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Chuck Norris has picked Newt Gingrich as his favorite candidate for president, and so have Republicans in South Carolina. Now once-frontrunner Mitt Romney is hoping that he can reverse his decline with help from voters in Florida in a little over a week.

In advance of that, he will be on stage tonight again in a debate with Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

Tonight’s event is at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC’s “Rock Center.” It will be moderated by NBC’s Brian Williams. There also will be questions from National Journal’s Beth Reinhard and Tampa Bay Times’ political reporter Adam Smith.

The stakes are high for the candidates, and msnbc.com correspondents note that for Romney, who almost tied Santorum in Iowa and then won the New Hampshire primary, it’s a crucial night.

“Either he rises to the occasion (by providing sharper answers, by disqualifying Gingrich, and by proving to GOP voters the confidence he can be their guy in November), or he struggles again, giving Gingrich a path to overtake him in Florida.”

The commentary said that for Gingrich it will be important to pull off another “strong performance.”

“If we learned anything from South Carolina, it’s that the debates have mattered, and tonight’s debate likely won’t be any different,” the commentary said.

Gingrich’s popularity has surged in the past week, and over the weekend he won the South Carolina primary handily, even though polling just the day before had  Romney in the lead.

The rise followed immediately on the heels of an endorsement from WND columnist Chuck Norris, who wrote on Friday that he believes Gingrich is the best candidate to put America back on track.

In 2008, it was Mike Huckabee who got a huge bounce in support after the martial-arts champion, action-star legend and hero to KickStart program kids across the nation endorsed him.

Shortly after the Norris endorsement, Gingrich tweeted: “Honored to have Chuck Norris’ endorsement. He will make an excellent Secretary of Attack.’”

Romney is expected to come out swinging against Gingrich in the debate, although some of the questions about him arise from his own performance in recent debates, his long resistance to releasing tax records and other issues.

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