Open thread: Are you ready for the Huckabee presidential forum? Update: Gingrich leads new Iowa poll, Paul second

8 p.m. ET on Fox News, two full hours with Huck and the gang sans Huntsman and, of course, Cain. Rick Perry will attend despite his initial hesitation. No doubt he’d prefer to skip it given Huckabee’s issues with him, but he can’t afford to pass on a platform this prominent. Especially with social conservatives a core part of tonight’s viewership.

Speaking of debate attendance, second look at Ron Paul?

In a campaign statement released Saturday, Paul’s campaign called the [Trump] debate a distraction from the real issues of the campaign.

“The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity,” Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s national campaign chairman, said in a statement.

He added, “Mr. Trump’s participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like. To be sure, Mr. Trump’s participation will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.”…

“Mr. Trump’s selection is also wildly inappropriate because of his record of toying with the serious decision of whether to compete for our nation’s highest office, a decision he appeared to make frivolously,” Benton said.

Gingrich will be there with bells on, allegedly for “entertainment value.” Is that also why he’s meeting with Trump next week?

Here’s your thread in lieu of a “Quotes of the Day” post. While we wait, watch the preview from yesterday’s interview with Jenna Lee. Huck’s vowing that the candidates won’t be allowed to attack each other, but good luck making Gingrich and an increasingly desperate Romney play completely nice with each other. (The White House, needless to say, is rooting for maximum casualties.) Oh, and keep your eye on this page at the Des Moines Register, as their new Iowa poll — the gold standard for the state — is expected to roll out sometime tonight. The numbers will be chaotic this week because of Cain’s in-or-out ambivalence when the poll was conducted, but if Gingrich is up big, the panic in Team Mitt this coming week will be palpable. I hope for his sake that the vaunted Romney organization is as good as they say.

Update: PPP will have its own Iowa poll coming out tomorrow. And it sounds like a doozy:

Initial impressions from Iowa: Newt winning, but by single digits. Expected bigger margin. Paul/Romney duking it out for 2nd

Other thing that grabs my attention in IA is Perry appears to be in double digits, much better than he’s been doing elsewhere

Update: As the clock strikes 8 p.m. on the east coast, the Register’s new poll is out.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul has risen into second place, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has slid to third with just over a month before the Iowa caucuses kick off voting in the presidential nominating process.

Gingrich has support from 25 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers, Paul is at 18 percent and Romney at 16 percent.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann ties with retired Georgia business executive Herman Cain at 8 percent. The poll was conducted before Cain suspended his candidacy on Saturday. Rounding out the field: Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 6 percent each, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 2 percent.

If it’s true that most of Cain’s support will break for Gingrich then Newt’s probably pushing 30 percent in reality. In fact, the Register says he’s the second choice for 43 percent of caucusgoers so he has room to grow. As for Rick Perry: Oof.