The former House speaker needs to reclaim his status as a legitimate 2012 presidential candidate.

The big problems for Newt Gingrich right now are in the fundraising and staffing aspects of his campaign, and that’s not easy to remedy at a debate. Barring an outpouring of donations to the campaign after a stellar debate performance, his campaign is still on life support.

We already know that Gingrich is a top policy mind in the GOP, and he will probably reinforce that tonight.

The question now is whether Gingrich, who has lost many of his top staffers, has the discipline to provide a focused debate performance – devoid of insider-y analyses of the arcane policy minutiae. Usually content to let his own words stand for themselves, Gingrich also may need to mix it up with the other candidates in hopes of making himself relevant.

In short, a lot is at stake in tonight’s debate for Gingrich.