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Poll favourite Newt Gingrich with Texas congressman Ron Paul at t he debate. Chris Carlson/AP/Press Association Images
Final Countdown

Watch: Presidential hopefuls face-off in final debate before Iowa vote

Poll frontrunners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney saw their conservative credentials questioned in a fairly low-key affair unlike previous debates.

THE CANDIDATES VYING for the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidential election took to the stage for their final debate last night before the crucial Iowa caucus in the New Year.

It was a relatively low-key debate in Sioux City as the candidates made their final argument before the key early test of voter sentiment in the mostly rural state of Iowa.

In previous debates candidates have got teary-eyed, forgotten policies and made outrageous bets but this time around fontrunner and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came under scrutiny from other candidates who questioned his track record and his ability to defeat President Barack Obama in the general election.

Gingrich has recently emerged as the favourite in the polls to scoop the nomination ahead of longtime frontrunner Mitt Romney, who failed in his bid to win the nomination in 2008.

Other candidates, including Texas congressman Ron Paul, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum  are hoping a strong performance in Iowa could be a springboard to capturing the nomination.

The five lower tier candidates spent much of the debate focussing on the conservative credentials of the two favourites with Bachmann criticising Gingrich for his ties to failed mortgage lender Freddie Mac:

YouTube: tpmtv

The two leading candidates went after President Obama over his record in office so far. Romney took issue with the White House’s handling of the drone which was downed by Iran. He said Obama’s “timidity and weakness” was inviting war on the US.

But Texas congressman Paul questioned the need to engage in any war with Iran and for the US to have so many military bases on foreign soil when the country was “bankrupt”.

The Iowa caucus is on 3 January and is the first of 50 non-binding nominating processes or primary votes that will take place in all US states to pick a Republican nominee who be officially declared at the party convention next August.

Iowa will provide a key indicator of momentum for a certain candidate with primary votes in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida early next year all likely to give a good indicator of who the nominee will be for the general election in the autumn.

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