Thursday, August 11, 2011

Republicans square off in Iowa debate tonight

Here's the advance from Chris Cillizza. Jon Huntsman will be the new face in the first GOP face-off since June. No Rick Perry in Ames -- despite his attempt to upstage the event -- and no Palin.

The star of the show is likely to be Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who's been riding a wave of momentum since her strong performance in the June debate in New Hampshire. Polling shows Bachmann running strong in Iowa and she is the favorite to win Saturday's Ames Straw Poll.

Bachmann's rise over the past two months ensures she will be on the receiving end of barbs from her rivals as they seek to slow her progress. How she handles the slings and arrows will be a major storyline to watch.

The other person to keep an eye on is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney enters the debate as the frontrunner for the nomination. But he won't be competing in the straw poll over the weekend and is de-emphasizing the Iowa caucuses in his plans to win the nomination. Expect the other people on stage to mock Romney's on-again, off-again plans in the state.

The Iowa caucuses are still months away, but debates are rare moments when voters pay attention long enough to compare and contrast. Any winner in this one gets media and money.

Romney's "Corporations are people, too" gaffe is liable to hurt him. If not among the other oligarchs on the stage, then with conservatives and independents who aren't so inclined to feel empathy for the INCs and the LLCs and the PCs and so on. Surely there are some of those somewhere ...

The debate will be showing everywhere you care (or don't) to watch on your teevee -- or online -- this evening.

Update: More from The Ticket ...

Tomorrow, Sarah Palin, who is flirting with her own White House bid, will revive her bus tour in Iowa, visiting the state fair in Des Moines, and threatening to upstage other GOP hopefuls in the state. On Saturday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will officially declare his intentions to run for president in South Carolina--a speech that happens to be scheduled on the same day as the Ames straw poll.

A week from now, we will likely know more about the make-up of the so-far volatile GOP field. Can Rommey hold on to his position as frontrunner? Is Perry the savior many GOP voters are looking for? Can Pawlenty gain enough momentum to save his lackluster campaign? Will Ron Paul be taken seriously? And can Huntsman and Newt Gingrich—two candidates whose campaigns have fallen short of expectations—survive? Is Palin even running?

Here's a quick look at what's at stake for some of the leading GOP contenders ...

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