The Republican debate in Iowa tonight is not likely to change the outcome on Saturday at the Ames straw poll. That contest depends on how well the candidates have constructed a network of supporters and how adept they are at routing those supporters to Ames. A GOP consultant this year decried this as akin to FedEx: Who can get the most “packages” there on time. But the debate is in large part for the Republican primary audience in the rest of the country and to some extent the general electorate as well.

I will be looking for at least 10 things:

1. Does Tim Pawlenty finally manage to land a punch on Mitt Romney, and how effectively can Romney deflect an attack?

2. Do we hear more than 20 minutes (all we got in New Hampshire) on national security and defense spending?

3. How do the candidates handle the question: “If you were in Congress, how would you have voted on the debt-ceiling deal?”

4. Does anyone begin to attack Rep Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)?

5. Do the candidates take any swipes at the not-yet candidate Gov. Rick Perry?

6. Which candidate if any manages to come up with specifics on debt reduction?

7. Is the most (over)used phrase “President Obama has failed to lead” or “the Obama economy”?

8. Does Bachmann begin to attack Romney from the right on health care, taxes, etc.?

9. On gay marriage, does any candidate offer anything other than support for “traditional marriage,” a defense of DOMA and support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage?

10. Do any candidates promise to restore unwise cuts in defense spending?

A final note: If the moderator is looking for a change-up pitch, it would be interesting to have candidates respond to this quote from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) saying Obama’s is the most “anti-American administration in my lifetime.” Hint: It’s a character question.

Right Turn will return after the debate for a recap and analysis.