The Republican presidential candidates converge once again Tuesday night for yet another debate, this time in Las Vegas, with the bulk of the questions focusing on issues relevant to the U.S. West. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is sitting this one out to protest Nevada's decision to schedule its caucuses before New Hampshire's primary. But Huntsman was never likely to steal the show Tuesday. Going into the debate, a new CNN poll shows Mitt Romney and surging businessman Herman Cain essentially tied at 25 percent, with rapidly fading former frontrunner Rick Perry of Texas a distant third, at 13 percent. Will Tuesday's debate solidify the new pecking order of a Romney-Cain contest?
Yes. It looks like a Romney-Cain showdown: The Cain surge is fueled by the "persistent Tea Party-influenced skepticism for Romney," says the Ogden, Utah, Standard-Examiner in an editorial. Still, unlike prior GOP crushes like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, "we believe Cain may remain the chief alternative to Romney." He's "extremely charismatic" and seems appealingly genuine. On Tuesday, watch for Romney to take aim at Cain's disastrous 9-9-9 tax plan and admitted ignorance of foreign policy.
"New favorite tea is Cain"
No way. Cain is still a sideshow: "Cain's an entertaining guy," but he's only going through the motions of campaigning for president, says Susan Milligan at U.S. News. What he's really vying for is a TV chat show. "Despite a surge in the polls, Cain raised just $2.8 million" last quarter; Romney raised $14 million, and Perry raked in $17 million. Cain also has no real ground campaign in crucial early voting states Iowa and New Hampshire. "It's time to get serious," and Cain isn't.
"Herman Cain is not a serious candidate for president"
It's still Romney vs. an anti-Romney: It's telling that "Romney has seemingly won every debate" and is the Republican most likely to beat President Obama in a general election, yet still can't pull ahead, says Mark Sappenfield at The Christian Science Monitor. GOP voters clearly "want a revolution," and Romney's more of a realist. He'll keep winning the debates, but whether it's the smooth talker Cain or the prodigious fundraiser Perry, Romney will be dogged by an anti-Romney candidate until Americans make their decisions at the voting booth.
"Mitt Romney and GOP quest for anyone but him"