Last night, eight Republicans—former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Ron Paul, business executive Herman Cain, former senator Rick Santorum, former U.S. ambassador and Utah governor Jon Huntsman and former Congressman Newt Gingrich—debated in Iowa in an attempt to seize momentum going into this weekend's Ames Straw poll. Of course, the debate lacked Texas governor Rick Perry, who will be entering the presidential race this weekend, as well as Ur-Maverick Sarah Palin, who will be bringing her RV to Iowa as well. Still, there were fireworks from Bachmann and Pawlenty:

As the Washington Post reported, "The last vestiges of 'Minnesota nice' fell by the wayside during a Republican debate here Thursday night, as the two candidates who have the most at stake in Iowa went after each other in the roughest exchange thus far in the race for the 2012 presidential nomination." Pawlenty blasted Bachmann, "Look, she has done wonderful things in her life, absolutely wonderful things, but it is an undisputable fact that in Congress her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent."

“When you were governor in Minnesota you implemented cap and trade in our state and you praised the unconstitutional individual mandates and called for requiring all people in our state to purchase health insurance that the government would mandate,” she retorted. “You said the era of small government was over. That sounds more like Barack Obama, if you ask me.”

He denied her charges, saying “she’s got a record of misstating and making false statements.”

Pawlenty added, "The American people are going to expect more and demand more... If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you’re killing us."

This made things a lot easier for Romney, who just needed to hold his "lead" (and Fox News thinks he did!) in spite of questions about his record on taxes and lack of involvement in discussions about the debt ceiling (well, the man thinks corporations are people...). As for the other candidates, the NY Times says, "As Mr. Pawlenty tore after Mrs. Bachmann, Newt Gingrich went after the news media. Representative Ron Paul of Texas joined in the fight, taking exception to Mrs. Bachmann’s legislative record. Herman Cain, a businessman who has drawn large crowds in Iowa, dismissed all of his rivals as career politicians. At one point, Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, raised his hand for attention and asked moderators to be included. When he finally was given his turn, he went after nearly all of his rivals, accusing Mrs. Bachmann of 'showmanship, not leadership' by opposing raising the nation’s debt ceiling. In the middle of it all, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor making his debut on the debate stage, struggled to be heard. Again and again, he urged his rivals to focus on creating jobs."

You can watch the debate here. Daily Intel has a nice recap of the debate: "Strangest Way to Communicate One’s Opposition to the Debt-Ceiling Deal: 'Well look, I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food.' — Mitt Romney"