Until now, President Obama has been one of the few Washington players who has resisted the temptation to explicitly link the debt talks to 2012 (compared with, say, Mitch McConnell, who has said his party will be destroyed if the debt ceiling collapses).

But that abruptly changed Friday, when Obama strode sternly into the White House and broke his own tacit rule of never mixing the nation’s business with his own political strategy. “Whoever the Republican nominee is,” he declared, “ we’re going to have a big serious debate about what we believe is the right way to guide American forward and to win the future.”

“And I’m confident that I will win that debate because … we’ve got the better approach,” he added.

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