Republican Presidential Candidates' First Proto-Debate Is Today

The Republicans' slow limp towards the 2012 election will attempt another lunge forward today in Iowa, as some of the declared, half-declared, and likely future declarers meet for their first candidates' forum. While it's exciting that they'll be in the same physical location in an actual early battleground state, though, it's unclear how much interaction they'll have.

Let's hope that there's plenty beyond each candidate's 10-minute "why you should love me" pitch. Because this is a good selection of confirmed attendees: "Former Godfather's Pizza CEO" Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, and Rick "Google Me" Santorum. Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour, and Mitch Daniels weren't interested in joining this funeral procession. Why do they hate the people of Iowa so much?

Although there could always be a surprise attendee: A big airplane with "TRUMP" emblazoned in gold letters on the side arrived in Des Moines this morning. Supposedly it's just Trump's lawyer making the trip for meetings. But has anyone checked the depressurized cabins?

[Image of Tim Pawlenty flirting via AP]