The Washington Times - September 12, 2011, 06:06PM

Republican candidates for the White House will be debating in Tampa tonight. CNN and the Tea Party Express will be hosting this debate at the Florida State Fair Grounds. CNN released a poll early Monday morning showing where the GOP candidates (announced and un-announced) currently stand.

Texas Governor Rick Perry currently holds a 12 point lead over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. CNN chose to include former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who has not announced a bid for office, but she is currently third in this poll with 15 percent. Ron Paul falls three points behind her. Both Romney and Perry received endorsements from fellow GOP governors today. Mr. Romney received an endorsement from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal threw his support by Perry. 

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Interestingly, Iowa Straw Poll winner Michele Bachman falls behind Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain (both tied with five percent). However, she still leads former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum. 

Herman Cain seemed pleased with his standing in the poll above Rep. Bachmann, when I spoke with him on Monday afternoon in Tampa. “Its good. That means we’re staying steady—still moving up. Its a good thing, so we’re encouraged by that,” he said. “Like I’ve said before, the thing about Cain supporters is they don’t defect. So no matter how they shuffle these polls, as long as we are right in the middle of the pack, that’s a good thing.”

Without Governor Palin in the mix, the results of the CNN poll is different. Perry remains in the lead with 32 percent. Romney is in second with 21 percent. Ron Paul follows in third with 13 percent, while Michele Bachmann moves up to fourth with 7 percent.

I spoke with Bachmann campaign advisor Ed Rollins last week about her polling and her debate performance in California, where the moderators all but ignored and gave most of the attention to only Perry and Romney. 

Mr. Rollins explained, “They did this to Mike Huckabee in the last go around. In the course of the debates, Huckabee, who started at zero and one percent, in the course of the debates he got stronger and stronger.”

“The key thing here is when you do get the two questions or the five questions or the six questions, as Michele did tonight, you pound them home and you hit them well…you sound smart and you be smart,” Mr. Rollins added.

Tonight’s debate, unlike last week, is said to have a different format that should allow for more information to come out from all of the candidates on stage. With this in mind, lower polling candidates should use this opportunity wisely to put out points that will stay in the minds’ of the GOP base, as observers want to hear more than just “the debate was unfair.”

If a debate moderator throws out a bias question, the candidates should show their supporters they can confidently and concisely throw their answers right back. Voters want to know whoever they are supporting will stand up for them, regardless of unfair circumstances.