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Should the United States fund the service program AmeriCorps? President Obama would increase its budget. Rep. Paul Ryan would eliminate federal funding for the program.

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The Insiders
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 03/20/2012

In Illinois, will voters choose social issues or the economy?

Well, it is Illinois primary day. Will the trick birthday candle that is the Romney campaign flicker back to life or stay cold?  Can Rick Santorum win a big state with a faith-based message, and will the two-man race he has asked for give him the lift that he needs? Illinois will also partially answer the question about how the party feels about the campaign swerving into social issues and away from a pointed economic message that centers on President Obama.

Santorum said a couple of things recently that suggest he is doubling down on his campaign as a crusade and a religiously inspired movement. In Bossier City, La. on Sunday he said, "One of the great blessings I've had in every political campaign is people underestimate me, people underestimate what God can do."  I'm not sure what he meant by that, but I think it is fair to expect him to explain it. If he thinks God is active in shaping the race, he should say so.

He also gave the Democrats a quote that will haunt the ticket if he is the nominee. In Rockford, Ill., he said, "The issue in this race is not the economy."  I'm sure some context may be helpful in explaining this, but with that quote caught on camera, the ads would be devastating.

On the other hand, the Republican National Committee is building the economic case against Obama without a nominee. Good for the RNC. The ad uses Obama's own words against him. Political fatigue has set in, so the best ads now use the candidates' own pictures and voices. This ad hits the bulls-eye.  Obama said he would reach clear economic benchmarks and he didn't. This ad is a good model for establishing the choice of voting for Obama and more of the same or trying something different.

With our presidential candidates caught in a stalemate, the RNC, GOP congressional leaders, Republican governors and other allies need to step up and keep shining a spotlight on Obama's failed economy. Today's primary will offer a glimpse of whether the party rank-and-file want an economic message to carry us in November.

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 03/20/2012

 
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