When eight Republicans face off in the first Iowa debate Thursday night, almost all of them will be feeling pressure to get noticed — and get tougher.

Each of the candidates will have a slightly different objective in the Iowa debate. For some – including Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum – the most immediate goal will be firing up their core supporters for the Saturday straw poll. Bachmann has the additional burden of meeting high expectations set by her strong performance in New Hampshire.

Two other candidates who are not competing in the Ames ballot – Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich – will be seeking to prove they’re relevant to the race, despite languishing in the single digits in national and early-state polling.

Romney, meanwhile, will likely attempt to keep his focus on President Barack Obama and hammer away at the economic message that has made him the early favorite.

Continue reading →