On Monday at 3 p.m., the top six Republican presidential contenders will answer questions at the Palmetto Freedom Forum in South Carolina.
The forum will be different than a debate. Instead of the candidates appearing on stage together, each candidate will appear one at a time and answer questions for 20 minutes each.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Godfather's CEO and Fed Chair Herman Cain, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will all be in attendance.
The event is also unique in who will be asking the questions. In most debates, questions are asked by the media, or, in Town Hall style debates, by voters. Even in the Town Hall debates, though, the media still selects which questions get asked.
The Palmetto Freedom Forum, on the other hand, is organized by conservatives and will feature prominent conservatives on the panel asking the questions.
With no one from the media on the panel, Gingrich is unlikely to accuse them of asking “gotcha questions,” as he did in the previous debate. Rather, the panelists try to get the candidates to focus more on how their record, positions and experience will advance conservative causes, if they were elected president.
The panelists are South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa), and Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.
While DeMint and King are well-known as sitting members of Congress, George will be the intellectual heavyweight of the group and will likely ask the toughest questions.
George has been an important figure among social conservatives by laying the legal framework for opposition to abortion and gay marriage. His books include The Clash of Orthodoxies (2001) and Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (2008). George is also founder of American Principles Project, which hosts the Palmetto Freedom Forum.
DeMint appeared on ABC's “This Week” and CNN's “State of the Union” to talk about the event. On “State of the Union,” he was asked about the declining support of independent voters for the Tea Party.
“There is no 'the Tea Party,'” DeMint said. “Obama, a lot of the Democrats, folks in the media have tried to speak of the Tea Party in derogatory terms and suggest it's a small right-wing group, but over 70 percent of Americans think we need to balance our budget and stop adding to the debt. That's pretty much what 'the Tea Party' is.
“It's thousands of small groups around the country who are concerned about the spending, the borrowing and the debt, and for every person who goes to a Tea Party rally, there are hundreds of people who share those concerns.”
DeMint was also asked if there were any Republican candidates he could not support. “There is no one in that group who I couldn't support as our nominee and there's no one who could not do a better job than our current president,” DeMint replied.
The Palmetto Freedom Forum can be seen Monday, 3 p.m. EST, on CNN or online at Townhall.com. There will also be an analysis by the panelists following the event that can be watched live at Townhall.com.