For Rick Perry, Tonight Is Do or Die
What to watch for in tonight's GOP debate
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2011 7:20 AM CDT
Updated Oct 11, 2011 7:57 AM CDT
Republican presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington,DC on October 7, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The Republican presidential candidates head back to New Hampshire tonight for the Granite State's second debate of the year. What to watch for, courtesy of Politico, the Washington Post, and Reuters:

  • It's now or never for Rick Perry: Following a series of disappointing debate performances, time is running short for the Texas governor to prove himself to donors and voters. He's pumped up his practice routine and is getting more sleep, but some are still worried he's not doing enough to prepare.
  • Herman Cain steps into the spotlight: Now that he's second place in the polls, Cain finds himself on center stage—literally. He'll stand next to Mitt Romney, bumping Perry one space to the left, and he'll be expected to turn in a top-tier debate performance to match his standing. Expect to see more attacks from the others on stage, particularly Rick Santorum and possibly Perry.

  • The heat is on Mitt Romney: When Perry was the frontrunner, attacks focused on him. Now that Romney is in first place, he'll likely find himself in that position. Jon Huntsman, Perry, Santorum, and Cain will all likely take Romney on; his healthcare plan is a certain target. This may be the first debate from which he does not emerge unscathed.
  • What will Perry focus on? Some say he must address Texas' controversial bill giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition, but Perry's camp indicates they'd rather focus on jobs and the economy. Off-topic questions about his racist camp name and his backer's denunciation of Mormonism will surely come up as well.
  • Perhaps the most important question of all: Which candidate will inspire a Saturday Night Live skit?
The Washington Post/Bloomberg debate begins at 8pm EDT.