In debate after debate among the Republican contenders for president, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continue to garner the most attention -- which is not surprising considering Perry's position atop the polls, followed by Romney.
Their prominence in the GOP field was on display again in Thursday night's debate. It's not that none of the other Republican hopefuls -- including Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum -- had nothing of value to say. In fact, Cain, Santorum and some of the others got strong applause for their conservative stands on a variety of issues.
But barring a late entry by another candidate, it appears more and more that Perry and Romney will be the candidates to beat, and that ultimately one of them will be the challenger to Democrat President Barack Obama in 2012.
Perry appears to be generally the more conservative of the two leading contenders, and that is refreshing in a time when our nation is suffering in part because of Obama's liberal policies. But Romney came across as more polished and self-assured, which can be important in the general election.
It is no surprise that the two exchanged repeated barbs on everything from health care to Social Security in the attempt to remain, or become, the leader in the opinion polls.
Still, we have not yet spotted a candidate who combines soundly conservative principles with undeniably broad appeal to a range of voters, though one of the hopefuls may yet "find his voice" and prove to have what it takes to defeat Obama next year.