Just two days after Newt Gingrich threw a stick between the spokes of the Mitt Romney presidential machine by winning the South Carolina primary, the four remaining GOP presidential candidates are back at it tonight for another Republican debate in Tampa, Florida.
And as Gingrich showed Thursday — when he bested Romney in a South Carolina debate that helped the former speaker of the House surge in the polls — debate very much matters.
Tonight, expect Romney to go on the offensive, attacking many of Gingrich's policy faults and personal transgressions.
A strong showing by Romney has become even more critical as Gingrich has surged ahead in the Florida polls, leading 41% to the former Massachusetts governor's 32%.
Gingrich handily defeated Romney by 12 points in South Carolina, and the GOP race now looks to be on a prolonged trajectory.
On Monday, Romney was already blasting Gingrich, calling out his work at mortgage giant Freddi Mac, and even his authorship of history books.
Romney does expect to win Florida. Almost 200,000 absentee ballots have already been cast in the state, many of which it is believed favor Romney. Romney is also spending lavishly in the state, including a $2.3 million broadcast buy for ads made this week.
The fight between Romney and Gingrich will likely marginalize the other two candidates.
Rick Santorum is currently polling 11% in the state, while Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is polling a measly 8%.
Paul, the libertarian candidate who holds wide national appeal, especially among millennials and military-oriented voters, would do well do use this debate as a stage to show that he is not a fading star.
Expect the socially conservative Santorum to attack Romney and Gingrich, and show that he is the "truest" conservative on the stage.
The gloves are off. Welcome to the GOP Octagon.
The debate will be shown live at 9 p.m. on NBC, and is BEING STREAMED LIVE HERE.
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