Grip Up, Poliphiles!

Are you ready for some pol-ball?

There's yet another Republican debate tonight. This one's in Orlando, sponsored by the state's GOP, Google and Fox News. It's live at 9 p.m. on Fox stations.

It includes a new, first-time player, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson who, believe it or not, announced his candidacy for president back in April.

Johnson was Guv from `95 to `03. He's a biz-guy, construction companies, known for anti-tax, anti-bureacracy and dubbed "Gov. Veto" for proving it. Still, even though New Mexico is "The Land of Enchantment," Gary's getting in late and needs more than magic at this stage.

Also, good timing for Rick Santorum. He just asked debate co-sponsor Google to clean up its reference to him as a, well, you've probably seen it (if not just google his name). I doubt, though he'll issue the same request on national TV.

He and the usual (and fading) other constestants, Newt, Michele, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Hunstman, also are scheduled to be playing tonight.

They, collectively, are now "the others."

That's because the attention and focus is on the frontrunning tag team, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, who continue to tag each other.

Florida's a key state and full of seniors so the Social Security issue will dominate the duo's cross-talk. That will be critical as national polls show Romney eating into what was a large, early, double-digit lead by Perry. And a Florida poll shows Mitt and Perry deadlocked at 25% each.

So expect more Mitt talk about Perry wanting to kill the "Ponzi scheme" that is Social Security, and therefore old people, while Perry points to Mitt's soft underbelly when it comes to conservative values, suggesting again his Massachusetts health plan was the model for Obama's health-care socialism.

The sparring pair even have nicknames for each other now. Mitt calls Perry "Gov Sub-Zero" (a reference, somehow, to jobs in Texas, but evokes a refrigerator that can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 and underscores the Romney-as-unconnected-rich-guy tag). On the other hand, Perry's calling Mitt "Obama-Lite," which is a nice slice of red meat tossed to GOP voters.

So pop the corn, settle in, say hello/goodbye to Gary Johnson, enjoy the desperate attempts of "the others" to be taken seriously and see if Mitt can wipe that Texas, aw-shucks grin off Rick Perry's face.

Continue Reading