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Perhaps smarting from the moment in the last debate when he raised his hand with all the other candidates to take a pledge that he would raise no taxes, Jon Huntsman backed away this time. He told the debate moderators that pledges “diminish the political discourse” and he would take no more of them. “I have a pledge to my wife, and I have a pledge to my country,” he said. And that’s that.

So now we know: not a single Republican running for president in 2012 would accept a deal to decrease the deficit that included a breakdown of $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases.

Such a deal would be much more conservative than any deficit reduction deal agreed to in recent history.

Mitt Romney was asked at the debate whether he was a member of the Tea Party.

“I don’t think you carry cards in the Tea Party,” said Romney. “I believe in a lot of what the Tea Party believes in.”

Romney the extolled Tea Party issues such as cutting spending and keeping government small, and extolled his own economic plan.

“So if the Tea Party is for keeping government small and spending down, and helping us create jobs, than I’m for the Tea Party.”

Ron Paul just took a rather original line against the proposed border fence. On stage at the Reagan Library he fretted that it’s not to keep Mexicans out, “but to keep us in.”

He worried that in a time of economic turmoil the federal government could use it as a means of preventing the American people from leaving “with their capital.”

Great picture from ahead of the debate of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry both greeting former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

We’ve been through everything else at the Politico/MSNBC debate Wednesday night, so it was about time we got to Gardisil. Rick Perry said he wish he had done things differently when it came to the anti-HPV vaccine in Texas, but claimed his heart was in the right place.

“I hate cancer,” he said, adding, “at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.”

President Obama is now facing liberal criticism from a major name: Former Vice President Al Gore, the man who won the national popular vote in the disputed 2000 presidential election, and has since relaunched himself as a major environmental activist on the issue of global warming.

It is in some ways ironic to see Gore disparage a Democratic president from the left -- it was, after all, the left-wing spoiler campaign of Ralph Nader that cost him the electoral votes of Florida, thus handing the White House to George W. Bush.

Gore published a blog post on Wednesday, titled "Confronting Disappointment", criticizing the Obama administration for backing away from proposed smog regulations:

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Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry ahead of the debate… All looking to the right.

Mitt Romney stood up for Social Security in the Politico debate Wednesday night, claiming Perry’s claim that the program is a failure is ridiculous.

“You can’t say that to tens of millions of Americans who live on Social Security or who have lived on it,” Romney said.