Sure, some of them have faced off before—but tonight’s Politico/NBC News debate marks the first time new frontrunner Rick Perry will join the fray, making it what Politico calls the “first Fall Classic” for 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls. And it’s the start of a busy month as the race kicks into high gear: Two more debates are scheduled over the next three weeks, the AP notes. In light of the stagnant unemployment rate and President Obama’s jobs speech tomorrow, the economy will likely dominate the discussion. Beyond that, Politico has five things to watch:
- Rick Perry: The Texas guv hasn’t debated frequently, and isn’t known as a great debater. Plus, he could face heat on some of his more controversial statements on Ben Bernanke and Social Security. Will he soar or fall? (There’s also the possibility he won’t show at all, due to the Texas wildfires.)
- Mitt Romney: Until now, Romney has been happy to let the other candidates duke it out while he remains above the fray, but with Perry encroaching on his lead, Romney may be forced to get aggressive.
- Michele Bachmann: With her once-shining star quickly fading, this is Bachmann’s chance to break out once again and prove that the race hasn’t turned into a two-man contest between Perry and Romney.
Click for Politico’s full list
. (Read more Rick Perry 2012