Mitt Romney
President Obama's campaign team is going after Mitt Romney. Reuters

The budding rivalry of Republican presidential contenders Rick Perry and Mitt Romney takes the spotlight on Monday when the party's White House hopefuls meet in Florida for their second debate in less than a week.

The debate, co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express, will include questions from members of the conservative Tea Party movement that has reshaped the U.S. political scene with its focus on limited government and reduced spending.

It will focus heavily on the economy and is likely to feature more fireworks between Perry and Romney, who had several sharp exchanges last week over the future of the Social Security retirement plan and job creation.

Perry has zoomed past Romney, the former front-runner, in opinion polls in the last month after entering the race for the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

The debate, which begins at 8 p.m. EDT/midnight GMT and will be telecast on CNN, will be held in Tampa, Florida, the site of the party's nominating convention in less than a year.

Perry, the governor of Texas, called Social Security a Ponzi scheme and a monstrous lie during last week's debate. That drew a rebuke from Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, who said he supported the popular retirement program but wanted to fix it.

Perry's comments this time around will be watched closely in Florida, which has the country's biggest proportion of elderly voters and hosts a potentially vital nominating contest next year.

It's going to be a good test of Perry's ability and his staying power. He's going to be on the spot again, said Steve Roberts, a former state party chairman and Republican National Committee member from Iowa.

Among the other candidates vying for attention on the crowded Florida stage will be U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, who has seen her campaign begin to fade since winning an early test of strength at the Iowa straw poll last month.

Perry has robbed Bachmann of much of her support from social and religious conservatives, which is crucial in states with early nominating contests like Iowa and South Carolina.

Other candidates participating will be Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, U.S. Representative Ron Paul and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

The debate will be the fifth so far of the Republican presidential campaign. It will be followed closely next week by another debate in Orlando, Florida, as the White House race heats up.