GOP Debate: Weak Economy Takes Center Stage Tonight
However, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been a resurgent face, now registering in double-digits across all of the major national polls.
Perry's position has been the most volatile.
He declared his candidacy on Aug. 13, and vaulted to the status of immediate front-runner, but has seen his fortunes slip during Cain's emergence. Romney's primary weakness has been debates just such as these, where he has had difficulty displaying the vision and charm he uses to sway crowds along the campaign trail.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, in turn, saw her early possibilities of becoming a Tea Party darling evaporate after Perry entered the race. She has struggled in the low-single-digits since.
Texas Rep. Ron Paulcarries a heavy populist base in his quest to end the Federal Reserve , as well as a pack of Cabinet-level departments.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, have struggled to gain any footing at all, despite their seeming appeal to social conservatives.
Oakland University nursing major Louie Alkasmikha is attending the debate with hopes of discerning which candidate can make the most cogent case.
"It's not as much political as it is philosophical, just to see if they are correct in what they are saying or if they're lying," he says.
Matthew Kamulski, a post-baccalaureate student in the medical lab field, could be the kind of voter the candidates most need to court — not overtly political, but concerned about what the future holds.
"I'm interested in politics to some extent, but it's not the focus of my life," he says. "I listen to both sides and make a decision based on what I know, and what I understand."