Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Blog

Tonight in Sioux City Iowa, Six Republican candidates will gather for the final debate before the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd. The debate is sponsored by the Iowa Republican Party in partnership with Fox News and will air at 9pm EST. The stakes are very high for each of the candidates, as this debate will be their last appearance before a national audience before the all-important Iowa Caucuses kick off the nomination battle. Here are several stories to watch for in tonight’s debate:

  • Gingrich v. Romney is the latest two-man contest in a race that has seen several. Gingrich now leads in most national polls, which has prompted a more aggressive Romney offensive. Romney’s attacks on Gingrich have been largely centered on portraying the former speaker as a “zany” academic, better suited for a think tank or classroom than the presidency. Romney’s mention of Gingrich’s “moon minerals” plan in the last debate was not because he couldn’t come up with anything else to criticize, but was rather a calculated attempt to make Gingrich seem nutty. In tonight’s debate it will be interesting to see if Romney continues this exceptionally personal line of attack. With the stakes so high and time running out, Romney might not be so subtle this time around in his attempt to portray Newt as nuts.
  • Iowa still has the potential to be won by one of race’s current underdogs. Thus, a strong showing tonight from either Bachmann or Santorum could skyrocket them to a strong showing in the January 3rd caucuses. Bachmann especially has been known for strong debate performances centered on quotable applause lines. The congresswoman tonight in Iowa will try to portray Gingrich and Romney as one and the same, offering herself as a more acceptable choice for Iowa’s evangelicals. Rick Perry’s Iowa ad “Strong,” shows that the underdog candidates view social conservative issues as their best chance at unseating the frontrunners among evangelical Iowans. Thus, attacks on Gingrich and Romney from Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry will come from the social issues front.
  • Rick Perry so far has been the only candidate able to get Mitt Romney off-message. Romney’s only two debate gaffes have been prompted by Perry, including the now infamous $10,000 bet. Rick Perry is almost certain to try to get under Romney’s skin again in tonight’s debate. It remains to be seen whether the other candidates have clued in to the fact that it is in fact possible to draw a gaffe out of Romney. If so, perhaps they will try to engage in their own Perry-esque exchanges with Governor Romney.

Before you tune into tonight’s debate, be sure to browse AAI’s new candidate profiles. These pages detail each candidate’s positions, statements, and who they take advice from on various policy matters. After all, as the Iowa caucuses draw nearer, the stakes are high for voters as well. 

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