At the start of each debate, the candidates usually jot down a few notes as soon as they step to the podium.
What does Newt Gingrich write?
At the start of each debate so far, he has jotted down two names: Maggie and Robert. Next to Maggie he draws a smiley face. Next to Robert he writes the words “be short.”
Maggie is Gingrich’s 12-year-old granddaughter. She tells Grandpa Newt that he does not smile enough and at each debate she keeps a count of how many times he smiles.
Robert, his 10-year-old grandson, complains when Gingrich’s answers are too long.
He sees both pieces of advice especially important tonight — he’s got to be positive and focussed on what he sees as the big issues.
He does not want be goaded into tit-for-tat attacks with his opponents or into long, drawn-out responses to the specific attacks against him.
As Newt Gingrich sees it, tonight’s debate is entirely different from the debates that preceded it.
“We’ve entered a new phase,” says one Gingrich confidant. “This begins a new series of debates for him.”
Gingrich expects that in this debate and the ones to follow he will, for the first time, be the piñata, bearing the brunt of the attacks from the other candidates.
How will he respond?
Gingrich has told his aides he will resist the temptation to counter-attack.
“He is going to go up there and act like a president, not a politician,” says Gingrich spokesman RC Hammond.