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Republican primaries -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Much of the focus in American politics in the past week or so has been on a
Twitter related scandal involving a New York congressman.

But beyond the titillating headlines the serious business of preparing for next November's
presidential election is already well under way.

As Barack Obama, struggles to turn the US economy around, the Republicans are having their own
battle, to find a viable candidate to take on the democrat incumbent.

Today a line up of Republican hopefuls began selling themselves to the public in the first of many
TV debates.

Here's Washington Correspondent, Michael Brissenden.

TIM PAWLEY (advertisement): I'm Tim Pawlenty and I'm running for President of the United States.

RON PAUL, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: I am a candidate for the presidency, in the Republican Party
primary.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALSKAN GOVERNOR: Haven't decided yet, haven't decided still. Looking at the
field, knowing that there's still going to be a lot of shake up in that line up.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: The American political cycle is a fierce beast, it never really
rests, but it does have a rhythm to it. And the constant media focus attracts the worthy, the
whacky, and everything in between.

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: I will not be running for President.

HERMAN KANE, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: I came here to declare my candidacy for the Republican
nomination for President of the United States of America.

MIKE HUCKABEE: All the factors say go, but my heart says no.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Winning the right to stand for major party in a presidential election can be a
tough political battle in itself.

(Footage of first Republican debate)

PRESENTER: Welcome to St Anselom College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and the first Republican
Presidential candidate debate.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The presidential election is still 17 months off and even the primaries don't
get underway until February next year, but the positioning and fundraising is well underway.

And for those that have made their intentions clear, the public debating season is heating up as
well.

MICHELE BACHMANN, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: Because we're going to win, just make no mistake about it.
I just want to announce tonight, President Obama is a one term president.

HERMAN KANE: I will be a President to do what's right, not what's politically right.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: For the moment these debates are what they call here an inside the belt way
preoccupation, but the pollsters are already hard at work.

PETER BROWN, QUINNIPIAC POLLING: Not to be trite but what Republicans are looking for is someone
who can beat Barack Obama, and that's the most important thing to them.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Most Americans have yet to engage with the 2012 election, but at grass roots
conservative events like this Faith and Freedom Conference, they're talking of nothing else.

The trouble for Republicans is that nearly half of them don't like any of the current crop of
likely candidates.

JOHN FUND, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I've seen this before, you know the Democratic field in 1992, a
whole bunch of people, like Mario Como, didn't run and then this obscure southern governor named
Bill Clinton came up.

The more important thing is not whether the field is what everyone wants it to be but is it a
competitive contest?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Of those that have declared, only Mitt Romney is polling well.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: A little homemade chilli here.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: He also ran in 2008 against John McCain, but he's a big target for any
political challenger from the right of the party. His health care plan, introduced while he was
Governor of Massachusetts, is remarkably similar to the one Republicans call simply, Obama care.

Other declared candidates so far include the former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, the perennial
libertarian, Ron Paul, and the former House speaker Newt Gingrich; running as a family values
conservative, despite his own controversial history of affairs and broken marriages.

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: Things happened in my life that were not appropriate.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But his campaign already looks doomed. On the weekend his entire senior staff
resigned.

Some relative unknowns have also thrown their names into the hat.

HERMAN KANE: If we make sure we're working on the right problem...

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Herman Kane a former CEO of a pizza chain.

HERMAN KANE: I'm ready to lead.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania and John Huntsman, former
ambassador to China ...

JOHN HUNTSMAN, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: Hello everybody.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: ... who's more than slightly handicapped by his support for same sex marriage
and the fact that he once described Barack Obama as a remarkable leader.

In this partisan environment, potential candidates, like the Tea Party favourite Michele Bachmann
may well have more appeal in the Republican primaries.

MICHELE BACHMANN: I will not rest until we repeal Obama Care. America will not rest until we repeal
Obama Care.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Texas Governor, Rick Perry, is also being talked as about as a potential
candidate from the right. But the one the most recognition is still keeping everyone guessing.

Sarah Palin says she's not campaigning; but she's currently driving around the country in a bus
emblazoned with the American flag and the Constitution. Her every step and every utterance is
comprehensively covered.

REPORTER: Governor, are all your events on the bus tour going to be this loud?

SARAH PALIN: Oh, it would be a blast if they were this loud, if they smelt this good. I love that
smell of the emissions.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But keeping everyone guessing about her intentions is frustrating Republicans
and according to the pollsters, she's so well known that the wider American public has already made
up its mind about her.

PETER BROWN: It's hard how you can elect the president of the United States when six out of 10
voters say they wouldn't vote for you under any circumstance.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The road to the White House is long and complicated. Even the convention that
will eventually nominate the candidate is still over a year off, and at this stage Barack Obama
still appears to have the edge over the all the lames on the Republican list.

In the end though, if he can't turn the economy around, it may not matter who he's up against.

Republicans like to remind anyone who'll listen that since polling was invented in the 1930,s no
president has won re-election if unemployment was above 7.2 per cent.

JOHN FUND: Barack Obama just got the news that unemployment is 9.1 per cent. I will tell you if
unemployment is anything approaching that, Barack Obama will be in trouble no matter who the
Republican presidential nominee is.