Open thread: Republican debate in Ames

Tonight, the Republican candidates for the presidential nomination — most of them, anyway — square off for a televised debate in Ames, Iowa, from the Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University. I will be in the media “spin room,” along with our partner in blogging Tina Korbe and our Townhall brother Guy Benson. The debate starts at 9 pm ET/8 pm local time here in Iowa, and Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier will moderate the event. We’re looking forward to a lively debate, and I’d expect some elbow throwing and sharp barbs between the contenders, along with a few shots at the absent Rick Perry.

Since live blogging has become a little passé in the age of Twitter (is it possible to feel like an old blogger? Yes, we can!), our friends at Townhall came up with this widget that will track our tweets, along with our Townhall colleagues Katie Pavlich, Erika Johnsen, and the indispensable Allahpundit.  Be sure to follow along, and perhaps open this post in two tabs — one to follow the Twitter feeds, and one for comment posting.

Tina, Guy, and I will capture some of the spin in the room after the show, so be sure to stay right here at Hot Air after the debate ….

Update (AP): While we wait, here’s Larry Sabato’s debate preview. Note this passage well:

The tension between Pawlenty and Bachmann will be even more fun to watch. T-Paw is in a corner on this one. If he wouldn’t smack a man last time, can he now do it to a woman — one who Republicans think was already wronged this week by Newsweek’s unattractive cover photo?

Pawlenty’s the only one onstage who can potentially make or break his campaign tonight. Huntsman needs to do well to make a good impression with Republicans who are seeing him for the first time, but Huntsman’s not competing in Ames or in Iowa more broadly. He can afford a mediocre performance. T-Paw can’t, and if he whiffs again when pressed to criticize his opponents to their faces, he’ll be a punchline before the night is out. I sure hope he’s ready if one of the moderators asks who he has in mind in his stump speech when he dumps on nameless “bobbleheads” among his competitors. It’s painfully clear that he means Bachmann, but who knows whether he has the stones to denigrate her when she’s standing right next to him. And if he does, he’d better hit Romney hard too or else he’ll get hammered tomorrow for precisely the reason Sabato gives. Long story short: Pawlenty needs to be throwing chairs tonight. He needs to walk in there in a cape, to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” and be the Macho Man he keeps claiming he is. You’re an old hockey player, Tim, right? Drop the gloves.