Tonight's third GOP debate between Republican presidential challengers is expected to draw nearly 10,000 Iowans and the attention of the nation as the primary race unofficially begins. The debate will be televised at 9 p.m. EST., on the FOX News Channel.
The debate comes just 48 hours prior to the Ames Straw Poll, which measures support among Iowans for the Republican candidates.
Notably absent from the debate tonight and Saturday's poll is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who analysts predict will upset the balance of the 2012 primary race.
Perry, who has garnered a second place spot across numerous national polls, is expected to announce his presidential ambitions Saturday at the RedState Gathering in South Carolina, followed by an appearance in New Hampshire.
The debate, hosted at Iowa State University in Ames, is sponsored by FOX News, The Washington Examiner and the Iowa Republican Party.
Join us tonight as we live blog the Iowa GOP Debate right here on U.S. Conservatives at About.com.
--Brandon De Hoyos, Guide to IM