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A surprisingly busy campaign 2012 day

By msnbc.com's Tom Curry

Tuesday Oct. 11 seems like it just may end up as one to be remembered in the 2012 campaign annals. It was perhaps not a decisive day but one that included several events – both campaign and non-campaign related – to remind Americans of just how consequential the decisions they make in the GOP primaries and in next November’s election will be.

The revelation by the Justice Department of an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States reminded Americans that the threatening world outside their borders will intrude, as Sept. 11 attacks did, and that the lack of jobs isn’t all there is to worry about. This campaign may not be solely a matter of Democratic operative James Carville’s 1992 mantra “the economy, stupid.”

Despite Republican criticism of President Obama for trying to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, he has established a substantive and aggressive anti-terrorism record – including vastly expanded use of drones to kill al Qaida suspects such as Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American imam with ties both to the 9/11 hijackers and to would-be Christmas Eve 2009 bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whose trial began in Detroit Tuesday.

In the scrimmaging for the GOP nomination, Tuesday began with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of Mitt Romney and two new polls showing Romney with leads in Iowa (a small one) and New Hampshire (a larger one).  And the polls in both states pointed toward tough re-election prospects for the president.

Shortly before the GOP contenders gathered at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire Tuesday night for another debate, there was another demonstration of Obama’s political weakness. He and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were unable to get all Democratic senators to vote with them on a jobs and tax bill – it was another reminder that Obama has lost ground in places such as Montana, Nebraska and Virginia, states he either won or where he had some support in 2008.

The biggest immediate impression from the GOP debate was that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was strikingly less visible and assertive than businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

It was Santorum toward the end of the debate who made the most determined effort to grasp the opportunity of news coverage of Wall Street protestors, offering his critique of the 2008 bailouts: “I opposed the single biggest government intrusion into the private sector, the Wall Street bailout, the TARP program.”

Romney gamely stuck to his 20008 “on the one hand/on the other hand” defense of the TARP bailout as necessary to avoid a collapse of the entire financial system. “We were on the precipice and we could have had a complete melt-down of our entire financial system, wiping out all the savings of the American people,” Romney said – not a position that most Tea Party activists want to hear. 

Romney probably also benefited from the increasingly spirited internal warfare between Herman Cain and Ron Paul which consumed several minutes of the debate.  Still, he remains an establishment front-runner in an political atmosphere infused with populist sentiment.

It was just one day but you might want to put a check mark next to it, just in case.