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September 13th, 2011
05:23 PM ET

Tea Party debate heats up in Tampa

With Texas Gov. Rick Perry threatening to cement his standing atop the national polls, his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination aggressively sought to undermine his conservative credentials on Monday during the first-ever CNN/Tea Party debate in Florida.

Perry repeatedly found himself in the crosshairs, as the field of candidates took turns attacking his positions on illegal immigration, Social Security, and his controversial 2007 push to vaccinate Texas schoolgirls against human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose standing among Republicans has slipped dramatically since Perry entered the race, said she was "offended" by Perry's executive order, which included an opt-out provision for parents who did not want the vaccine.

The debate at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa gave the other candidates on the stage a chance to change what many are portraying as a two-person race between Perry and Romney.

CNN and the Tea Party Express, a leading national tea party organization, teamed up to put on the event.

CNN’s Shannon Travis interviewed some of the original members of the Tea Party for CNN Presents: “Boiling Point: Inside the Tea Party.”

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Filed under: Shannon Travis • Tea Party
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