What happens in Vegas helps determine the Republican presidential nominee


Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be slipping in the polls, but his fundraising prowess is keeping him among those to watch at Tuesday night's Republican debate in Las Vegas.

Perry raised $17 million during the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, beating frontrunners Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. Romney, the former governor of Massachussetts, raised $14 million, while Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, raked in $2.8 million.

Those three will take the stage Tuesday night during a debate sponsored by CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference, along with:

  • Ron Paul, U.S. representative from Texas
  • Michele Bachmann, U.S. representative from Minnesota
  • Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and representative from Georgia
  • Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania

During the third quarter, Rep. Paul raised $8.2 million, while Rep. Bachmann brought in $3.9 million. Former Speaker Gingrich raised about $793,000 and Santorum reported raising more than $700,000. In terms of cash on hand, Gingrich is about $1.1 million in debt, Bachmann owes about $550,000, and Santorum owes about $70,000.  

Jon Huntsman, Jr., the former governor of Utah, has raised more than $4 million since announcing his bid for the presidency, and he is $890,000 in debt. However, Huntsman is boycotting this debate because he opposes the state of Nevada’s early caucus date of Jan. 14.

In a recent CNN Poll of Polls, Romney is leading the pack with 25 percent of the vote and is 3 percentage points ahead of Cain. In another poll by ABC and the Wall Street Journal, however, Cain is leading with 27 percent and is 4 points ahead of Romney.

The Western states, and Nevada in particular, will be crucial to deciding who will face Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, according to a CNN interview with the Western Republican Leadership Conference this spring. Nevada will be one of the first states to have its say in the Republican nomination, and CNN's political director Sam Feist called the state “the gateway to the West in the 2012 Republican presidential primary.”

Tuesday's debate will be moderated by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. It starts at 8 p.m. Eastern time and takes place in the Venetian Resort.  

The Sunlight Foundation will live blog during the debate at http://sunlightlive.com to add context, campaign finance and lobbying information, and real-time fact checking. Meet us online at 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 18 to participate in the conversation on our multimedia platform, Sunlight Live.