Cain and Romney at last week's debate (AP)
The Republican presidential candidates face off for another debate round Tuesday night, this time in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As the current front-runner, businessman Herman Cain could have the most to lose, as tonight's performance will provide a glimpse into whether he can sustain his new prominence--or whether, in his own words, he'll become the latest "flavor of the week." Support for Cain has risen steadily since the debate in Orlando, Fla., a month ago, which led to his victory at the state's Republican straw poll. Cain spent the past several weeks in the spotlight--not always a pleasant experience when you're running for president--and will head into the debate with strong poll numbers behind him.
At last week's debate in New Hampshire, the moderators and candidates grilled Cain on his economic plan, but that just seemed to elevate him even more. In recent days, several prominent conservatives, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform have voiced opposition to Cain's plan, which would replace the current tax code with three 9 percent federal taxes on income, business and consumption. After last week's debate, when the candidates and moderators gave Cain's "9-9-9 Plan" free advertising by saying the word "nine" 85 times over the course of the debate, don't be surprised if tonight's contenders shift their attention back to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Despite the short-term spikes in support for other candidates-- Texas Gov. Perry went from leading Florida this summer to polling at just 3 percent in the state this week--Romney has remained steadily in the top tier since he announced his candidacy several months ago.
Although Cain has replaced Perry in the polls, Romney's campaign has remained focused on Perry, a sign that Romney still considers the Texas governor the biggest threat. The day of the debate, Romney's campaign unveiled an anti-Perry website called CareerPolitician.com and released a web video that slams Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his decades in the public sector and for the increase of job growth among illegal immigrants. Perry will likely be taken to task for the claims made in the video at the debate--attention that he can possibly use to reinsert himself back into the game.
The location of the debate, however, has caused some controversy among Republicans, thanks to recent shifts in the GOP primary schedule. The Nevada Republican party recently announced it would bump up the date of its caucuses, a decision that incensed party members in New Hampshire and Iowa who traditionally schedule their primary contests to be first in the nation. In an effort to woo New Hampshire Republicans angered over Nevada's decision, Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is boycotting Tuesday's event and will host a small townhall event in the Granite State instead. Several other candidates have threatened to boycott the state's caucuses, but only Huntsman will be absent from tonight's debate.
CNN will broadcast the debate at 8:00 PM ET. Reporters from Yahoo! and ABC News will offer live coverage. Stay tuned for details.
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