The last debate before Iowa and the race heatens up

Tonight is the 16th, and final, television debate with the Republican presidential candidates before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

Thank god, I often hear from friends, but the fact is that the debates have been popular with the American public, with an average of almost six million viewers. The debates have also saved money for the candidates, who have spent considerably less on political television ads – only three million U.S. dollars so far in Iowa compared to 27 million four years ago, and only 1.3 million dollars in New Hampshire against 17 million four years ago. For TV stations in the two states, however, this must be sad news…

I think this is a healthy trend for American political campaigns. I’d rather have the debates than the television ads with their dubious messages and outright lies. And anything to take the money out of politics…right!

Lately, the republican race has heated up and it’s downright exciting. Although many of the polls should be taken with a grain of salt, and national polls at this juncture are pretty meaningless, Gingrich now seems firmly in the lead in Iowa, while Mitt Romney maintains his lead in New Hampshire. Gingrich’s new popularity seems to have more legs than the previous upstarts — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. This is deeply worrisome to many conservative columnists. The editors of the conservative flagship National Review warned today of what a Gingrich victory could do to, as they see it, the Republicans’ excellent chances to beat Obama next year:

“We fear that to nominate former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the frontrunner in the polls, would be to blow this opportunity.”

It’s a battle between between “ideology and electability” as the polls suggest — Obama would defeat Gingrich by 51 to 40, while the race against Romney would be much tighter, 47 to 45.

Still, could it be the case that none of the present seven candidates in the end will be the Republican candidate? Could someone else, in the end, capture the nomination? It is not inconceivable, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the web site of the respected political analyst, University of Virginia professor, Larry Sabato. I don’t think so, but it’s interesting reading!

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