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Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty Drop Gloves: Iowa GOP Debate Best Moments

Bachmann and Pawlenty dropped the gloves, Romney avoided real damage, and the biggest boos went to the moderators.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Pawlenty versus Bachmann: Minnesota Nice Ends Here

The conflict had been a quiet one till the opening minutes of this debate. Tim Pawlenty fired first at Michele Bachmann, saying, “Her record of accomplishment … is nonexistent.” Bachmann reminded Pawlenty that he’d once said that “the era of small government is over” and that “that sounds a lot more like Barack Obama if you ask me.”

Newt Gingrich Spars With Chris Wallace, Wins

The mass resignation of Newt Gingrich’s campaign staff was the subject of Chris Wallace’s first question of the former speaker of the House. It was ably swatted away by Gingrich, who may not be a serious contender but is no stranger to winning arguments on cable television.

Awkward: Michele Bachmann Goes AWOL

Not the most substantive moment of the night but one that people will be talking about: as the second half began, all the candidates were on stage but Bachmann, leaving the hosts to improvise for a few moments till she reappeared.

Romney Looks, Sounds Presidential in Defending Flip-Flop

Not much rattled Mitt Romney in the debate. Even when pressed with apparently inconsistent remarks about whether the United States should “nurture democracy” around the world or avoid going “off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation,” Romney stayed on message and left the bickering to the rest of the candidates.

Unexpected: Rick Santorum Says Iran “Tramples” on Rights of Gays

Another head-scratching moment: when citing the misdeeds of the “mal-ocracy” Iran, Rick Santorum listed that it “tramples on the rights of gays.” Not inaccurate, but not what one would expect Santorum to be concerned with.

Herman Cain: Mormons Bother Other People, Not Me

Herman Cain was pressed about remarks he’d made about Sharia law, and about Southerners' feelings toward Mitt Romney being a Mormon. “I listen to what people say,” Cain explained. “They are not real clear about how his religion relate to the majority of the people’s protestant, Christian religion in the south.”

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Bachmann Asked if She Would Be “Submissive” Wife as President

If the crowd was feeling torn about the toughness of the moderators’ questions, this ended all doubt. Byron York had barely finished asking Bachmann if she’d apply the biblical injunction to be submissive to her husband when the boos came down hard and unrelenting. Bachmann’s response was easily the most loudly cheered of the night. “Submission,” she said, means “respect.”