Democrat President Barack Obama is running for re-election with the worst record of any incumbent in decades, so it is no surprise that quite a few Republicans are vying for the chance to challenge him in 2012.
It is also no surprise that the question of sky-high unemployment dominated the GOP hopefuls' debate in California on Wednesday night.
Front-runner Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, touted his state's strong record of job creation during his time in office.
Given Perry's lead in the polls, the other seven candidates -- particularly former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- disputed his claims and touted their own accomplishments.
Perry also came in for criticism from others on the stage over his previous statement that Social Security has become a "Ponzi scheme." It is dishonest, he pointed out, to pretend Social Security, as currently structured, will be around for today's young workers by the time they retire.
Of course, discussing reform of Social Security is politically risky. But then again, the fiscal health of entitlement programs has perhaps never been this dire. It is not really possible to deny that Social Security and Medicare must be reformed or they will run out of money -- Medicare within a few years and Social Security somewhat later. Whether or not Perry chose his words carefully in calling for a serious look at entitlements, it is plain that they are in jeopardy if they are not revamped -- and soon.
None of the candidates scored a knockout blow Wednesday, although it appears more and more that the race may come down to Perry and Romney. Both seemed more "presidential" than the others -- an intangible quality that can make a big difference when the eventual GOP nominee faces Obama next year.
None of the candidates has truly electrified the country so far, either -- except when compared with Obama.
And that is not hard to do.