(CNN) - Nevada is the next major stop along the road to the White House.
The Republican presidential candidates will face off Tuesday in Las Vegas at the Western Republican Presidential Debate, put on by CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference.
Silver State Republicans may play a crucial role in choosing the next GOP presidential nominee, thanks to their spot in the primary and caucus calendar. Nevada's currently scheduled January 14 caucus will come early in the voting season, after Iowa and New Hampshire, and before South Carolina and Florida.
The debate, at the Venetian Resort along the Strip in Las Vegas, kicks off a four day conference of Republican leaders from 13 western states and three territories.
"This year, Westerners will have an exciting opportunity to host the first Republican Presidential debate in the Western United States, providing us with a distinct and active voice in our 2012 Presidential Election," says Jon Porter, chairman of the Western Republican Leadership Conference.
Porter, a former three term congressman from Nevada, says the conference "is designed to educate, mobilize, and empower Republicans from our region. Additionally, the WRLC will serve to spotlight the specific issues facing the west and underscore the importance of our Nevada caucus in determining our next Republican Presidential nominee."
In 2008, Nevada joined Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as one of the states to kick off the long road to the White House. Democrats focused on the state, with CNN holding a presidential debate in Las Vegas in November 2007, and the major candidates, such as then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards all campaigned in the state
But while the Democrat's caucus was binding, the GOP contest was not, and became an afterthought. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ended up winning the contest, thanks in part to backing by the many Mormons who live in Nevada who decided to support their fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Last year Republican state party leaders changed the rules to make the 2012 caucus results binding, meaning that delegates attending the Republican National Convention in Florida next summer must stick with the candidate choices determined by the caucus results.
"Three years ago, the Republicans didn't do anything until too late, eventually piggybacking on the Democrats' early caucus. Last year, they copied what the Democrats did in making the caucus binding, which many realized, because of the early date, will force candidates to come here," says Jon Ralston, who's considered by many to be the dean of Nevada political reporters.
Ralston says that this time around Romney, who's making his second bid for the nomination, appears to be the favorite in Nevada, but that businessman, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas could be factors. So could Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was endorsed last month by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Nevada was smack in the middle of the political spotlight in 2010 midterm elections, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's difficult but ultimately successful re-election bid. Thanks to next week's debate, the state's position in the primary and caucus calendar, and the new binding status of the caucus, Nevada should be firmly in the political spotlight in the battle for the GOP nomination.
– Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PSteinhauserCNN.
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If the repubilicans have any sense they would get behind Ron Paul but that sounds too right so it won't happen and the countdy is going to pay dearly for it.
I understand that the spectator admission rate is one chicken, and for a few bucks more, you can get a copy of Sharon Angle's plan to ban Sharia Law.
these debates beat any reality show hands down! between Caine's 9 9 9 and Perry's low-blood sugar performance, this stuff is priceless!
A new candidate from Nevada, late of Malibu, California, has decided to throw his hat in the race for the GOP/Tea Party Presidential Nomination. Appointing Sharon Angle as his campaign manager and Michelle Bachmann as his running mate (he thinks she will do fine because no one understands anything she says), Arnold Ziffel grunts that he will take on any comers. He squeeled that the Tea Party is a cult, Ron Paul is permanently deranged, and that Herman Cain previously starred in the role of Herman Munster on the TV series. Oinking on the stump, Ziffel claimed that Texas Governor Parry had inhaled way too much smoke from the wildfires there abouts and is hopelessly Brain damaged. Ziffel regailed his crowds that former senator Santorum belonged in a Sanitarium for the feeble-minded. Ziffel promises Bacon in every Fridge, sausage in every bun, and a tax on Arugula for the tree hugging Vegans as his direction to balance the budget.
Obama, Bush, Perry, Romney and Cain are all more of the same to varying degrees. It's time for someone new. It's time for Ron Paul!!!
No flavors of the week or month! Its OBAMA/BIDEN 2012!!!!!!!!