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SALT LAKE CITY -- NBC and Politico will host a debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA. on September 7.
Former Utah Olympic chief Mitt Romney and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman join six other candidates on the stage.
Then, it's on to Florida. September 12, CNN and the Tea Party Express host a debate in Tampa, and Fox News holds a debate September 22 in Orlando.
Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out.
–- Mitt Romney
With the election a little more than a year away, ordinary people, not just insiders, are starting to pay attention. these debates could help shape perceptions about the candidates and set the course for the big-time fund raising ahead.
For months, the shots have been directed at the President. Now, with three debates in three weeks, they're firing at each other.
Tea party protesters in New Hampshire calling Mitt Romney not conservative enough. New frontrunner Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is echoing a similar sentiment.
"We don't need a nominee that's gonna blur the differences between themselves and Barack Obama," said Texas Governor and Presidential Candidate Rick Perry. "We're gonna have a nominee who draws a clear contrast."
This after Romney zeroed in on Perry.
"Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out," said Romney.
Romney advisor Kirk Jowers says now the GOP will get a chance to see if Perry is for real.
"These debates will go a long way in showing whether Perry has some amount of staying power or if he's 2008's Fred Thompson," said Kirk Jowers, Director of Hinckley Institute of Politics.
These debates will go a long way in showing whether Perry has some amount of staying power or if he's 2008's Fred Thompson
–- Kirk Jowers
Political observers say Perry's arrival provides a test to Romney, the former frontrunner.
"At some point, you have to give it up and face the primary voters and run in a primary, especially if Rick Perry's doing better in all the polls and rolling right by you," Said A.B. Stoddard, The Hill associate editor.
The debates will be key in shaping public perception, as will fund raising totals released later in the month.
Candidates like Jon Huntsman are still trying to break out of the crowded field, said Jowers, a former Huntsman confidante.
"Whatever it is, it just hasn't caught on for Huntsman yet," said Jowers. Because in those early states like New Hampshire where he has focused, he hasn't been able to catch on in the polls."
Will any other big names get in, like Sarah Palin, or New Jersey governor Chris Christie? If they were to join the race, that could scramble things up once again.