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Live coverage: GOP debate on foreign and economic policy

November 22, 2011 |  4:32 pm
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:
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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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