Republican presidential hopefuls will hold their third debate this month Thursday night. This time the event will take place in Orlando, Florida, and be hosted by Google and Fox News, but the focus of everyone’s attention will continue to be Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who became the party’s frontrunner almost immediately after he entered the race, pushing the former leader of the pack, Mitt Romney, to number two.
The eight candidates will clash over Social Security, health care and their jobs records. Several have spent the past couple of days in Florida, a key swing state in next year’s election, ramping up their rhetoric against each other, The Associated Press reports. Perry likes to boast about how his state was added jobs during the recession, but unemployment in Texas increased in August to hits highest level since 1987, Mitt Romney charged this week. He also will likely try to force Perry to defend his previous controversial stands that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and unconstitutional, and to make a compelling case about how he would fix the struggling entitlement program.
"There are a lot of questions I'd like to have answered," said Romney, who needs to start generating more enthusiasm among the Republican Party faithful, who view him as competent but unexciting.
According to AP, the Perry camp shot back at the comparatively moderate candidate, saying that Romney “seems to forget that he’s a Republican,” with a swipe at one of the former Massachusetts governor’s top vulnerabilities.
"Being 47th in job creation and killing 18,000 jobs with RomneyCare is not a record to brag about," said spokesman Ray Sullivan said. "Under Gov. Perry, Texas added more private-sector jobs in the past two months than Massachusetts did in four years under Mitt Romney."
Meanwhile, the other six candidates will need to find ways to stand out, which some attempted to do in the days leading up to tonight’s debate. Rick Santorum took aim at Perry’s press conference on the Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking process. "I've forgotten more about Israel than Rick Perry knows about Israel," said former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
Keep Conservatives United, an independent group that supports Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, plans to start airing an ad in Iowa that questions the Texas lawmaker’s character. Bachmann, however, must try to repair the damage to her candidacy that she created after last week’s debate when she said that the HPV vaccine that Perry tried to force girls inTexas to get causes mental retardation.
Still, however hard the other candidates try to distinguish themselves, all eyes will be on Romney and Perry, whose jabs at each other are sure to be sharper than ever.
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