8 p.m. ET on MSNBC. Nothing complicated about this one: Perry wants to make a good first impression and everyone else onstage wants to make sure that he doesn’t. The only question is how nasty it’ll get and whether any of the lesser candidates will do Romney’s heavy lifting for him. Remember, Mitt’s advisors told Marc Thiessen a few weeks ago that they’re counting on Bachmann to rhetorically rip Perry’s eyes out so that Romney can keep his patrician above-the-fray vibe going. On the other hand, they might not need her since it’s actually Ron Paul who’s hit Perry the hardest thus far. There’s no shortage of potential material — “career politician,” campaign cronyism, immigration, irresponsible rhetoric about Bernanke, etc. Who knows? Maybe someone will even knock him for ditching Texas’s wildfire response to attend tonight. Will anyone dare hit him on entitlements, though? Romney and Huntsman are the only candidates willing and able to attack from the left on that issue, but Huntsman’s embraced Paul Ryan’s budget so he’s in no position to get timid on Social Security and Medicare now. Mitt might have to get his hands dirty after all.
Here’s the handy dandy Hot Air/Townhall Twitter widget, which will be updated with bon mots and snarky delights throughout the debate. Below that, while we wait, you’ll find two clips previewing the inevitable attacks on Perry. One is Dick Cheney chastising him for his Bernanke comments, the other is New Mexico Gov. (and VP contender) Susana Martinez criticizing Perry’s support for Texas’s DREAM Act. Out: Perry/Martinez. In: Romney/Martinez?