Jamie Dupree – WSB Radio

Iowa GOP Debate

While there were no knockdowns or gaffes, Thursday night’s final GOP debate here in Iowa gave voters the green light on a final 18 day sprint to the finish line in the Hawkeye State, as Republicans zinged each other and fired on the Obama Administration.

The Fox News anchors who asked the questions did their level best to cause all kinds of trouble between candidates, but few took the bait.

“Anybody up here could probably beat Obama,” said Ron Paul to applause in the debate hall in Sioux City, in the northwest of the state.

“We need to have a leader in the White House who knows how to lead,” said Mitt Romney, who found himself explaining some of his past policy switches – some might label them “flip-flops.”

“With regards to abortion, I changed my mind,” Romney said, while downplaying how his views changed on certain issues.

Even though Romney has kept up a drumbeat of criticism of Newt Gingrich, both men seemed to go out of their way not to attack the other in the debate, as Gingrich continued to try to be ‘relentlessly positive’ in his presentation to Iowa voters.

“Our only opponent is Barack Obama,” Gingrich told the debate crowd.

Maybe the person who swung the hardest against Gingrich on Thursday night was Michele Bachmann, who is hoping for a comeback in the Hawkeye State, where she won the Iowa Straw poll back in August, but saw her poll numbers collapse after that.

At the risk of aggravating our readers, let’s do a quick thumbnail of each candidate:

  • Newt Gingrich took some flak especially on his work for Freddie Mac, but seemed to emerge unscathed
  • Mitt Romney had a solid debate, but as usual, he wasn’t challenged too hard
  • Ron Paul had some good lines but got some GOP groans again on foreign policy issues
  • Rick Perry may have spoken the least of any candidate – but maybe that’s good for him
  • Michele Bachmann tried her best to jab at Gingrich
  • Jon Huntsman made no waves; his goal is to do well in New Hampshire
  • Rick Santorum tried to score some points; his test will be the Iowa results

    Was there one line above all others? Well, if you were looking for a sports metaphor, it came from Rick Perry, who referenced the biggest name right now in the NFL.

    “Am I ready for the next level?” Perry asked rhetorically.

    “I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa Caucuses,” Perry said.

    The other day there was some polling data out about Tebow and Iowa Republicans, as Public Policy Polling found that of those who approved of Tebow, 25% were for Gingrich, 25% were for Paul and 13% for Romney.

    Only 8% of Tebow backers were for Rick Perry.

    But maybe Perry can convince Iowa voters that “all he does is win.”

    We’ll know on January 3.