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No getting off the hook for these presidential hopefuls

Three state attorneys general spearheading the fight to overturn Obamacare will get their chance tonight to grill the Republican presidential hopefuls – one at a time – on whether the health-care mandate is constitutional, as well as ask a host of questions about the proper scope and power of the federal government.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee is hosting the unique forum from 8-10:00 p.m. ET on his Saturday Fox News Channel program.

Submitting themselves to the questioning will be Rep. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul, Gov. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Fellow presidential hopefuls Herman Cain and John Huntsman will not appear.

Leading the intensive questioning will be GOP Attorneys General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, Pam Bondi of Florida and Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia.

“You’ve got the three AGs who are most nationally prominent when it comes to [challenging] the constitutionality of Obamacare,” said Brian Hughes of the Republican Party of Bondi’s state, Florida. “I’m sure you’re going to have a lively discussion on our nation’s founding documents.”

Hughes also told WND that with Bondi doing the grilling, the candidates aren’t likely to get off the hook with political platitudes when the tough questions start.

“As a veteran criminal prosecutor and someone with years of courtroom experience,” Hughes said, “our attorney general will do a very good job of making these candidates get to the heart of the question.”

Huckabee explains on his website the unique scope and format of the forum: “The candidates all get the exact same amount of time; the order in which they answer questions is determined by a random drawing and not by arbitrary decisions of ‘king maker’ moderators.

“The candidates will appear singularly on stage and are not allowed to discuss or attack other candidates,” he continued, “but must stick to questions, which will focus on the federal/state relations of immigration, education, jobs, Obamacare, etc.”

“It’s going to be a very substantive dialogue,” Pruitt told KRMG Radio in Tulsa. “[We] probably will have at least 10 or so minutes of each of the respective candidates, and then we’re going to spend 30 minutes, I think, as a group, the three attorneys general and Governor Huckabee, dissecting and discussing their respective answers after their appearance.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn from each of these candidates whether they respect the Constitution, whether they respect the roles of the states,” he concluded.

Caroline Gibson, a representative with Cuccinelli’s office, told WND that all three attorneys general are currently challenging the federal government with at least one lawsuit over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Gibson said the attorneys general will ask “a series of questions about the proper role of the federal government relative to the states in areas such as health-care reform, regulation, education, life, the courts and more. The format will allow the AGs to ask several follow-up questions of each candidate.”

Gibson further told the Washington Post that Cuccinelli identified tomorrow’s forum as “a unique opportunity to ask questions from the perspective of state attorneys general … especially given their involvement in the fight against the federal government’s overreach.”

Pruitt told the Associated Press he believes that states, not the federal government, have a fundamental responsibility when it comes to overseeing public education and environmental concerns.

On health issues, Pruitt’s own website lays out his opinion of Obamacare: “Requiring every citizen to purchase a product from private companies encroaches on our individual liberty. We will continue to fight the continuous attempts by this administration to hide behind the guise of change to force unnecessary and overreaching federal regulations on American families and businesses.”

And while many of the candidates have pronounced clear positions on Obamacare itself, the more fundamental and philosophical differences in their beliefs on federal/state relations may not have been made as clear to voters.

That, Huckabee, says, is where tomorrow’s forum comes in.

“I do think it’s going to be a very insightful look at how candidates feel about issues, some of which they have not addressed yet,” Huckabee told Fox News Channel’s Jenna Lee this morning. “And they can’t complain or talk about the other candidates. We will call them down, they are not allowed to talk about or mention any other candidate.”

“This forum is an excellent opportunity to engage each of the candidates in a candid conversation about issues that are important to voters in our state and across the nation,” Bondi said in a press release sent out by the Republican Party of Florida. “This will be a historic election, and I am excited to play a part in helping voters gain a better understanding of candidates’ beliefs on fundamental issues such as constitutionalism and the role of government.”