The Republican Debate in Iowa did not produce a clear runaway winner but probably a preview of who will be the faces that will move on to the next stage. The debate saw two Minnesotans – Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and former Governor Tim Paulenty – provided some slugfest sideshow in the event organized by Fox News and The Washington Examiner even as front runner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was spared from what was previously expected strong attacks from his opponents.

The debate featured eight GOP hopefuls including Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Romney. Majority of the candidates that participated in the debate will be on the ballot for this weekend’s Iowa straw poll, widely regarded as the start of the campaign season for the November 2012 presidential elections.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was not in Ames for the debate or in the straw poll ballot, is expected to announce his candidacy for the White House in South Carolina this weekend, where political experts say could potentially take away the momentum gained by the Iowa straw poll winner. Perry’s entry into the race is widely expected within the party.

It was also reported that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will be in attendance in the Iowa State Fair on Friday. Palin has launched a nationwide bus tour since May and will be heading towards Ames a day before the straw poll event.

The straw poll will be an initial test for some of the candidates and Bachmann is seen to be the favorite to clinch the win. A caucus will be held in February as the primary season kicks off. It may also be the last stand for some of the candidates such as Cain, Gingrich, and Huntsman, whose lack of campaign funding has so far limited their exposure on the national front.

Romney, who lost the nomination to John McCain in the 2008 Republican primary, did not join the straw poll knowing that he will not win. His lead in the polls could also face a threat from Perry, whose official announcement this weekend could catapult him to the top spot overtaking the former Massachusetts Governor.