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Perry and Romney in their first round

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In the Republican Party’s race for the 2012 presidential nomination on Wednesday evening all of its leading declared candidates were present and accounted for at a debate held at the Ronald Reagan Museum and Library in Simi Valley, CA; in a forum sponsored by Politico and MSNBC.

The current front runner, Texas Governor Rick Perry, did not attend the Tuesday forum in South Carolina hosted by U.S. Senator Jim DeMint because of the wildfires ravaging central Texas, but was able to attend and participate in Wednesday’s debate.

When the subject of entitlements was broached, specifically Social Security, which in his book “Fed Up!” Governor Perry had labeled a Ponzi scheme, he did not retreat from that position but instead reiterated it. When previous front runner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was asked about the health insurance measure that he signed while governor in which a mandate for either the acquiring of health insurance if affordable or face a fine was instituted, he did not demur but indicated that he would grant waivers to all 50 states with reference to the federal Affordable Health Care for America Act, as he is opposed to a one-size-fits-all federal mandate effecting 100% of Americans; claiming that his Massachusetts plan effected only 8% there.

Without making it abundantly clear that neither those who currently receive Social Security benefits, nor those who anticipate soon doing so, would be affected in any way, Governor Perry’s position on Social Security, while attractive to segments of the GOP base, is nonetheless problematic from a general election standpoint by a Perry presidency.

Governor Romney’s position that his Massachusetts plan featuring a health insurance mandate, similar to the plan signed by President Obama was not a mistake is problematic from a Republican presidential nomination standpoint because the distinguishing feature between it and the federal plan is negligible and the principle behind the mandates is the same.

Interestingly, neither Perry nor Romney took advantage of the opening provided by the others’ position. It was, in this sense, similar to an opening round of what may be a fight that goes the distance.

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