The eight leading Republican presidential candidates are headed to Rochester, Mich., on Wednesday for the latest in a long season of GOP debates. This one will be the first since decades-old allegations of sexual harassment shook Herman Cain's campaign. Naturally, the Sunlight Live team is ready to follow the action.
Despite the allegations, the Georgia businessman continues to lead the polls along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, though no polls have been conducted since one of the alleged sexual harassment victims held a press conference Monday afternoon. At that event, she said Cain touched her inappropriately as she sought his help in a job search, saying "You want a job don't you?"
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted between Oct. 31 and Thursday, Romney led Cain 25 percent to 23 percent followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 14 percent and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with 12 percent.
The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, meaning Romney and Cain are statistically tied, as are Perry and Gingrich.
This debate is the first group gathering since Oct. 18. It comes as Perry struggles to revive his campaign following poor debate performances, as Cain tries to push his message through a flurry of questions about sexual harassment settlements and as the candidates each release their various jobs and tax plans while attack ads begin to hit primetime television in key states.
Cain and Gingrich faced just each other over the weekend in Texas at a Lincoln-Douglas debate and unlike previous debates, the result was a friendly exchange focused on criticizing the president and offering new ideas. The sexual assault settlements in Cain's history were not mentioned.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania will also participate in Wednesday's CNBC, Michigan Republican Party and Oakland University-hosted event. This "Your Money, Your Vote" debate will be on jobs, taxes, the deficit and the economy.
Michigan, which Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008, had 11.1 percent unemployment last month, the third-highest rate in the nation behind only California's 11.9 percent and Nevada's 13.4. The last polls conducted in Michigan took place in September and showed Romney leading the pack, followed distantly by Perry.
But in terms of fundraising, Perry still leads the group, raising $17 million during the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, followed by Romney with $14 million and Paul with $8.2 million. Cain raised $2.8 million in the third quarter, but may be seeing an uptick as his poll numbers rise. Campaign staff said he raised $250,000 online in one day last week amid the sexual harassment accusations, .
Huntsman, who boycotted the last debate in Las Vegas over the state's early caucus date, raised more than $4 million and Bachmann brought in $3.9 million. Gingrich and Santorum each raised less than $1 million, and both of their campaigns are in debt.
CNBC's John Harwood and Maria Bartiromo will moderate the debate.
CNBC won't have online video for the event, but you can watch on cable and meet us at sunlightlive.com as Sunlight's team of investigative reporters fact-checks the candidates' claims, adds context and shares relevant lobbying and campaign finance information. Come participate in the conversation at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and learn about the money and influence behind the potential presidential nominees.