Previewing tonight’s GOP debate in Iowa

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Larry Sabato: “Tonight marks the third televised debate of the 2012 campaign for the Republican contenders, and by far the most important one yet. It’s not that the audience in Iowa or on TV will be enormous in the midst of August vacations and summer doldrums. Rather, the stakes for a debate just a couple of days from the start of the influential Ames, Iowa straw poll are high. Impressive performances by some of the candidates and gaffes by others could affect the Ames outcome. A devastating one-liner might reverberate all through the primary and caucus season.”

“The sub-plots are obvious to all. Mitt Romney’s target isn’t on stage: Romney will nourish his shaky frontrunner image by targeting President Obama and humming ‘Kumbaya’ to his fellow Republicans. His fellow aspirants are unlikely to be as kind. Maybe Tim Pawlenty, now engaged in a rear-guard battle with fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann, will deliver the punch to Romney he withheld in a June debate — an embarrassing moment of hesitation that has cost Pawlenty dearly.”

“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?”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.