GOP debate on tap |

GOP debate on tap

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) ” All eyes were on newcomer Fred Thompson toay as nine Republican presidential candidates faced questions in their sixth major debate of the 2008 campaign.

The debate focused on economic issues, but most of the attention was on Thompson, the veteran actor and former Tennessee senator who was making his debut debate appearance a month after becoming a full-fledged candidate.

A late entry into the race, Thompson was looking to set himself apart from the crowded field as well as to counter a perception that he’s unprepared to be president.

Since entering the race, Thompson has struggled to answer questions on some topics and, by many accounts, has turned in an underwhelming campaign trail performance. But he’s maintained a competitive position in national polls and has raised a respectable $12 million over four months from 80,000 donors.

Sparks also were likely to fly between Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. The two have increasingly squared off in recent days over their records on taxes and spending. Those issues were sure to be discussed during the debate.

The debate was set for 4 p.m. EDT in Dearborn, Mich., in a state that’s home to the struggling auto industry and that has the highest unemployment rate in the country. It was 7.4 percent in August; the nation’s was 4.6 percent.

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