.S. Senate primary years ago (yes, yes, Bush did too and I hold a grudge against him for that among many other things) but I also just find the idea of his candidacy nonsensical. If you were an elected official and couldn't win re-election in your own state, how in the world do you then become president? You don't. Get off the stage.
Ron Paul will probably be in every debate, for both parties if he could get away with it, until he's well into his 90s. Unlike a lot of Republicans, I don't hate Ron Paul, don't find him to be a distraction. Sure, he lives in a lalaland where all the trappings of politics don't exist but so what? He's entertaining and forces the conversation toward smaller government every time.
I know next to nothing about former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and I imagine that's true for most Americans. He's fairly libertarian, from what I understand, so will probably seek to differentiate himself from Ron Paul.
It's anyone's game. This debate could end in a break-out star who takes the lead in the primary. Or, it could be widely ignored and dismissed. I'm betting on the latter.
Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.