AEI 2011: Gearing up for the 2012 White House race


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  • As GOP hopefuls face primary voters, recall how they scored on key foreign policy issues #AEI2011

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  • How @MichaelBarone sees new media changing the campaign landscape #AEI2011

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  • The most surprising, most talked-about polls of the year #AEI2011

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In the last two weeks of this year, the AEI 2011 series will highlight the institute's work that has made an impact, made a difference and made headlines over the past year.

AEI stepped into new territory in 2011 when it co-hosted a Republican presidential debate, focused on foreign policy and national security, with CNN and the Heritage Foundation. The highly watched event saw eight White House hopefuls do battle over issues ranging from how to deal with Iran's nuclear program to how to deal with frenemy Pakistan:

Most of the exchanges, however, rested on the ideological debate over how much attention -- and corresponding funds -- should be paid to crises abroad while economic troubles at home remain paramount from voter polls to Capitol Hill.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman argued that there are too many problems at home to be focused on "nation-building" abroad, yet acknowleged that "we have achieved some very important goals for the United States of America" in Afghanistan.

Still, Huntsman said, Washington hasn't "done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is" for the decade-long conflict.

This sparked a heated exchange between Huntsman and Romney, who said, "This is not time for America to cut and run."

"We can't just write off a major part of the world," Romney added. "Instead we want to draw them toward modernity."

The most-watched video clip from the GOP debate was Danielle Pletka's question about Iran sanctions:

In the run-up to the debate, AEI's Foreign and Defense Policy department did a comprehensive review of key issues that candidates -- and voters -- can't ignore. Read about these top foreign policy issues and watch the corresponding videos at our special GOP Debate page.


AEI's Political Report brings together polling studies and snapshots of the public's pulse. Here are highlights from the most-read reports of the year:

OCTOBER: President Obama looks worse than any recent incumbent on evaluations of the country's direction, consumer confidence, personal financial appraisals, and job approval at this point in the first term; Americans' evaluations of the economy remain abysmal.

MARCH: Speaker Boehner: less popular and less unpopular than Speaker Gingrich; pain at the pump and presidential (un)popularity; attitudes on offshore drilling: drill, baby, drill more?

JUNE: How do Americans, Europeans, and the Chinese compare in their attitudes about entrepreneurship? How serious are people taking the debt limit debate? What do they think should be done? We investigate ten questions on the issue, paying particular attention to partisan differences.

MAY: The military is the top institution in American life. Three quarters give it high marks; 11 percent give Congress high marks. Americans on the move: Geographically, the U.S. population is moving south and west. Most Americans live close to where they were born, and 42 percent have a valid passport.


The political experts who comprise AEI's Election Watch series returned for a sixteenth campaign season with December's kick-off event. Michael Barone, Karlyn Bowman, Henry Olsen and Norman J. Ornstein discussed the mood of the country, the state of the primary contest, the lay of the land for the general election and the policy implications. Here's Barone on how new media is changing the campaign landscape:

Watch more videos from session one, and stay tuned as Election Watch keeps you close to the campaign in 2012.

Visit the Election 2012 special topic page for comprehensive coverage.

POTPOURRI: In a recent debate virtually all the GOP presidential candidates said that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by the government’s housing policies and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were at the heart of it. This was the central point of Peter Wallison's January dissent from the majority report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

Bridget Johnson is the managing editor of

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