It’s easy to forget that the 20 televised debates that have aired since May last year—with more on the way—have been anything more than a bad reality TV show. This weekend’s debates in Concord and Manchester, New Hampshire saw Republican candidates trade insults worthy of sleep-deprived Big Brother contestants, as Newt Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of talking “pious baloney” while Ron Paul called the former Speaker, who did not serve in Vietnam, a “chicken hawk.”
Unapologetically entertaining though they may be, these debates precede the first truly significant event of the election season: the New Hampshire primary. Iowa’s caucuses last week were a form of pre-show, since while the results may have some influence down the line, the state is not obliged to nominate the winner at the party’s convention, where the Republican presidential candidate will eventually be decided. The New Hampshire results, on the other hand, are binding.