All the major Republican presidential hopefuls -- with the glaring exception of Fred Thompson -- will descend Wednesday night on the University of New Hampshire for the first big debate of the fall campaign.
The 90-minute debate, sponsored by the New Hampshire GOP, starts at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast live on FOX News Channel, on Fox News Radio, and on Foxnews.com.
Fox is going all out, sending its top personalities to moderate, pose questions to the eight candidates, and host programs both before and after the actual showdown. Queries will also come from voters at Young's Diner on Main Street in Durham and from those who send them by email at email@example.com.
Among the subplots that political observers will be watching:
-- Will Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, who have been going after each other on the stump and in ads on issues such as illegal immigration, continue their tussle face-to-face?
-- Can John McCain, who is returning to his war hero biography to try to revive his campaign, create some excitement?
-- Can Mike Huckabee, who finished a surprising second in the Iowa straw poll, pull himself up into the first tier of candidates?
-- How often will his rivals get in digs at Thompson, who is officially joining the race this week but decided to skip the debate (He will appear via a video ad)?