The next 60 days will be a marathon test of political endurance for the three top-tier presidential candidates that emerged from the weekend shakeup of the 2012 GOP field.
The eventful weekend has turned the race into a three-way competition between Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and newly-declared candidate Rick Perry. Over the next two months, those candidates will have the chance to go head-to-head no less than five times as the 2012 Republican nominating contest picks up steam this fall.
The five GOP presidential debates will come in rapid succession after labour Day. Here’s the list:
- Sept. 7, NBC News/Politico debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
- Sept. 12, CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, Fla.
- Sept. 24, Fox News/Florida GOP debate in Orlando, Fla.
- Oct. 11, Washington Post/Bloomberg debate in Hanover, N.H.
- Oct. 18, CNN/Western States Leadership Conference debate in Las Vegas, Nev.
According to the Washington Post, Romney, the GOP frontrunner (for now), has committed to attending all five debates. Bachmann has said she will attend the three September debates but her spokesman said she has not made a decision about the October contests.
Perry, the newest candidate to jump in the race, has not committed to any of the debates. His spokesman, Dave Carney, told the Post the candidate is considering the opportunities, dates and rules before making his decisions.
Conventional political wisdom holds that Perry has the most to lose from skipping the debates. But Perry — and Carney — are known for running unconventional campaigns. In his 2010 gubernatorial reelection campaign, Perry refused to debate his Democratic opponent, Houston Mayor Bill White, unless White released his tax records by a Perry-imposed deadline. However, these Texas tricks will be a lot more risky on the national scale.