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Published: Thursday, 6/16/2011

Wide field

This week’s debate among seven Republican candidates for president in 2012 was useful. It helped sort out more-serious candidates from those who have little chance of winning the nomination.

It introduced some of the hopefuls to a national audience, allowing them to put forward their most important campaign points. And it enabled the candidates to interact with each other.

The candidates mostly espoused classic Republican positions — no surprise there. They were unanimous in their opposition to anything President Obama favors, insisting he had wrecked the economy and that they would fix it.

Other debate themes included states’ rights versus federal action, opposition to abortion, the ostensible virtues of the private sector over government’s role, and hostility to public subsidies for private business (although no one denounced corporate tax breaks).

New Hampshire, as usual, will be the site of the first state presidential primary, in February, 2012, although it will follow the Iowa caucuses. Missing from Monday’s debate were several potential candidates whose entry could change the tone, if not the direction, of the Republican battle.

Monday’s debate helped move the political ball forward in helping Republican voters learn about their choices in this large field. In that respect, consider the debate progress.

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