Mara Liasson

Texas Gov. Rick Perry rocketed to the top of the field after he jumped in the race for the GOP nomination for president last month.

His early rise in the polls was based on what Republican voters thought they knew about him. But the debates gave Republicans a chance to see Perry in action — and the normally aggressive Texas governor has been forced into the uncomfortable position of defense.

The Republican presidential candidates debate again Thursday night — this time in Orlando, Fla.

Mitt Romney, who comes to Florida as the former front-runner, is eager to find a way to knock the newest candidate in the race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, off his perch as the new GOP leader.

There's been a sea change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It's almost as if the cerebral, detached president went into a phone booth and came out a fighting Democrat.

In the Rose Garden on Monday, as President Obama laid out his vision for how the congressional supercommittee could find trillions in savings, he was no longer above the fray. He was right in the fray. And he made it clear he has given up on his so far fruitless search for common ground with the Republicans.

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