Cain in the Hot Seat at Tonight's GOP Debate

From The Associated Press:

Herman Cain has risen fast. Now the question is: Will he fall?

The businessman has been facing intense scrutiny in recent weeks as his poll numbers have soared. He likely will face tough questions–on his professional past and his issue positions as well as his viability–when he gathers on stage later Tuesday with his Republican presidential foes for the latest GOP debate.

Cain is the latest GOP hopeful to enthrall the party faithful who haven’t rallied behind Mitt Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor is seen as the Republican to beat. He has turned in strong debate performance after strong debate performance. He’s fundraising steadily and adding establishment supporters nationally and also in early primary states.

But that hasn’t kept the party’s base from searching for an alternative.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann had a quick rise–after a sharp debate performance in New Hampshire–and a quick fall after she won a key test vote in Iowa. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry was embraced by most Republicans when he announced his bid in August, but has faded after a series of missteps.

Cain, a former pizza company executive, says he’s different than other candidates who’ve faded, and that his years of speaking to tea party rallies and other conservative groups have built a grassroots support base.

His years spent public speaking, hosting a radio talk show and aligning himself with groups like Americans for Prosperity–whose funding comes in part from the billionaire Koch brothers–boosted his profile in conservative circles. But those appearances also created a huge record of statements on issues that rivals are certain to mine if they start to believe that he has staying power–and look for ways to derail him.

Since becoming a national figure, Cain’s already run into the kind of trouble he was able to avoid before when he wasn’t in the spotlight.

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