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GOP Debate Already Under Way?

Thursday, 29 Nov 2007 | 2:43 PM ET
CNBC.com

You know it's going to be a good debate when...the leading candidates start to accuse one another of lying BEFORE the debate. That's precisely what's happened in advance of tonight's Republican debate on CNN, featuring questions submitted via YouTube.

Rudy Giuliani is accusing of having raised taxes, not cut them as Romney has claimed, and of supported Hillary Clinton-style health reform. Romney says Giuliani has a "fact problem" of this variety: "he makes them up."

Translation: expect a steady diet of charges and counter-charges about spending (both claim austerity) and taxes (both claim to have cut) that will be very difficult for the average viewer to sort out.

Perhaps easier to grasp may be talk of religion, which is rising as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee surges in Iowa with strong support from conservative Christians. Some observers believe Huckabee is benefiting from distaste among some evangelicals for Romney's Mormon faith, which our NBC-Wall Street Journal poll has shown represents a significant political obstacle.

Add it all up and it should be a serious smackdown just five weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

GOP Debate Preview
The Republican presidential candidates are squaring off tonight in a YouTube debate, and tax cuts are expected to be on top of the agenda. CNBC's John Harwood, the FT's Edward Luce and BusinessWeek's Eamon Javers discuss.

Questions? Comments? Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.