Does the First GOP Presidential Debate Really Matter?
Not every political expert thinks making into Thursday night's prime time debate of Republican presidential candidates is crucial and at least one wasn't sure the debate itself matters.
Only the top 10 GOP hopefuls in national polls make the cut to participate in the main debate. The others will debate earlier that same day.
The "Real Clear Politics" average of national polls placed Christie in 10th place at 3.2 percent support. That was one-half of a percentage point ahead of John Kasich. It seemed likely Christie would make the cut, but he has to prepare for the possibility that he won't, said Fairleigh Dickinson University Political Science Professor Peter Woolley.
"If he's in the main debate, his press release says he never had any doubt, that he's a national figure, that he intends to win the whole shooting match," Woolley predicted.
The governor will likely try to position himself as one of the top five, not the 10th place guy who squeaked in, Woolley said. What would be the spin if Christie does not make it onto the main stage?
"The key thing is to pretend that it's not humiliating," Woolley said.
Political spin doctoring might not even be necessary according to Ben Dworkin, a professor of political science at Rider University.
"In the grand scheme of things this debate means very little unless somebody makes a huge mistake," Dworkin. "You're talking about a 90-minute debate with 10 people in it. Each candidate is going to get about five minutes so this is really an exercise in irrelevant democracy."
The fact that the Iowa caucus is still seven months away -- it takes place Feb. 1, 2016 -- is another reason the debate might not be a make or break event for any of the candidates.
"It's unclear as to whether this particular debate is going to make much of a difference in anyone's opinion," Dworkin said.