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Republicans Expect Bloodbath In Manchester

Everybody is out for blood, mostly Mitt’s.

The six remaining Republican presidential candidates will face off in New Hampshire in two debates this weekend — a whirlwind tour before the cameras before Granite State voters cast their ballots on Tuesday.

First is the ABC/Yahoo News debate tonight and 9 p.m., then 12 hours later the candidates face off in the NBC Meet the Press/Facebook debate tomorrow at 9 a.m..

It’s a political junkie’s dream, and it’s also a do-or-die moment for many of the Republican candidates.

Here’s what to expect:

Mitt Romney

Charles Dharapak / AP

Fresh off a narrow victory in the Iowa Caucuses and a strong showing in a new South Carolina poll, the nomination is within reach for Romney, but he’ll first have to weather a brutal onslaught from his opponents.

He’s going to try to stay above the fray with attacks directed at President Barack Obama, but he may be drawn into the mix — and that has had disastrous results before ($10,000 bet, anyone?) If he can hold his own over the next two days then he’ll be on his way to Tampa in no time.

Rick Santorum

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The Iowa runner-up is surging in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and appears to be uniting social conservatives around his campaign. But like Romney, he has a target on his back — with Ron Paul aggressively looking to take him down.

A new Paul ad in South Carolina is reminiscent of the ones used to knock Newt Gingrich out of the top tier, and Mitt Romney has enlisted Sen. John McCain to brand him as a pork-barrel spender.

Santorum hasn’t faced this much heat since his 2006 Senate race — and that didn’t work out so well for him.

Ron Paul

DON EMMERT / Getty Images

The libertarian icon hasn’t had an easy time in debates, drawing fire from the other candidates for his views on foreign policy and social issues. This weekend he’s fighting a race for second place in New Hampshire — and he’s going to fight to keep Santorum down.

The flare-ups between the two ideologically sure men are likely to be the most exciting.

Newt Gingrich

ERIC THAYER / Reuters

Down in the polls, he’s in this for blood — Mitt Romney’s to be specific. He could barely contain himself in his concession speech on Tuesday night, attacking those behind a barrage of negative advertisements (Romney’s Super PAC).

Who knows what he’ll do when face to face with the man on stage.

Stephan Savoia / AP

Mostly out of the headlines while his rivals contested Iowa, he needs to remind people why he’s still in the race — and fast. Even if he does shine this weekend, it may just be too late for the surprise Granite State surge he’s betting everything on.

Jonathan Gibby / Getty Images

After a disappointing finish in Iowa, he nearly dropped out of the race, announcing he was returning to Texas to mull it over. On Wednesday he decided to stay in, but he’s focusing his efforts on South Carolina. He’ll be on stage tonight, and he’ll try to prove himself, but he’s not going to be someone any of the candidates really have to worry about.

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