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The first event of the 2012 debate season kicks off tonight from South Carolina. Five potential Republican candidates for President will square off on the issues with the intention of breaking out of the pack and capturing some sort of front runner status.

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As confirmed yesterday, the 5 Republicans participating in the event include:

Herman Cain – Successful businessman, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza
Gary Johnson – Former New Mexico Governor
Ron Paul – US Representative from Texas’ 14th District
Tim Pawlenty – Former Minnesota Governor
Rick Santorum – Former Pennsylvania Senator

Report from Fox News:

Republicans jockeying for position to challenge President Obama next year will have their first showdown Thursday night in South Carolina, a state that has held the first presidential primary in the South since 1980 and has been a crucial steppingstone for GOP candidates.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, businessman Herman Cain and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson will face off in Greenville, S.C., in the Fox News-sponsored debate that begins at 9 p.m.

“Whoever has won the Republican primary in South Carolina has gone on to get the nomination,” said Scot Huffmon, a political science professor at Winthrop University.

The air time is 9 PM Eastern time tonight (Thursday, May 5th, 2011). We’ll have complete reaction and analysis following the debate along with the full video once it airs in case you miss it.

Grab the popcorn and let the sparks fly.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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