Debt Battle Sets Stage for Hyper-Partisan 2012 Election Expect stark contrasts, not mushy generalities By Mark Russell, Newser Staff Posted Aug 2, 2011 8:20 AM CDT 25 comments Comments US President Barack Obama leaves after making a statement on debt crisis at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 31, 2011. (Getty Images) (Newser) – As nasty as the debt ceiling fight was, it was just a warm-up for the 2012 presidential election, which is shaping up to be a major referendum on the size, role, and philosophy of government, reports the Washington Post. “This had nothing to do with the debt ceiling,” said a consultant who runs a political leadership program for elected officials. “This was about the 2012 election, and the lines were drawn about as clearly as possible on both sides.” “This has helped crystallize the debate," said Obama strategist David Axelrod. "There is no doubt there will be a very distinct choice.” If past elections saw candidates sanding off rough edges and going for a mushy middle-ground, expect a fierce battle this time, with positions drawn in sharp relief. Whereas Obama was able to run on abstract hope and change in 2008, political analysts say that will not be an option this time. "If he wants the power to make transformative change, he’s going to have to make the argument for the change he wants to bring about,” said a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.