DES MOINES, Iowa -- Seven Republican presidential contenders will try to use Thursday's debate in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa to cast themselves as the strongest alternative to one rival: front-runner Mitt Romney.
At least two -- Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both of Minnesota -- are hoping for a last-minute boost before an important weekend test vote that could make or break their campaigns. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is looking to make a strong impression in his first debate, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul is out to prove his ideas are more mainstream than fringe.