Rick Perry is walking in the footsteps of General Wesley Clark and former Senator Fred Thompson. One poll has him all the way down at 6 percent in Iowa for sixth place. Nationally, the best showing he has in a poll is a distant third place. His new strategy is to make energy independence his signature issue, but without some stand-out moments in the debates, he won’t re-gain the confidence of the supporters he lost.

Michele Bachmann is focusing on sounding more substantive and is doing a good job of it. However, she is going through her coffers quickly and has a strategy that is difficult to have confidence in. She is spending an inordinate amount of time in New Hampshire, when everyone knows that her campaign depends upon success in Iowa. The latest poll there has her one point behind Gingrich for fourth place.

Ron Paul is offering more detailed proposals to try to move his campaign forward. He has put forth a plan to cut the budget by $1 trillion and to balance the budget during his third year in office. He’s moving from being philosophical to operational, which is good, but his plan rests upon ending military deployments overseas. This won’t change the dynamic of the race. Ron Paul’s supporters will remain supporters, and his detractors will remain detractors.

Rick Santorum does a good job of tearing down other candidates, but a poor job of winning the voters that he costs them. He was the most aggressive critic of Herman Cain during the last debate, and this one will probably be no different. One of Santorum’s main problems is that if he causes Cain’s supporters to second-guess their choice, it is unlikely that they’ll look at him when he’s polling in the low single-digits. They’ll look at whoever is next in line.

Jon Huntsman is making a big mistake by skipping the debate in order to side with New Hampshire in its struggle with Nevada over the primary calendar. He is giving more air time to the second tier that he’s trying to break into, furthering his irrelevancy. He was impressively growing his support in New Hampshire, reaching 10 percent for third place at one point, but with Cain’s surge, he has fallen to fourth and is tied with Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann. In addition, his campaign is nearly $1 million in debt.

Tonight is when the rubber meets the road for Herman Cain. If he emerges victorious, it will be a two-man race at least until November 9, and the longer it remains so, the more likely it is to last.