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Live coverage: GOP debate on foreign and economic policy

CNN Debate
Tonight’s debate, the 11th full-dress Republican talkfest, is the first to be held since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surged to the top of the polls, at parity with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- and slightly ahead in some surveys. Until now, Romney and Gingrich have been relatively restrained in taking each other on; this might be the night for the gloves to come off.

This debate is also designed to focus on foreign policy, although co-sponsor CNN decided to add a strong dose of economic policy questions after Congress’ “super committee” failed to reach agreement on a deficit-reduction package. Romney and Gingrich aren’t far apart on most foreign policy issues. For example, they’ve both criticized President Obama for setting a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, on the other hand, have called for a quicker withdrawal.

Still, there are plenty of good foreign policy questions to ask. Here’s one: Last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he thinks the United States should impose a “no-fly zone” on Syria, where an authoritarian regime allied with Iran is repressing pro-democracy activists. Do Romney and Gingrich agree?

It’s a potential trick question for Gingrich, who once called for a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone over Libya -- only to reverse course and oppose Obama’s decision to support a European-led military campaign. Gingrich has a slightly convoluted explanation for the evolution of his positions (he favored unilateral action, he says, not the messy multilateral operation Obama opted for); but it still looked as if he was for that war before he was against it.

--Doyle McManus RELATED:
A curtain-raiser on Tuesday's debate

Romney's challengers fade away

McManus: Will 'New Newt' prevail?

Photo: The set of the GOP debate at DAR Constitution Hall on Nov. 22 in Washington, D.C. Credit: Mark Wilson/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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