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I'm going to be really curious to see what sort of follow-up questions he gets on that position and if anybody is able to get a clearer statement out of Pawlenty on this critical issue.

Another point I'm not sure has been fully accounted for. In the last two elections, Republicans have become increasingly reliant on older voters. It didn't quite work out for them in 2008. But it worked smashingly in 2010 -- in large part by convincing many seniors that President Obama was cutting Medicare. I think it's a challenge to take that coalition and that politics into another election as the party supporting phasing out Medicare entirely and replacing it with vouchers that won't get you insurance at all.

Quite true that the ooomph of the GOP's current hold on older voters comes from cultural issues. But Medicare will put it to the test.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.