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Obama's Tax Deal Likely to Emerge as Campaign Issue in 2012

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Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are among the likely GOP presidential hopefuls staking out a position on the Obama tax deal. (AP)

If Congress approves President Obama's deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years, the compromise is all but certain to be a major issue in the next election cycle.

"I'm a little bit surprised that there weren't more people pushing to have this be a three-year deal instead of a two-year deal," said Andy Card, the former White House chief of staff to President George W. Bush. "Because they've guaranteed that taxes will be front and center of the debate in terms of the presidential election in 2012. Which means it's also going to be front and center for the election for every member of Congress and for one third of the United States Senate."

High-profile Republicans who are likely to run for the GOP presidential nomination are already staking out their positions on the tax deal, which includes a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, a one-year cut in the payroll tax for employees and is estimated to cost $900 billion over two years.

The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint oppose it. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee support it. And former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence either aren't sure or are just staying mum.

Obama, who met with congressional leaders on Nov. 30 to work on this deal says he's focused on the issue at hand right now.

"These aren't times for us to be playing games," he said. "As I told the leaders at the beginning of the meeting, the next election is two years away and there will be plenty of time for campaigning."

Card told Fox News that he thinks this deal may cause some "angst" among Democratic primary voters in 2012 and lead to a primary challenger for Obama. But he added that it probably won't derail Obama's path to the Democratic nomination.

"I think that there may be token candidates running as a protest opportunity," he said. "But I think President Obama is highly likely to win the Democratic nomination."

But Card said the deal could hurt Democrats seeking to regain control of the House and prevent Republicans from capturing the Senate.

"Congressional candidates and U.S. Senate candidates won't want to be sucked into the class warfare debate," he said. "It makes a little more sense in the macro sense across the country. But in a lot of the swing districts, I don't think that’s a winning debate to have."

Molly Henneberg joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2002 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Washington bureau. Click here for more information on Molly Henneberg