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The seven men and one woman hoping to win the Republican nomination the run against incumbent Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election have begun battling it out on television.

The so-called Tea Party debate, named for a new ultra-conservative branch of the Republican party, was dominated by issues of economy, health care and spending cuts.

This debate was crucial even though there is still a long way to go to win the support of American conservatives. Even so, in the months ahead, one of these candidates will emerge as Obama's challenger.

Al Jazeera correspondent Andy Gallacher reports from Tampa, Florida.

Source: Al Jazeera