The first debate of the 2012 Republican presidential primary contest is set for Thursday—but the event appears to be lacking any type of opening gala feel.
The latest word from Fox News, which is hosting the event with the South Carolina Republican Party, is that the debate will include five participants: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Ron Paul, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and restaurant exec Herman Cain.
That’s not exactly a star-studded lineup.
Pawlenty is considered by most observers to be the only top-tier White House hopeful among the group—but that has more to do with his perceived potential than anything else. He is currently outside the top five in most major polls, and has yet to make much noise in the early-going.
As Ron Paul fans will likely point out, their man will technically be the closest thing to a front-runner on the stage Thursday.
The Texas congressman came in tied for fifth with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a recent Fox News poll, with 7 percent of the vote. That was two points better than Pawlenty fared in the same poll.
Santorum is the only other participant to have cracked the top 10 in the poll, with 3 percent.
The debate will take place in Greenville, S.C., at 9 p.m. Thursday.