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June 13th, 2011
05:31 PM ET

CNN debate: What to watch for

Editor's note: CNN hosts the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate Monday night from Manchester at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news about the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter. Watch the debate on CNN TV, CNN.com and mobile devices. And participate with your questions on the live blog on the CNN Political Ticker.

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) - Seven Republicans will be on the stage Monday night at the CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader presidential debate, but one candidate will likely be the center of attention.

Thanks to his standing at the top of the most recent horse race polls, his fundraising prowess and his top-flight campaign organization, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is generally considered the front-runner at this early point in the battle for the GOP nomination.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Monday morning, Romney - who's making his second White House bid - grabbed the support of 24% of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is second with 20%, followed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the rest of the field.

But Romney's standing skyrockets to 35% - 19 points ahead of the rest of the field - when Palin and Giuliani, both of whom are still on the fence about the race, are taken out of the mix.

Because of his front-runner status and nagging questions among conservatives about the health care law he instituted in Massachusetts, expect Romney to have a bull's-eye on his back tonight in the early primary state he needs to win if he hopes to be the nominee.

Here's what to watch for:

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