At least seven GOP candidates will take the stage tonight at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, for a debate sponsored by NBC News, Politico and the Reagan Library Foundation. Originally billed as Rick Perry's debate debut, his attendance is now in question due to the expanding wildfire disaster in Texas. However, a spokesman for the Governor has indicated recently that he does plan to attend the debate.
Entire Video: Full Reagan Library GOP Debate Video
Original Air Time: Wednesday, September 7th at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT on MSNBC
Participants: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum
Report from the Washington Post:
New polling out today supports this reading of the contest. And the truth is that the other candidates — the fringe candidates — are rapidly running out of time to change this.
If any of these remaining candidates is serious about trying to change it, we should know tomorrow night at the debate at the Reagan Library. If we see real fireworks, it will suggest that the fringe candidates are still serious about trying to win. But if we don’t see serious attacks, it will be good evidence that the fringe candidates aren’t really seeking the nomination, and that the shape of the contest has now more or less been determined.
Not all debates are equal. This one looms large for several reasons. The Reagan Library debate has become a bit of a tradition, and that, plus the ever-magic Reagan name, makes this one stand out from others in the endless series of Republican clashes. This debate is also notable because it will be new frontrunner Perry’s first time on the stage. On top of that, Barack Obama’s job speech and scheduling flap wound up pushing a bit more publicity onto the event. Put it all together, and this will probably wind up the most-hyped, and therefore most-noticed, debate up until the primaries actually start.
For the two frontrunners, Romney and Perry, the obvious debate strategy is to survive without any damage. You probably won’t see them attack each other. Indeed, Romney’s job plan is basically the kind of stuff you expect from a leading candidate: nothing too startling.
For the others, this debate is a good chance to get noticed. And the best way to get noticed is to attack. But who to attack?
Clearly the story line to watch will be the Perry/Bachmann/Romney trifecta. These three will be looking to make headlines and stand out from the pack. For Bachmann, the coming months will be crucial given her recent drop in poll numbers since Perry's entrance. For Romney, his goal will be to hit back at some of Perry's criticisms and present himself as the electable of the group who can appeal to conservative and moderate Republicans. Perry simply has to come in and either strengthen his position or at least escape unscathed to continue his lead in most GOP primary polls.
The other candidates, of course, will be looking for their breakout moments as well, however, if past debates are any indicator, don't look for Santorum, Huntsman, or Cain to take too much question time.