The candidates are coming.
The June 13 debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, sponsored by CNN, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and WMUR-TV, will be the first chance for many top Republican presidential primary candidates to spar onstage.
“The June debate will be the kickoff to a long hot summer of campaigning,” said New Hampshire Republican State Committee spokeswoman Christine Baratta. “Voters will be looking for to see who’s going to step up to take on President Obama.”
Edie Emery, a spokeswoman for the sponsoring organizations, said invitations to the debate have gone out to all Republicans who met the partners’ criteria. Participants will be announced Friday and the criteria for inclusion will be made public at that time.
Confirmed so far are former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and businessman Herman Cain.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is announcing his candidacy tomorrow in New Hampshire, has not made a formal announcement yet but was invited and is likely to attend. Aides to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann have said she is likely to participate, but have not officially confirmed it.
Last month’s debate in South Carolina featured just five candidates – Pawlenty, Santorum, Paul, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Cain.
This time, the most well-known no-show will be former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who is still weighing a run and said he will not participate in any debates until he formally announces his intentions.
Former New York Governor George Pataki and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have said they are considering running, but neither has made a formal announcement, and neither will participate in the debate.
Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer received an official invitation but is waiting until CNN releases the qualifications to make sure Roemer meets them, said spokesman Aaron Walker.
Johnson is still waiting for an invitation. “We haven’t been excluded from anything yet, so it would be quite a surprise if that were to happen,” said spokesman Matt Simon.
Political consultant and gay rights activist Fred Karger has been excluded – and is launching a “Let Fred In” campaign. In a letter to CNN, Karger wrote that he was the first candidate this cycle to create an exploratory committee and officially file. Karger says he has raised more than $400,000, enjoys strong support from students, and has employed staff and run television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. “I am a serious candidate for president, and I would hope that you will include me in your debate,” he wrote.
As for the potential candidate raising the most speculation – 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin – no one knows where she will be this week, let alone June 13.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.