The Republican Presidential hopefuls will take two hours out of their Saturday in New Hampshire. Hands will go unshaken, babies will go unkissed, as they meet in the latest debate – this one coming just three days before the nation's first primary election.

Donald Trump will be back. Having skipped the Iowa debate in a row with the hosts, he'll be on the stage.

The number of attack ads on the TV and radio have gone up. The harsh words from his fellow candidates are harsher.

 

The claim of invincibility is a little tarnished, after his second place finish earlier this week but it's hard to believe we'll see a more modest, less combative candidate.

The billionaire businessman leads the polls in New Hampshire – but after how badly the analysts got it wrong just a few days ago, he's taking no chances.

For the first time in this cycle, there'll be no 'undercard' debate; the gathering of candidates struggling in the polls.

In the last few days we've seen three campaigns come to an end. Mike Huckabee went before all the votes were counted in Iowa. The former Arkansas Governor had pledged that if he finished outside the top three, he would go. And he did.

The big surprise was Rand Paul. It was thought he had enough goodwill from his father's Presidential run four years ago to stay in the race at least until some of the western caucuses.

Finally the man who won Iowa four years ago, former Senator Rick Santorum, realised there would be no repeat. Last time round he seriously challenged Mitt Romney.

This time he was the last of the candidates who spent any real time in Iowa. His dreams are gone – replaced by sleepless nights thinking of the mistakes that let his moment slip away.

He has given his endorsement to Marco Rubio, the man who will perhaps face the greatest examination on the stage in New Hampshire. His third place finish in Iowa has given him momentum. He's gone up in the polls but he will be criticised from all sides. That's already happening.

Widely disliked 

The number of attack ads on the TV and radio have gone up. The harsh words from his fellow candidates are harsher. Every position he's taken on anything will be raked over. He will face challenges on his immigration policy, his tax plan and his foreign policy experience.

The Florida senator has been polished and competent up till now, but this is going to be a different experience. He needs more than scripted answers. He just needs more.

And then there's Ted Cruz. His win in Iowa came on the back of good organisation. He's put in place similar operations in the southern states. New Hampshire is a challenge, and Donald Trump is going to go after him accusing him of stealing his win by lying.

It's alleged the Cruz campaign told caucus goers that neurosurgeon Ben Carson was dropping out of the race and urged his supporters not to waste their vote. That'll place a big question over the Texas senator's integrity.

It'll make him look, at best, a political opportunist who will do anything to win. And given his reputation as one of the most disliked men in Washington, many will be willing to believe the worst.

For John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, there has never been a more important debate. They have spent time and money in New Hampshire.

They've bet on a good performance here will push them further in the race. Only, they can't all succeed.

Each candidate has something to prove, something to win, something he needs to do to damage his rivals.

This is the eighth debate. For some – it'll be the last.

Source: Al Jazeera