Not since the first head-to-CPU contest between Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue has the world waited so breathlessly for the kind of battle of the minds we're likely to witness Monday evening.
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For the first time this primary season, seven of the top contenders for the GOP presidential nomination will field tough questions, pitch Republican voters, and take on each others' foibles and apostasies during an 8 pm ET, CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader-sponsored debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.
On hand will be Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) -- all of whom participated in the first GOP debate last month. They'll be joined on stage by three big names in Republican politics: Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Like every primary debate since the advent of cable television, the forum will be marked by predictable talking points, unctuous spells of self-flattery, and reflexive attacks on the incumbent president.
But as the GOP field takes shape, it will also be one of the first opportunities for the contenders to stake out or clarify their positions on the issues defining this race. Here are the five key things to be on the look out for.