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Opinion: The Questions We Should be Asking the GOP Candidates

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Republican presidential candidates on stage during a debate in Las Vegas, NV, on October 18th, 2011.

We are now recovering from gazillionth GOP presidential debate, and there is no end in sight. The ratings show that people are enjoying watching the contenders slug it out, but they can obscure the questions the candidates should be getting grilled about.

Ron Paul wants to eliminate five federal departments. Which ones are they and how will that affect you and me?

When Newt Gingrich wants to cut the EPA does he not care that there is arsenic in Iowa water supplies and all kinds of cancer-producing toxic material that needs to be identified and mitigated across the country? Is that what voters really want?

Mitt Romney has not been scrutinized enough for what he did while running Bain. He made the mergers profitable by slashing jobs, borrowing until the companies were bloated corpses, drained out the revenue to its investors, made a ton of money, and then killed the company. Is that what Americans want from their business leaders or their politicians?

Newt Gingrich is still idling near the top but the media has not reminded voters of the Gingrich definition of "family values." For the unitiated: Gingrich cheated on his first wife Jackie Battley with a staffer named Marianne Ginther. After marrying Ginther, he cheated on her with a staff member Callista Bisek, more than 20 years his junior, to whom he is now married.

As for Herman Cain, can we really elect a president who thinks he can run the most complex political system in the world like a pizza chain? There are the small problems of a Constitution, Congress and the Supreme Court, none of which pizza chains have. And a President needs to at least be able to tell our foreign policy areas of engagement apart -  illustrated by his disastrous interview about Libya with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

It's almost not worth talking about Michelle Bachmann, who has sunk to the bottom, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman, who will again be part of next Obama administration if Obama gets reelected. 

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "oops!" moment, when he failed to remember the third federal agency he wants to cut, was an insightful exception because it revealed a lot about the cavalier way in which the candidates want to slash federal agencies. As someone asked me, "When he slashes Commerce does Perry also want to slash NOAA and it's hurricane forecasting center?"

All in all, we need a lot more answers - and frankly - a lot more questions for each of these candidates, ones the debates just aren't digging up.

Steffen Schmidt is professor of political science at Iowa State University, blogs for the Des Moines Register and WNYC “It’s a Free Country,” and is chief political correspondent for