This evening it will be a battle royale live on Fox News from Iowa State University leading up to the Ames Straw Poll this Saturday. Tonight’s debate is sponsored by Fox News, The Republican Party of Iowa and The Washington Examiner.


Time: 9pm EST / 8pm CST on the Fox News Channel

Participants: Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich

Report from Fox News:

DES MOINES, Iowa – Seven Republican presidential contenders will try to use Thursday’s debate, sponsored by Fox News and the Washington Examiner, in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa to cast themselves as the strongest alternative to one rival: front-runner Mitt Romney.

A Fox News Poll released Wednesday showed that the former Massachusetts Gov. remains Republican primary voters’ preferred candidate.

But all risk being overshadowed by one Republican who won’t be on the stage — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has signaled he’s likely to join the field in the coming days and will visit the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina this weekend.

Coming off a national day of prayer for America forum last weekend, Perry is acceptable to most socially conservative Republicans worried about family issues such as abortion and birth control.

At least two declared candidates — Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both of Minnesota — are hoping for a last-minute boost before an important weekend test vote that could make or break their campaigns.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is looking to make a strong impression in his first debate, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul is out to prove his libertarian ideas are more mainstream than fringe.

Others struggling to gain traction — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and businessman Herman Cain — are simply seeking to promote their issues and maybe even boost their profiles.

“This is the official opening of the season,” said Republican strategist Terry Holt. “It’s the debut and you better have your best stuff ready. That raises the stakes.”

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who lost the Republican nomination in 2008, is hoping for a repeat of a June debate in New Hampshire, where he emerged largely unscathed. He enjoys a commanding lead in fundraising and strong poll numbers and wants to protect both by sticking to his message.

More analysis from The Des Moines Register and The Washington Examiner.

We will have the entire debate video posted back here once it completes in case you missed it along with debate analysis.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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