Tonight holds the first of two potentially very consequential Republican presidential debates in Iowa this week. The second will be held on Thursday evening, and I'll be onhand in Sioux City to cover it. Both events are being billed as slugfests between frontrunner Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, who sit atop most national and early state polls. Team Romney has signaled a willingness to draw sharp contrasts with Gingrich in recent days, and hasn't been bashful about offering unflattering assessments of the former Speaker's record. Newt hasn't taken the bait so far -- we'll see if his resolve holds up under fire. The incoming political bullets aren't just flying from the Romney camp; the Wall Street Journal editorial board has skewered Newt's entitlement reform timidity, and Tea Party hero Sen. Rand Paul has questioned his bona fides. Will Romney take off the gloves tonight? If so, will he open himself up to charges of hypocrisy, or antagonize voters? Gingrich has rocketed to the top of the pack during a debate lull. Does he have the discipline to fend off a heretofore unprecedented level of sniping with grace and focus? The nomination fight could coil down to a battle of temperaments. Might a third candidate turn in a commanding performance and re-enter the Iowa or national conversation? Could Ron Paul actually win Iowa? Let's watch together tonight at 9 pm ET on ABC. Follow the Townhall/Hot Air editorial team's live coverage in the Twitter widget below, and add your blow-by-blow reactions in the comments section:
Debate host ABC News asked Iowan voters what they want to hear from candidates tonight. Here's a taste of their responses:
Stay tuned after the debate for Dan's wrap-up post on winners and losers. Game on!
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography