Political Capital with John Harwood

2008 Presidential Contenders: The Summer Heat Is On

Republican Candidates

As candidates approach the fall stretch run of the 2008 presidential nomination races, candidate debates are increasingly important for the second-tier candidates struggling to stay alive.

Among Republicans, former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia has already dropped out. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Sen. Brownback of Kansas, and former Bush Cabinet Secretary Tommy Thompsonface increasing pressure to raise enough donations to keep their campaigns alive in competition with better known and better financed rivals. They have one opportunity for an election-style breakthrough at the Iowa Republican "straw poll" in early August. But other than that, televised debates remain their best chance to impress donors and party activists.

The struggling Democrats in the race don't have straw polls to shoot for, since the party has shunned such events as a waste of resources for years. So debates are the principal vehicles for the likes of Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd of Connecticut, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden of Delaware.

That's why I'll be going to Charleston, SC over the weekend for the upcoming Democratic debate next Monday night, July 23. I'll blog from there as well as report for CNBC. Barack Obama,Hillary Clintonand John Edwardsknow they'll have opportunities to compete at least through the early contests of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina next year. The other Democrats have more on the line.

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