What to watch for in NH Republican debate 

Seven Republican contenders for the White House will take to the debate stage Monday night in New Hampshire, offering voters a first glimpse at virtually the entirety of the Republican field. The GOP forum will broadcast live on CNN from 8p.m. to 10 p.m.

Here is what viewers should be watching for:

Mitt Romney: As the frontrunner in the race, the former Massachusetts governor will easily have the biggest target on his back. Expect Romney's Republican brethren to bring up his controversial Bay State health care mandate early and often. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty coined the term "Obamneycare" on the eve of the debate in a precursor of attacks to come at St. Anselm College in Manchester. Thus far, Romney's camp has sought to keep the focus on President Obama's impact on the economy, but that strategy might crumble if Romney faces a barrage of criticism over health care.

Newt Gingrich: Who would have thought a debate could be so crucial for a candidate nearly a year and a half away from an election? But for the former House Speaker, who watched his senior campaign aides walk away en masse last week, a strong showing is necessary to revive a floundering presidential bid. Known as an idea man, this could be a way for Gingrich to hit the reset button and earn some much-needed positive buzz.

Michele Bachmann: The lightning rod of the GOP certainly has no problem generating excitement in a field that some complain lacks star power. Though she is revered by the far right, the Minnesota congresswoman will be forced to prove her policy chops in the build up to officially announcing her White House aspirations. A strong performance could go a long way in winning over skeptics who dismiss her as nothing more than a Tea Party novelty.

Herman Cain: The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza is polling in the high single digits — which is far better than some of his debate competitors — bolstered in part by his outsider status as a nonpolitician. However, he has offered more in the way of sound-bites than detailed positions, which has raised questioned about his foreign policy credentials and seriousness of his bid.

Tim Pawlenty: It didn't take long for the former Minnesota governor to pounce on Romney, another centrist executive from a progressive state. Pawlenty will attempt to distinguish himself from Romney, who is aided by wider name recognition and fundraising capacity. He could get quite aggressive with Romney in attempt to shake the label that he is "too vanilla" to challenge the frontrunner. Who will grab the label as the anti-Mitt candidate?

Ron Paul: The Texas representative says this presidential campaign is different, proclaiming that his fiscal message aligns with the times and that he is no longer a fringe candidate. So far, the public has not come around. In previous debates, he has articulated positions that put him at odds with others in the Republican party. He has much work left to convince voters he is not a sideshow.

Rick Santorum: Known primarily as a social conservative, the former Pennsylvania senator will need to take advantage of his time in the limelight and win over viewers unfamiliar with his message. Look for Santorum to lead the attacks against the so-called frontrunners. How does he adapt his message to the economic concerns of most voters?

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Brian Hughes

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