We’re only moments away from the start of tonight’s Republican presidential debate. Mitt Romney comes in as the frontrunner with momentum earned from a lead in the polls and an endorsement this afternoon from Chris Christie. Herman Cain is hoping his showing in recent polls means he is moving up to the first tier. And the rest of the field including Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman is hoping that something can happen to give them a boost to get them into the conversation as viable contenders.
But there’s no question that the onus tonight is on the man who had a double-digit lead only a month ago: Rick Perry. The Texas governor’s September swoon was historic leaving him with only half of the support he had at the start of the September. His debate performance will have to drastically improve. But that means more than just exceeding the low expectations that currently exist for him. He’ll need to change the minds of Republicans who tuned into previous debates and left thinking him an inarticulate bumbler.