Tampa GOP Presidential Debate Flavored with Tea

CNN
TAMPA (2011-9-12) -

The Tea Party is teaming up with CNN tonight to host a nationally-televised debate of the Republican candidates for president. Doing well in the Tampa debate is being looked at as critical for winning the nomination.

All eight major Republican candidates say they'll attend the debate, which will be held in the host city for next year's GOP convention. During a stop Sunday at Tampa's 9/11 commemoration downtown, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said winning Florida is “critically important” for his campaign.

"Somewhere between Orlando and Tampa - the great I-4 corridor - there's going to be a lot of important campaigning, a lot of connecting with the people of Florida," says Huntsman, "and ultimately I believe the decision made that will determine the next nominee of the Republican party, and I do believe the next president of the United States."

University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus says Florida is still the nation's largest state that is politically split down the middle.

"Performing well here - and Florida always grabs national attention - is really going to be a sign of how well these candidates do as they head quickly toward the primary," says MacManus, "and it looks like Florida is going to go earlier rather than later in the primary."

MacManus says Florida will have even more clout next year, the state will have two more seats in the electoral college because of its growing population.

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