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Questions for Tonight’s GOP Debate

6:27 PM, Sep 22, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove previews tonight’s debate, saying that it “presents opportunities and dangers for each candidate.”  Rove writes that Rick Perry “has had two okay-to-mediocre debate performances,” which “is dangerous.”  He says that Perry needs to convey that he would be a good steward of Social Security, while also advancing his plans for reforming it and putting it on more solid fiscal ground.  “More importantly,” Rove writes, “Mr. Perry needs to change the dynamic of the debates, in which he’s been (in his words) the piñata,” and “put Mr. Romney on defense over health care.”

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Rove writes that Romney, who “has been crisp, sharp, reassuring and in command” during the previous debates, “needs a stronger explanation for his Massachusetts health-care law than the 10th Amendment.”  He observes that Michele Bachmann “must repair the enormous damage created by her post-debate comment last week that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.”  And he says that Rick Santorum’s “challenge tonight is to get a shot at Iowa by shouldering aside Ms. Bachmann.” 

Here are a few questions that I would add to Rove’s: 

Will Romney repeat his claim that his mandate that everyone buy government-approved health insurance applied to only 8 or 9 percent of the population of Massachusetts, while President Obama’s mandate that everyone buy government-approved health insurance applies to 100 percent of the population of the United States?  If he does, will anyone challenge it?

Will Romney repeat his pledge to issue a 50-state Obamacare waiver on day 1 — rather than to advance a repeal bill — even though such a waiver would do nothing to wipe Obamacare off the books

Will Perry again suggest that he too would issue such a waiver, rather than taking the opportunity to say that he’s for repealing Obamacare, not (temporarily) waiving (parts of) it? 

Will anyone ask Perry to explain what he means when he says that the illegal immigrants who are granted in-state tuition in Texas are “pursuing citizenship”?  (To be more exact, he has said they are “pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas.”) 

Will Bachmann be willing to deviate from her talking points and bravely mix it up with the two leaders, going after them on something more substantial than HPV vaccinations? 

Will Santorum, who has turned in several consecutive fine debate performances but has yet to be rewarded in the polls, similarly be willing to do so, rather than engaging mostly with Ron Paul? 

Will Jon Huntsman continue — as he showed signs of doing in the last debate — to position himself to the right of Romney on Obamacare, hoping to make a run at Romney in New Hampshire? 

And lastly, having already said that “We don't need to be building airplanes that were used in World War II” and that he applauds the Obama administration for scrapping production of the highly advanced F-22 fighter, will Paul say that the Air Force is unnecessary and should again become part of the Army?

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