Republicans to debate in Iowa ahead of straw poll

AMES, Iowa Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:21pm EDT

1 of 3. U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to reporters in Pella, Iowa, August 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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AMES, Iowa (Reuters) - Eight Republican White House hopefuls meet in a nationally televised debate Thursday, hoping to generate momentum two days before an Iowa straw poll that will test the strength of their campaigns.

The first Republican debate in nearly two months will give struggling contenders like Tim Pawlenty an opportunity to make an impression on Iowa voters before they deliver their verdict in Saturday's non-binding straw poll.

It also gives the rest of the pack a chance to directly confront front-runner Mitt Romney, who was not challenged at the last debate and has largely ignored his rivals to focus his campaign-trail attacks on President Barack Obama.

With less than six months remaining before Iowa holds the first presidential nominating contest in 2012, time is running short for candidates to begin making up ground.

"Given the placement in Iowa just ahead of the straw poll, you will see a lot of attention on this debate," said Donna Hoffman, a political scientist at the University of Northern Iowa.

"I think the campaigns are going to make a calculus that it is time to take on Romney," she said. "There will be a lot of people trying to get noticed and a lot of positioning on social issues."

The debate will be held at Iowa State University, site of Saturday's straw poll, an unofficial mock election that serves as an early gauge of the popularity and organizational muscle of Republican candidates in Iowa.

Looming over the debate is the likely candidacy of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is expected to make his intent to enter the race clear Saturday during an appearance in South Carolina that coincides with the straw poll.

Perry also will travel to the early-voting state of New Hampshire Saturday and visit Iowa Sunday in a blitz that will steal attention from the straw poll winner and signal his intention to run an aggressive and broad campaign.


Perry, a staunch social and religious conservative, stresses his strong job creation record in Texas. That could help him compete with Romney for the party's pro-business wing and make him a formidable challenger to Obama.

Romney got into a debating mood during a morning visit to the Iowa state fair in Des Moines, where he had a heated exchange with a group of hecklers who pressed him on whether the wealthy should pay more into the Social Security retirement system.

They shouted and chanted "Wall Street greed" as he tried to answer. "If you don't like my answer, you can vote for someone else," Romney said. "I'm not going to raise taxes, that's my answer. If you want someone who will raise taxes, vote for Barack Obama."

Romney said Social Security and the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly and poor would have to be part of a long-term solution to the budget deficit.

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee who has not ruled out a presidential run, was expected to visit the state fair Friday along with a swarm of other contenders.

The debate, which begins at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT on Friday), also will feature plenty of other story lines in a field of potential challengers to Obama that has not impressed some Republicans.

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann will try to repeat her successful performance in New Hampshire's June debate and continue her strong showing in Iowa, where she leads polls.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, whose campaign has stalled after a much anticipated debut in June, will be making his first debate appearance on the national stage.

Huntsman is not participating in the straw poll or competing in Iowa, focusing instead on New Hampshire and Florida. Romney also is not participating in the straw poll but says he will compete in the state's caucuses next year.

Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who has lagged in single digits in polls in Iowa and nationally, faces a possible make-or-break test in the straw poll and the debate could be his last chance for a direct appeal to Iowa voters.

"He has to gin up some enthusiasm, and he just hasn't done it yet," Hoffman said.

Also participating in the debate will be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, former Senator Rick Santorum and U.S. Representative Ron Paul.

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Comments (9)
NewsDebbie wrote:
It’s boring. It’s about cash not issues. For me in 2012 it will be voting for the least of 3 evils. TEA who hates America, GOP who tanks America, or Dems who spend America. None are good, all are bad, so I will vote for the least of the 3 evils.

Aug 11, 2011 12:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sic_Sac wrote:
Can’t wait for the debates, Ron Paul will kill it like he always does, and nobody will notice like they never do. What channel will it be on?

Aug 11, 2011 1:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Successful political movements often outlive their purpose. What remains is a large, wealthy and powerful organization without any true purpose. The folks who derive wealth and status from this organization refuse to let it die. They search for new purpose often veering into the abyss of political absurdity.
Such was the fate of many liberal organizations in the 1970s causing the fracture of the Democrats.
Americans eventually figured that out. Finally.
Enter Ronald Reagan, the voice of reason. He led us back from the political cliff with a needed dose of conservatism, which was at the time, common sense.
Today the conservative right has begun to suffer this same fate. The Tea Party is only the beginning of the fracture of the GOP. Do we really need to cut the rich man’s taxes (again) to create the jobs we need? Will laying off millions of federal workers fix the unemployment problems we face? Does Wall Street really need deregulation? It’s called political absurdity and it’s abundant.
The political right isn’t about Conservatism anymore. The mantra of the right has become “Individualism.” (see “Ayn Rand”) Individualism basically says that rich people are the only ones who deserve any wealth at all. Everyone else is a leech deserving nothing. Rich people deserve all the wealth, all the power, everything.
Listen to an alcoholic insist that his drinking problem only hurts himself. See the pain in the faces of his loved ones. Nobody believes his words but him. That’s what he tells himself so he can keep getting drunk and still sleep at night. Individualism is the sleeping pill the ultra-wealthy are taking to rid off any conscience they may otherwise feel while they pocket pretty much everything. Listen to the GOP. You’ll hear plenty of it.
Americans are eventually starting to realize this. Finally!
I remember a comic saying (paraphrased): “young men thinking about getting married, save yourself some agony. Just find a woman you absolutely hate, give her everything you own and move to another state and start all over again, cause that’s how it plays out in the end. Every time.”
To those of you who actually believe in Individualism: save us all some agony. Find a billionaire you absolutely hate and give them everything you own. Then move to another 3rd world country and start all over again, because that’s how it plays out in the end.
Every time.
The upcoming elections are not so much about WHO we need as it is about WHAT we need: common sense!

Aug 11, 2011 1:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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