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I guess presidential debates are as good place as any, to lay down markers of distinction. It's hard in a debate where you only have 1 minute to answer a question, because half of that time has to be used by the candidate to pat themselves on the back. If a candidate remains viable after a debate, they will receive the necessary contributions to continue participating in future debates, but how important are these primary debates? The debates will become more important when the" don't stand a chance" candidates drop out. If you listen to the pundits, the republican's lines of distinction are Tea Party or established Republicans. Some candidates muddy the waters, for instance, Herman Cain said he would abolish the EPA but would bring back a scaled down version The EPA was an idea proposed by President Nixon and established in December 1970. I seriously doubt the current group of Republicans would vote to reinstate the EPA and still receive large campaign contributions from the Koch brothers. That is just one example where the 1970 Republicans are not the same as the current version. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are considered the established Republicans, and the rest are known as Tea Party candidates. What a difference three years make, because the two Mormons are considered the established Republican candidates. Early polls show those distinctions, where Perry is ahead in Iowa because constituents are mostly evangelical social conservatives, but Mitt Romney is running away from all the candidates in New Hampshire, where the voters are mostly independent.

It's no secret that the economy will not turn around by next year, so the Obama campaign is well on its way right now to lay down their markers of distinctions. The campaign will try to use the Republicans' efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare against them. It's no coincidence that the president is touting his jobs bill in John Boehner and Mitch McConnell's state. The administration knows that the Republican freshman tea party members will not pass the vital parts of the president's plan, so they sent the president on the road in full campaign mode to use that against them. Unless something drastic happens, governing in 2011 is over, and the campaign has officially begun. The president now has some trump cards because the super committee will have to make some cuts in the entitlements and defense spending, unless they agree to a deal. The GOP does not want to cut defense spending, and they know how unpopular the entitlement cuts will be. The president's call for revenues to be part of a package will make it difficult for the “no tax" pledge signing Republicans to accept, but they just may have put themselves in a big hole.

It's funny because in last night's debate, Jon Huntsman, was told that most Americans wanted taxes raised on the top 2% rather than cutting entitlements, but he stuck to his plan of reforming the tax code to three brackets and insisted that he would not raise taxes. Jon Huntsman did not sign Grover Norquist's tax pledge. I've heard three pundits say that the candidates should not have answered a question about choosing a vice president from the current candidates. Newt Gingrich smelled that out and didn't play the game, but Jon Huntsman may have hurt his chances by choosing Herman Cain. Especially since his choice was based on their color of ties. I think it's a little ridiculous, but that's what's wrong with early primary debates.

This will be an election of contrasts, do you want a smaller but more efficient government or do you think that government can never be efficient, so we must continue gutting it? Since it's about math, do you want to make severe cuts to the entitlements with no tax increases to reduce the deficit or do you want a balanced approach of tax increases and necessary cuts? As it stands right now, the economy will be the number one issue. It's pretty clear that the Republicans want to repeal the current health care law but what will they replace it with; if anything? Will the Democrats accept a $35 co-pay increase for Medicare in the year 2017, as part of entitlement reform? The democrats have taken raising the age of eligibility for Social Security off the table; will they accept means testing? The Republicans definitely want to eliminate regulations that are hindering the private sector, but they will have to name specific ones by the time the debate between President Obama and the Republican nominee. Plans like the flat tax, 9-9-9, and the Fair Tax plan will have to be scored by CBO. The healthcare debate between Romney and Obama would be an interesting one, because the federal one is very similar to the one in Massachusetts. I can see the president praising Romney for creating the model that was used for the current healthcare bill. Rick Perry will have to sit down and study foreign policy because he's made some serious blunders in the last two days. He accused the president of appeasement just before Obama had to address U.N. not to accept the Palestinian Authority request for United Nations membership as a path toward statehood. When Mr. Perry was asked about the action, he would take if a terrorist group took command of Pakistan's nuclear arms. His answer was "So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States. For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16s, we chose not to do that ... The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends. We will be standing by there with them. Today, we don't have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.".....India is our ally, and we still have allies in the region but Perry's message of "As a Christian. I have a clear directive to support Israel. So from my perspective, it's pretty easy. Both as an American, and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel " will not help our relationship with our Arab allies.

It's 484 days until the presidential election, so buckle up; it's going to be a wild ride. The Senate just rejected a continuing resolution to fund the government for a little while. The House of Representatives added a couple of spending cuts to some energy bills before they approved to fund FEMA. Congress was supposed to go home for the week but now some are talking about another government shutdown. And here we go again; it's no wonder Congress has an 11% approval.