WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- The 2012 Republican presidential primary's first debate will go on Thursday, regardless of who shows up, organizers of the South Carolina event said.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the highest-profile candidate to confirm his participation in the Greenville, S.C, debate, which will also include former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Other names that don't garner national recognition include restaurant executive Herman Cain and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
"Top tier" Republicans who are considered likely to enter the race at some point include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Ambassador Jon Huntsman, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Times said.
"Our job is not to marshal the field but to ask the tough questions of those who do get in the race," said Michael Clemente, senior vice president of news for Fox News Channel, which is sponsoring the debate.
"This is the first of our five debates, and I'm sure we'll be able to kick-start the conversation about who will be the next president of the United States."