MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
And joining us to talk about all of this is NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea, who is in Tampa. Hello, Don.
DON GONYEA: Hi there.
NORRIS: Tell us more about the Tea Party sponsorship and how that may make this debate a bit different from the others that we've already seen and heard in this election cycle.
GONYEA: And that segues obviously right into discussion of health care. Tea Party activists think the law President Obama signed is unconstitutional. So, it should be interesting, it should be lively.
NORRIS: The questions will come in from all over the place. But, Don, you're in Florida state with so many retirees. Can we assume because of that the candidates will really focus on Social Security?
GONYEA: Mitt Romney sees that as an opening. He's stressing that they need to fix the system. That it needs to be reformed, certainly. That he thinks that will play well with voters here. But two, Florida is important because the state is looking to move up in the calendar next year, to be one of the very early, early states. And, of course, it's a big swing state, we all know that. So it's an important piece of real estate that people are debating on tonight.
NORRIS: So you note that Rick Perry has become the frontrunner in many of the polls. That means he walks into that debate with a sharp suit and a target on his back. Everyone will be gunning for him in this debate. What does he need to accomplish tonight?
GONYEA: Mitt Romney, of course, will be going after him. And Michele Bachmann will be going after him, because Rick Perry is really the one who has pushed her way down in the polls since her win in that straw poll last month.
NORRIS: Let me just ask you quickly about Michele Bachmann, since she has long been a Tea Party favorite. Does this debate, sponsored in part by the Tea Party, give her a chance at a new life, a bit of resurrection?
GONYEA: Well, it's certainly an opportunity for her. This will be a friendly crowd. But this crowd will also like Ron Paul. They'll also like Rick Perry. But Michele Bachmann need only look at the case of Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and the former candidate. He faded fast and he is gone as a candidate because he ran out of money. She could face the same if she doesn't turn things around quickly.
NORRIS: That's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. He's in Florida for the GOP debate. Thanks so much, Don.
GONYEA: Thank you.
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