The final result of the mid-term elections is not even in yet, but it’s never too early to start the campaign for the White House in 2012. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan invited Republican candidates to take part in the first presidential debate, to be held next spring at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California.debate

There are plenty of potential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Then there’s Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and South Dakota Senator  John Thune. And of course, if no one suitable throws their hat in the ring, Sarah Palin has offered to step up to the plate. Honestly, spring seems such a long time to wait.

Finally, a nod to the latest twist in the post-Cold War spy drama, with the unmasking of a Russian double agent who betrayed a Russian spy ring in the United States in June before defecting. The Russian paper which broke the story quoted a Kremlin official as saying a hit squad was probably already planning to kill him.  ”We know who he is and where he is,” the unidentified official said. “Do not doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already.”

In case you need reminding, Ramon Mercader was the Soviet agent who murdered exiled Bolshevik Leon Trotsky with an ice pick in Mexico in 1940, although these days radioactive polonium seems to be a more popular weapon.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Deficit plan could lay long-term groundwork

A bold new plan to slash the budget deficit may not get far in Congress, but it could be a starting point in coming years if Washington decides to get serious about controlling the federal budget. It could force politicians to confront the choices they will have to make in coming years in order to avoid a debt crisis along the lines of Greece or Ireland, analysts said.