Republican Candidates Head To Dartmouth For Debate

10/11/11 7:04AM By Bob Kinzel

(Host) The Republican presidential candidates will meet in a debate tonight at Dartmouth College and economic issues will be the central focus of the debate.

Linda Fowler is a professor of government at Dartmouth. She says this is the first candidates' debate since New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin both announced that they will not run for president in 2012.

Fowler says all the announced candidates are now engaged in "the invisible primary." That's the behind-the-scenes competition for key campaign workers and donors.

(Fowler) "Because it's quite clear now that the significant number of Republican donors who have been sitting on their wallets if they're going to play at all they need to figure out who they are going to support."

(Host) Middlebury College political science professor Matt Dickinson says there's no question that the primary debates play an important role in the nomination process:

(Dickinson) "A recent poll showed about 80 percent of those surveyed indicated that these types of debates are an important component in their decision making. This is in contrast to the general election where political scientists have found that very highly publicized debates between the two frontrunners really don't have much persuasive impact at all. They don't change voter's minds. That's not true this early in the invisible primary because this is really one of the only indicators."

(Host) Dickinson says that Texas Governor Rick Perry has a lot riding on this debate.

Many political observers thought Perry had a very weak performance in the last candidates' debate and they're waiting to see if he's able to rebound at the Dartmouth forum.

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