Front-runner Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is trying to cement his lead as he faces off against fellow Republican Mitt Romney and seven other contenders in the third debate in three weeks.
They are debating jobs, social programs, and the economy Thursday in Florida, one of the key battleground states for next year’s national election.
The candidates quickly turned their fire against President Barack Obama, criticizing his attempts to help small businesses, create jobs, and lower the deficit. This is a contrast with earlier debates, where Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, and Perry, the governor of Texas, opened their responses trading attacks against one another.
Months remain before voters will begin to choose the official Republican candidate, but campaigning is already becoming fierce. On the campaign trail, Perry and Romney have been trading attacks, especially over the issue of the public pension system Social Security.
Social Security is an important issue in Florida, which is home to the largest proportion of elderly voters in the United States, many of whom rely on their social security checks.
Immigration is also an important issue in Florida, where there is a large Hispanic population.
Recent national polls put Perry in the lead to win his party’s nomination for the presidential race. The most recent Quinnipiac Poll shows him earning 28 percent of the vote compared to 22 percent for Romney. And when polled as a two-man face-off, Perry leads Romney 46 percent to 38 percent.
But the poll showed Romney might fare better in a presidential campaign against President Barack Obama. In a Romney-Obama match-up, poll respondents chose Romney 47 percent to 40 percent. In contrast, the poll showed Perry slightly trailing Mr. Obama 42 percent to 44 percent.