5 Things to Watch For in Tonight's Debate
Social security and Tea Party topics likely to be big issues
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2011 7:57 AM CDT
Mitt Romney and Rick Perry shake hands at the finish of a Republican presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Simi Valley, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(Newser) – Yes, it’s debate time again. Here’s what to watch for when the 2012 GOP presidential candidates face off tonight in Florida, at an event sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express:

  • Social Security will likely continue to be a flash point. At the last debate, Rick Perry attacked Mitt Romney’s record on jobs; this time around, he could take a swipe at his inconsistent social issues record, Politico notes. All of the candidates will be walking a “fine line” when it comes to Social Security, one strategist predicts.
  • Rick Perry “did OK” at the last debate, one insider tells the Texas Tribune. “Not good, not poor.” The paper took a survey of insiders and found that 65% felt the governor’s performance was “good,” while 15% called it “great” and 8% said it was “poor.” But some note that he started out strong then began to fade—at this debate, he’ll have to prove he has stamina.

  • Michele Bachmann faded to an afterthought after the last debate—so she really needs a breakout moment this time around. That moment could come in the form of attacking Perry over, yes, Social Security. (Bachmann believes it’s “an important safety net,” her spokesperson says.)
  • This debate will be a particularly important moment for Bachmann since she will be, as the New York Times calls it, “among her people”—meaning the Tea Party. Because of its Tea Party flavor, the Miami Herald notes that there will likely be questions about some of that group’s favorite topics, including the Constitution and the Federal Reserve.
  • Perry’s apparent confrontation with Ron Paul at the last debate fueled quite a few headlines—and it remains to be seen whether either of them will play off that and continue to spar.