2012 race likely to be close, tough, maybe brutal

By CHARLES BABINGTON | November 5, 2011 | 9:30 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Election Day is one year away, so what's the best way to describe the Republican presidential race? Unsettled would seem appropriate.

But even with that uncertainty, the race's contours are taking shape.

For one, the 2012 campaign is almost certain to be a close and grinding contest.

Voters will have clearer choices on policy because all the GOP contenders are more conservative on the key issues than was the last GOP president nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

President Barack Obama will have to run a more negative campaign because unemployment will remain high and he'll have to portray the Republican alternative as unacceptable.