GOP candidates set for debate in Tampa: MyFoxTAMPABAY.com

The political world will have its eyes on the Bay Area tonight as the Republican presidential debate in Tampa takes center stage.

The eight Republican presidential candidates will spar in front of an invite-only audience at the Florida State Fairgrounds from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. It will be televised on CNN, which is hosting the debate along with local Tea Party groups.

It will be the first time Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum will be able to tackle President Barack Obama’s jobs plan, which he outlined in front of Congress last week.

“I’m looking forward to the debate,” said Huntsman, who was in Tampa on Sunday for a 9/11 memorial event. “It’s a good opportunity to have a conversation with the American people to talk about the issues that really do matter – to put the issues in terms that the American people cane relate to – primarily in the economy and jobs because there’s a great human tragedy out there.”

Candidates and groups are hosting various watch parties around the area.

The Tea Party Express and WGUL are hosting a party at the fairgrounds’ Special Events Center, with tickets starting at $10. You can register at http:teapartytampa860wgul.eventbrite.com.

Perry’s campaign debate watch party is at the Wing House on U.S. 301 near the Fairgrounds, while the Romney debate watch party is on USF’s campus at the Juniper Poplar Hall.

Meanwhile, protesters are also planning to make an appearance. Members of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition, the Black Democratic Caucus and other left-wing groups are expected to show up at the fairgrounds.

The debate kicks off what is expected to be a very competitive race in an important swing state. Tampa is also hosting next year’s Republican National Convention.

For more news on Tampa Bay see MyFoxTampa.com.

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