Barack Obama demanded that Congress act immediately to pass his jobs bill, even though the White House hasn’t yet delivered it, because Americans can’t wait for 14 months to get back to work.  That’s certainly true for Luminant employees in Texas.  The energy firm will have to close several facilities and lay off hundreds of workers — not because Congress hasn’t passed a jobs bill, but because Obama’s EPA has made it impossible to continue operations:

Texas energy company Luminant announced on Monday new burdensome Environmental Protection Agency regulations are forcing it to close several facilities, which will result in about 500 job losses.

The company will be idling — stopping the usage of — two energy generating units. It will also cease extracting lignite from three different Texas mines.

The EPA regulation Luminant cites as too burdensome is the new Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which requires Texas power generators to make “dramatic reductions” in emissions beginning on January 1, 2012. …

The company said it has been trying to meet the new standards, but won’t be able to do so without closing down several facilities and eliminating 500 jobs.

Gee, you think this might come up in tonight’s debate?  Republicans snatched a draw from the jaws of victory when they convinced Obama to move his jobs speech from Wednesday before the debate to Thursday, but tonight’s CNN debate gives all of the candidates a fresh chance to attack Obama on jobs and his new plan.  Rick Perry will almost certainly bring up Luminant as an example of the kind of regulatory attacks on his state that he has fought since Obama took office, as well as to discredit Obamas’ direction on economic growth and job creation.

In looking at CNN’s poll, which was conducted to give maximum promotion to the debate tonight, Perry didn’t do any harm to himself in last Wednesday’s debate.  In order to maintain his momentum, Perry will have to follow up on two specific issues, and one general impression.  First, he has to offer a framework for Social Security reform.  Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney are licking their chops on this issue, but as the poll shows, Perry didn’t damage his support with his blunt response last week.  However, he needs to follow that blunt talk up with some solutions, one that will convince people that he plans to protect those who have no time to adjust their retirement plans after a lifetime of contributions to the system.

Second, Perry has to do better on climate-change questions.  The EPA issue plays directly into that.  His meandering response on Wednesday seemed curious and alarming for a man who has repeatedly challenged the context of the so-called “consensus” on AGW.  He needs to be more confident and clear tonight.  Third, Perry needs to improve his delivery a bit and eliminate the pauses as he searches for a correct word or phrase.  Delivery counts, and Romney is a pro at debate delivery.

For Romney, he needs to emphasize that he brings solutions to the table.  Given the lack of traction that his attacks on Perry’s remarks have gained thus far, he needs to contrast himself in a positive rather than negative manner to the Texas governor.  Tim Pawlenty gave a big hint to that strategy in his endorsement remarks today by staying away from the Social Security question and focusing instead on Romney’s private-sector expertise and his record of rescuing failing enterprises.  That plays into entitlement reform, too, but going in that direction won’t lose conservatives who want some tough, blunt talk on entitlements — and besides, Romney is much better at being the positive, steady hand than he is at being an attack dog.

Bachmann’s debate performance last week was inexplicable.  She never contrasted herself from the other candidates on the stage in any meaningful sense, and she has nothing left to lose by doing so.  She can call Perry out on the “Ponzi scheme” rhetoric, but she herself isn’t exactly a stranger to heated and blunt talk.  That’s a potential minefield for Bachmann as it is for the other House candidates on stage, because both Perry and Romney can challenge Bachmann on why she hasn’t written a bill herself reforming Social Security as a member of Congress.  Neither man really needs to get into an accomplishment challenge with Bachmann like Pawlenty did, but it’s a fair question if Bachmann starts challenging Perry on not having a reform plan at the ready now.

The rest of the candidates will be a sideshow in tonight’s debate, but it will be interesting to see whether Newt Gingrich attacks the moderators again for the third straight debate.  Expect the big topic tonight to be jobs, rather than Social Security or evolution or submission to spouses, as various Tea Party groups will co-moderate the panel — and a focus on jobs should help Perry more than anyone else on stage.

Update: I should note that Rick Perry will still have to answer for this language comparing Social Security to a criminal enterprise:

“Let’s look at what would happen if someone in the private sector did a similar thing. Suppose two grandparents created a trust fund, appointed a bank as trustee, and instructed the bank to invest the proceeds of the trust fund so as to provide for their grandchildren’s education. Suppose further that the bank used the proceeds for its own purposes, so that when the grandchildren turned eighteen, there was no money for them to go to college. What would happen to the bankers responsible for misusing the money? They would go to jail. But what has happened to the people responsible for the looming bankruptcy of Social Security? They keep returning to Congress every two years.”

Oh, wait, pardon me — Perry didn’t write that.  Mitt Romney did — last year, in his book No Apology (via Andy McCarthy).