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Trading Barbs: Drama to Look For at the Next Debate Trading Barbs: Drama to Look For at the Next Debate

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campaign 2012

Trading Barbs: Drama to Look For at the Next Debate

With the last Republican presidential debate before Super Tuesday set for Wednesday, we look at four areas where the candidates might clash:

1. Anti-Obama rhetoric. The Republican contest is still in a heated phase, so there will be plenty of candidate infighting. But that doesn’t mean President Obama will be spared. Mitt Romney has been attacking Obama since the start of the primary campaign, when he assumed he could ignore his GOP rivals and focus on the general election. The verbal temperature is escalating in recent days. Newt Gingrich contends he is "incapable of defending the U.S," and is blasting Obama's foreign policy. Rick Santorum has gotten some heat for seeming to compare Obama to Adolf Hitler, but that hasn't stopped his anti-Obama talk from getting tougher.


2. The contraception rule makes an appearance. The candidates have made their opinions known on the contentious contraception insurance mandate issue. Look for it to make a prime-time appearance so they can demonstrate their conservatism. The flare-up over whether Catholic institutions should have to offer insurance with free contraceptive coverage also provides a way for the candidates to attack the current administration.

3. Up for debate: Who's the most conservative? Santorum and Romney have oft traded words over conservatism, often with the former accusing the latter of a track record that doesn't demonstrate party allegiance. However, Romney has been striking back, accusing Santorum of not being a true fiscal conservative. As social issues rise to prominence, the candidates also are trying to demonstrate their commitment to conservative values

4. Electability will play more of a role. Republican voters' No. 1 goal is to select a candidate with the greatest chance of beating President Obama, so attacking another candidate's electability is becoming an argument of choice. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has criticized Santorum as unelectable, while Romney has told supporters that he'll have no problem in a general election. Romney will have a tougher time than usual making that argument after his recent losses.

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