Fred Thompson joined the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls for the first time Tuesday afternoon, debating business and economic issues on a stage in Dearborn, Mich.
A lot of the buildup to the debate centered on Thompson needing to make his mark among the candidates. The TV actor and former Tennessee senator fielded the first question of the night, about the U.S. economy slipping into recession.
He got a lot of attention because he was new, but nothing really made him stand out, NPR's Don Gonyea tells Robert Siegel.
Thompson was clearly one of the contenders, though, showing he is knowledgeable about the issues.
GOP frontrunners Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney heated up the debate, clashing on a question about taxes.
There was also a lot of competition from candidates who are down in the polls a bit, especially Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Paul has been raising a lot of money and getting a lot of attention, even though he's not showing up in the polls. On Tuesday, he distinguished himself by saying he won't promise that he'll endorse the eventual nominee.
A Democratic candidate also had a presence at the debate: The frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Clinton, came up repeatedly. The GOP candidates seem to expect to be running against her, and they're already going after her.
The debate was hosted by CNBC, MSNBC and The Wall Street Journal.