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Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) - Newt Gingrich is on the ropes, Tim Pawlenty's dropped the gloves, and Mitt Romney will be in the middle.
It doesn't matter that Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani and Jon Huntsman decided to stay home.
The game is on.
No more hedging statements, exploratory committees, or one more discussion with the family before deciding to jump into the water headfirst. The final boxes have been checked - save for Michele Bachmann. For the six others, the race for the GOP presidential nomination begins Monday night at the CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader debate.
Voters will be looking for the candidates to deliver answers on the pressing issues facing the nation, and Republican viewers will be watching for a candidate to take on President Obama in 2012.
Early polling shows GOP voters are not exactly enamored with the current field. Perhaps that would change if Palin and Giuliani decided to run.
Huntsman told my CNN colleague Candy Crowley the other day that he is on the verge of making it official. He will run for president. An announcement is expected in the coming days.
The former Utah governor sees the lack of enthusiasm with the current field as an opening, as long as GOP primary voters don't punish him for serving as Obama's ambassador to China.
It is very early in the contest, but still much is at stake: for the "front-runner," the "perceived alternative," the "wounded," the "I told you so," the "unknowns," and "those waiting in the wings."
Here are five things to look for Monday night that will help shape the race for the Republican presidential nomination:FULL STORY
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