Just a few months after the 2010 mid-term elections ended, the 2012 presidential cycle will begin. Politco and NBC News will co-sponsor the first Republican presidential debate "during the spring of 2011," the website reports today. The debate will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.
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A spring presidential debate, though it comes months before caucusing begins in Iowa or most Americans are paying any attention, is becoming a tradition of the now elongated presidential election process. The Democratic candidates for president in 2008 gathered in Orangeburg, SC on April 26, 2007 for what was then the earliest presidential debate. The organizers of next year's debate did not announce specific dates for the forum, but there's a chance it could come even earlier than the '07 debate did. (The Reagan Library was also the site of the first Republican debate of 2008, but it took place in May after the Democratic forum.)
For Republicans, the early debate comes in a much different environment than the Democratic debate three years ago did. Democrats, newly unified by their party's win in the 2006 Congressional elections, were vying for the nomination in a world where there would be no incumbent in the presidential race and most gave the advantage to the Democratic nominee.