Michele Bachmann needs to reassert herself in tonight's Republican presidential debate or she risks becoming an also-ran.
Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, was relegated to a secondary role in last week's GOP debate by national front runners Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. If Bachmann fails to re-assert herself tonight, she could quickly become an afterthought.
GOP analysts expect Bachmann to attack Perry in an effort to thwart his attempts to court the Tea Party conservative activists who are an important force in Republican nominating politics. She also wants to emerge as the main national competitor to Romney. who has considerable support among business-oriented and establishment Republicans but is having trouble gaining traction among Tea Party activists.
Bachmann won the Iowa Republican straw poll last month but since then, Perry has been stealing her thunder on the right.
She is expected to attack Perry on several fronts, including a critique of his condemnation of Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie." Bachmann told Radio Iowa Friday, without mentioning Perry by name, that politicians are wrong to make seniors "nervous" about programs they have come to rely on.
What many of her supporters and potential contributors are looking for in tonight's debate in Florida is a demonstration that Bachmann has resumed her role as the feisty, strong advocate that she seemed to be earlier in the campaign.