Political Capital with John Harwood

Debate Preview


There are lots of big issues that will be explored in greater depth than before in tomorrow's CNBC/MSNBC/Wall Street Journal debate on the economy. The economy has gotten only brief and scattered mention in debates so far; Iraq has gotten most of the attention.

But here are three to look for in particular:

TAXES: How much change? Most of the major candidates are proposing incremental change beyond making permanent the Bush tax cuts. Example; Mitt Romney's plan to lower the capital gains rate to zero for those earning under $200,000. Longshot Mike Huckabee is a rare voice so far urging fundamental reform of the tax code with his Fair Tax -- a 23% national sales tax to replace the income tax altogther. Will Fred Thompson, who has been making noises about a reform that would enhance the market for American exports, join him?

SPENDING: Who's toughest? Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani all tout their records in opposing wasteful spending. Thompson is hinting he may go further, especially on the political volatile issue of curbing the Medicare and Social Security entitlement programs. He could prove it with specifics -- but also open himself to political risk.

TRADE: a populist tide? The stunning news from the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll last week was that 59% of Republican voters call foreign trade bad for the U.S. economy. That's a strong tide to resist for a free trade politician. But front-runner Giuliani is resisting it so far. Does that provide a "fair trade" opening for any of his rivals?

There's lots more to tune in for at 4p ET tomorrow on CNBC, but those are some of the highlights.

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