The Republican presidential candidates will again be behind podiums on Saturday for a debate in the key early-primary state of South Carolina, just three days after a showdown in Michigan. As usual, the Sunlight Live team will be behind computer screens checking the candidates' facts and inserting data on money and influence in politics into the conversation at sunlightlive.com.
Whereas Wednesday's debate dealt with the stalled economy, Saturday's meeting will focus on national security and foreign policy, an area some have said is a weak spot for most candidates.
Wednesday's debate was relatively calm with the candidates holding back from making personal attacks on each other. Instead, they continued to focus blame on President Barack Obama, while promoting their own tax and jobs plans.
The most memorable moment of the night was a major mistake by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The candidate said he would do away with three federal agencies if he became president but was only able to recall two, stammering awkwardly before accepting a suggestion from Rep. Ron Paul. But Paul's suggestion — the EPA — wasn't what Perry was thinking and he was again unable to come up with the third agency. Perry checked his notes before finally saying "I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
Meanwhile, the sexual harassment allegations that have dogged Herman Cain's campaign over the last 10 days were briefly discussed and discounted, as Cain continued to call them false and a "character assassination." The crowd at the debate booed loudly when moderators brought up the accusations. Cain refocused the discussion instead on his 9-9-9 plan, which he frequently raises during the debates.
Saturday's debate will feature the normal gathering of Cain, Perry, Gingrich and Romney, as well as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).
Cain and Romney are still neck and neck in all the latest polls, with Gingrich, Perry and Paul making up the middle of the pack. Bachmann, Santorum and Huntsman find themselves at the bottom of the polls. The sexual harrassment claims against Cain haven't don't seem to have affected his polling numbers, or his ability to raise money.
Still, Perry and Romney are at the top of the fundraising race. Perry raised $17 million during the third quarter, with most of his campaign donations coming from from the business industry. Romney raised about $14 million over the same period, though securities and investment is the top industry funding his bid. Paul, who's known for his devoted followers, raised $8.2 million last quarter and most of his money comes from the business industry. Cain's fundraising haul was just $2.8 million, with retired donors giving more than any other group.
Huntsman raised more than $4 million last quarter, Bachmann saw $3.9 million in donations and Gingrich and Santorum each raised less than $1 million. All the Republican numbers were dwarfed by Obama's nearly $42 million raised in the third quarter. Overall, GOP fundraising for 2012 has been slower than in 2008.
Saturday's debate will be hosted by CBS News, National Journal and the South Carolina Republican Party. CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Scott Pelley and National Journal congressional correspondent Major Garrett will moderate.
We'll be at sunlightlive.com on Saturday to fill you in on the behind-the-scenes lobbying and campaign finance information and add context to the candidates' discussion as they're grilled on national security and foreign policy. Come join in the conversation at 8 p.m. ET to learn about the money and influence behind these potential Republican presidential nominess.