— From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
DES MOINES -- Good morning from wet Des Moines and the campus of Drake University -- the site of today's Republican debate. I will be live blogging and will be in the spin room afterward. The crowd is mostly in, but as people filed in, they fought back back bending umbrellas in torrential rains. Last night, there was a tornado watch here. Ron Paul, Romney and Giuliani supporters are across the street holding signs. The Ron Paul crowd is the largest with the Romney supporters second. The Romney folks are holding a flapping -- now drenched -- banner. There's also a Duncan Hunter truck with his face on the side of it. Among the crowd, there was at least one would-be party crasher with a green T-shirt that said "Reverend Reefer" and had a depiction of a marijuana plant on the front. But this is a much more buttoned-up crowd than those at yesterday's YearlyKos -- as you can well imagine.
A couple of points of note, ABC News, which is sponsoring the debate, has closed off the auditorium where the debate will be held. They want to unveil it when it goes live at 9 am ET. One worker, who has been inside the hall, said the auditorium, which holds about 700 (generously) has been "transformed." ABC carpeted the stage and removed the first four rows to put in a stage extender.
Pictures from the local ABC affiliate shows large organ piping coming out from behind the stage, making for a church-like feel -- appropriate for a Sunday morning.