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A curtain-raiser on Tuesday's debate

CNN and two think tanks have limited Tuesday night's Republican presidential candidates' debate to national security and foreign policy, although the questioners and some of the candidates may try to shoehorn economic and budget policy into the discussion.

The focus will be especially on Herman "Libya?" Cain, but watch Rick Perry to see if he's been coached to say anything other than that he would let Israel bomb Iran. Speaking of Israel, look for the refrain that President Obama is somehow less than devoted to the Jewish state, despite a statement from Israel's defense minister to the contrary.

Another question is likely to be what the candidates think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see how many of the panelists will echo Jon Huntsman Jr.'s support for a larger withdrawal from Afghanistan. Or will the compulsion to bash Obama lead them to take a more hawkish posture -- for example, by griping about the full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq?

Finally, the buildup of U.S. forces in Australia may give the candidates an opening to rattle sabers over China.

The positions the candidates take will be less important than whether they master the basic facts of foreign policy. With the exception of Newt Gingrich, that is very much up in the air.

Note: Join us here on the Opinion L.A. blog during the debate for quick takes from columnist @DoyleMcManus and editorial writer @MichaelMcGough3.


Guarding Mr. Cain

Rick Perry's damage

Romney's challengers fade away

McManus: Will 'New Newt' prevail?

Goldberg: Sizing up a Gingrich-Romney showdown

--Michael McGough

Photo: Tuesday's Republican presidential candidates' debate will be hosted by CNN. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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