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Mitt Romney's big economics speech: Can he deliver 'big change?'

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"I know it because I have seen it," Romney said, referring to bipartisanship during his years as a state governor working with a Democratic legislature. "Good Democrats can come together with good Republicans to solve big problems. What we need is leadership."

In Washington today, that leadership will have to come from more than just the president. For embers of bipartisanship to rekindle, it will also require some effort by members of both parties in Congress.

It appears likely that Republicans will continue to control the House – with most of them having signed a pledge not to raise new tax revenue. The Senate will probably continue to be beyond the filibuster-proof control of either party – perhaps with Democrats retaining the majority. Democrats widely want a fiscal solution that includes some new tax revenue alongside spending cuts, and more US voters align with that view than with the no-new-revenue view.

That gets back to an aspect of the political climate that's more supportive of fiscal change: There's growing pressure to accomplish it.

One sign came this week as more than 80 CEOs of large corporations joined a nonpartisan campaign called "Fix the Debt," designed as an alarm bell for both political parties to control government borrowing. Some 300,000 Americans have signed the group's petition.

Meanwhile, two deadlines loom that will force Congress to consider tax and spending policies: the need to raise the official "debt limit" (an artificial barrier to borrowing set by lawmakers), and the "fiscal cliff." The cliff comes at year-end, when Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire even as across-the-board spending cuts are scheduled to take effect.

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