Tonight is Rick Perry night. In a few short hours, all those questions about how the blustery front-runner will fare in an actual debate will be answered. NBC News' Brian Williams and Politico's John Harris will be hosting the hoped-for slugfest at the Reagan Library at 8 pm ET tonight. (We'll be live-blogging the political theater right here.) And pundits want to know all about Perry: Will he say something incendiary? Will he metaphorically knock out Mitt Romney for good? Will he decide to pull his punches like Pawlenty? Or will he establish some other boxing metaphor that bloggers will be able to reference for weeks to come?
In other news: people other than the Texas governor will be awkwardly standing behind podiums this evening. Like Michele Bachmann, from whom Perry seemed to steal all the poll thunder. She really needs to go after the Texas governor tonight in order to "stop the bleeding," figures James Oliphant at the Los Angeles Times. Simply "bashing President Obama and his agenda may no longer be enough." Will she come up with as catchy of a phrase for skewering Perry as her popular "Obama. Will. Be. A. One. Term. President." refrain? We'll see.
Then there's the other part of the three-way race: old news front-runner Mitt Romney. We enjoyed reading long-time Wall Street Journal columnist and Reaganite Peggy Noonan's size-up of the robotically-slick candidate. According to her, Romney can coast, as in previous debates, with above-the-fray demeanor or he can fight. She seems to side with the second option, saying that the rumble could turn out to be along the lines of Raging Bull: "He ought to be looking to slow Mr. Perry's momentum, to ding him and dent him, to get people raising a skeptical brow."
And looming larger than media-darling Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Hawaii-lounging Newt Gingrich and the rest is none other than Ronald Reagan. Especially at tonight's location (the Reagan Library), expect the lip service to the iconic president to possibly reach new heights, notes New York's Daily Intel and The New York Times in their previews. We wonder if there will be TV reaction shots from Reagan's wife Nancy who, as the Times notes, will most likely be sitting in the front row.