The Note: GOP Candidates Sharpen Their Knives For Debate Night In Des Moines

THE WISE MAN OF IOWA. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s communications director Tim Albrecht offers his insights on debate day. Take it away Timmy: “I’ll be watching how Newt deflects his criticisms in tonight’s debate. He’s been masterful at using the ‘we shouldn’t train our fire on fellow Republicans and should instead focus on President Obama…’ which would yield a huge applause and be on a constant cable TV and talk radio loop over the following 48 hours. Can any candidate land a glove on Gingrich that shakes him off his ‘shame on you media/opponent’ meme?”

–ABC News and Yahoo News partnered again to bring you a pre-debate profile on conservative–and controversial–radio talk show host Steve Deace: “I want to make sure that the candidates get a thorough vetting to the point that they don’t want to come back to Iowa again…That we gave them an ideological, moral proctology exam,” Deace said.

–Read the profile: and watch the accompanying web video:

@karentravers: Health food in Iowa-steak an eggs W/@matthewjaffe @emilystanitz



ROMNEY ON HIS FAMILY-MAN AD: More from David’s Muir’s exclusive sit-down with Mitt Romney: Questioned specifically about his recent television ad, “Leader,” which touts Romney’s family values, the candidate told ABC News that the ad was not intended to be a veiled swipe at Gingrich. “Actually, in each of my campaigns, I’ve begun advertising season with an ad about me and my family and my values,” he said. “There was no attempt to in any way to implicate anybody else in that,” he said. “I’m just trying to let people know who I am.” As for whether Gingrich’s personal life – specifically his three marriages – should be considered a liability, Romney said he would “not give advice to the American people as to what they should look when they decide who should be their nominee or their president.” “I’m not going to tell them which things they’re allowed to consider,” Romney said, “and which things they’re not.” –ABC’s Emily Friedman

WATCH more: Tune into “World News” tonight for more highlights from Muir’s interview.

DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. ABC’s Devin Dwyer notes that while two GOP frontrunners are headed for a face-off tonight, for Democrats, the focus remains on one man alone: Mitt Romney. In a pre-debate memo to reporters, Democratic National Committee vice chairman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak doubles down on the party’s critique of the former Massachusetts governor, while only briefly mentioning former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — despite his rise in the polls. Rybak says Gingrich’s challenge of Romney in Iowa, evident in the most recent ABC News/Washington Post survey of likely caucus goers, has forced the once presumptive GOP nominee to “abandon his general election playbook in favor of a sharp turn to the right.”

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