Seven GOP presidential hopefuls will take the stage at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire on June 13 for what is being billed as the first major debate of the 2012 election, WMUR announced on Friday.
Facing off will be former Govs. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty—considered the front-runners—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Reps. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former Sen. Rick Santorum, and businessman Herman Cain.
The debate will be the first this cycle for Romney, Gingrich, and Bachmann, all of whom skipped the showdown in South Carolina last month; for Bachmann—the only candidate who has not yet declared either a bid or an exploratory committee (she is expected to do so post-debate this month), it will be her first serious foray into the race and a chance for her to clinch the tea party constituency that former Gov. Sarah Palin, who declined invitation to the event, threatens to seize.
CNN, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and WMUR will co-sponsor the debate. Their criteria in determining which candidates in the currently vast field would participate included having a minimum threshold in polls nationally or in the first-in-the-nation primary state.