The heated arguments didn't stop at an Iowa rally for Mitt Romney. He took part in a Republican candidate’s debate, days before the critical Iowa straw poll.

If you didn't know it, you might not believe it: Republicans in Iowa are about to vote for a president.

There's a straw poll Saturday, a traditional kick-off to the campaign. So for some of the candidates, tonight's debate meant survival. For everyone else, it was a chance to move up or down.

National front-runner Mitt Romney was hoping for a re-run of the first debate — when he attacked President Obama and no one attacked him.

“You understand that what President Obama has done is the exact opposite of what needs to be done,” Romney said.

But this time, some of Romney's challengers made a run at him.

“Obamacare was planned after Mitt’s plan in Massachusetts,” said former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “And for Mitt or anyone else to say there aren’t substantial similarities or there not essentially the same plan, it just isn’t credible. That’s why I called it ‘Obamneycare.’

Pawlenty got into another battle with Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann.

“Her record of results is nonexistent,” he said. In turn, Bachmann equated Pawlenty’s time in Minn. to legislative acts passed by an Obama-supporter.

The best line of the debate came from a frustrated former Speaker of the House, Republican Newt Gingrich.

“I’d love to see the rest of tonight’s debate asking us what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead instead of playing Mickey Mouse games,” Gingrich said.

All in all, this debate was a spirited combination of ideas and introductions.

If you were watching the patriots, then you'll just have to take my word for it that the debate winner was Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. Yes, she's flashy, but she's no flash in the pan. Ignore her at your peril.

The debate loser was Jon Huntsman. The former Utah governor's campaign has been nearly invisible. Tonight, he was too. Huntsman may be out of this race before anyone knows he's in it.

If you did watch the debate, please feel free to disagree. I know you will.

(Copyright (c) 2011 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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