Entries in GOP debate (45)


Obama Calls GOP Debates Fodder for Campaign Ads

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Obama said Thursday night that his campaign might run excerpts of the GOP primary debates as political ads “without commentary” during the general election.

“I recommend you watch the recent debates,” Obama told a star-studded group of 90 donors at the Upper East Side home of HBO executive James Costos.

“I’m thinking about just running those as advertisements,” he said with a smile and slightly joking tone.  “Without commentary; here you go.”

White House officials have said the president hasn’t actually watched any of the debates, but that he has only read reports about them.

Obama suggested that the ads would simply point out “this is what they said awhile back.”

“I think what you’re seeing now in the Republican primary underscores what’s at stake in this election,” he added.

Obama made the comments during his fourth and final campaign fundraiser in New York City Thursday night, where tickets were $10,000 apiece.  Spotted in the crowd were singer John Legend, designer Tory Burch, actress Mariska Hargitay and designer Michael Kors.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich Spokesman on Fla. Debate: 'It Was a Push'

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- You know you’ve had a bad debate when your own spokesman can’t spin it as a win.

“It was a push,” replied Newt Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond when asked who won.  “Santorum had a good night.”

Not only did Mitt Romney put in his best debate performance yet, but Gingrich was so slow-footed he lost a round with moderator Wolf Blitzer.

“Are you satisfied right now with the level of transparency as far as [Romney's] personal finances?” Blitzer asked.

It was a perfectly reasonable question given that Gingrich had made such a big deal about Romney’s tax returns in the first place, but Gingrich scolded Blitzer, saying, “This is a nonsense question.”

But Blitzer stuck to his guns, pointing out that Gingrich had said just a day earlier that Romney “lives in a world of Swiss Bank and Cayman Islands bank accounts.”

“I didn’t say those words. You did,” Blitzer said.

“I did.  And I’m perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show, but this is a national debate,” Gingrich said, creating an opening for Romney.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here?” Romney said.

And so it went.  Romney quite simply out-debated Gingrich -- on immigration, on Freddie Mac and even on space exploration.

Romney did have a couple of miscues -- he admitted he didn’t even know what was in his own Spanish-language radio ad, and he spoke a little too much about the trustee who manages his personal investments -- but overall he was the clear winner.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum: Romney's Health Care Plan 'Worth Getting Upset About'

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(Jacksonville, Fla.) -- Rick Santorum came into the spin room Thursday evening after the GOP presidential debate in Jacksonville, Fla., and said he "felt like we had opportunities tonight that we haven't had in the past" because he only shared the stage with three opponents.

He answered questions on what was probably his most memorable moment of the debate, when he criticized Mitt Romney on his health care plan in Massachusetts and Romney interrupted an angry Santorum and said it wasn't worth getting angry at.

"Well yeah actually it is worth getting upset about.  You have Mitt Romney telling people that the government can force them just because they are alive that they have to go out and buy private insurance as a condition of living in a state or a country," Santorum said.  "It's not the way we do things in America and it does incite a lot of passion and in some people anger.  I don't think I was angry but I was very passionate."

Despite his louder tone, Santorum didn't think he sounded angry.  Instead, he said Romney said that because it was a "debate tactic."

"This is Mitt Romney, schooled debater trying to divert attention to the basic issues.  He supports something the vast majority of Floridians and probably the supermajority of Republican Floridians want nothing to do with and they don't want a candidate I believe ultimately who is going to have to go up against Barack Obama and give away the most important issue in this election which is freedom and liberty," Santorum said.

Another reporter asked if it was too little, too late to bring up Romney's health care plan, which has turned out not to be as big of an issue for Romney as initially expected.

"This is only the second time we've had four people in the debate," Santorum said.  "Part of it is when you have the opportunities and now with four people in the debate you can hear more from me and hopefully the people of this country now that they are hearing more will like what they hear."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Blasts Gingrich as 'Influence Peddler' at Fla. Debate

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Mitt Romney accused Newt Gingrich Monday night of "influence peddling" during his time as a consultant for Freddie Mac, a sharp attack from the one-time front-runner that reflected the close race for the Republican nomination.

The showdown between Romney and Gingrich at the latest Republican presidential debate -- eclipsing the two other candidates -- wore on for so long that at one point, the debate's moderator had to cut them off to take a commercial break.

Romney started out by sharply criticizing Gingrich over his time as Speaker of the House in the 1990s, then turned his criticism to Gingrich's work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

"I don't think we could possibly retake the White House if the person who's leading our party is the person who's working for the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac," Romney said.

But Gingrich countered with his trademark direct style, saying, "You've been walking around this state saying things that are not true."

He defended his role as a consultant to the mortgage giant by arguing that he wasn't lobbying, per se, but rather was openly advocating for Medicare plans.

"Here's why it's a problem," Romney said.  "If you're getting paid by health companies...that can benefit from a piece of legislation, and you then meet with Republican congressmen and encourage them to support that legislation, you can call it whatever you like.  I call it influence peddling."

The debate in Tampa, Fla., began on a decidedly negative tone and reflected the tension between Romney and Gingrich after the ex-speaker dominated the early front-runner in the South Carolina primary over the weekend.

The candidates spent the first portion of the debate going over personal issues, not national ones.  Romney, for example, was questioned about his tax release, which was due within hours, and said he wouldn't follow his father's lead and release 12 years' worth of returns.

Romney also turned the questions about his taxes into a riff on his plan to lower taxes, and he told Gingrich that under the ex-speaker's plan, he would pay nothing in taxes because all his income comes from investments.

Gingrich replied by suggesting that he'd be fine with that, "if you created enough jobs doing that."

There were two other candidates at the debate -- Rick Santorum and Ron Paul -- but neither got much time in the spotlight.

Paul told the debate's moderator, NBC's Brian Williams, that he has "no plans" to run for president as a third-party candidate if he doesn't win the Republican nomination.

Santorum, meanwhile, continued to try to portray Romney and Gingrich as too moderate by tying them to the policies in President Obama's health care program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Points to Fundraising as Proof of Staying Power

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Rick Santorum made a brief trip Monday night to the spin room after the NBC News/National Journal debate in Tampa, Fla. -- the only candidate out of the four remaining to do so -- and said his campaign raised $170,000 on Sunday.

Although short of a brokered convention, Florida will most likely continue to be a winner-takes-all state, and Santorum says he’s not “wasting time” campaigning there instead of moving on to other states like Nevada which votes next or the Super Tuesday states.

“I’m not wasting time if you guys put cameras in front of me and you talk about what I’m saying…this is a national race and we are going to be around for a long time in this race,” Santorum told reporters.  “We are going to be working in a lot of different states and as we -- as I said today if you were waiting for something to happen in this race wait for tomorrow, wait for the next day, this race is going to change.  People have been up, people have been down and I’ve been here.”

He said the money raised means supporters “want us to stay in the race.”

“They understand that the other two candidates have serious problems and when hopefully people get a chance to calm down and focus on the real issues … we feel that we stack up very, very, very well,” Santorum said.  “And hopefully the people of Florida will take a step back, take a look at not just who the media is talking about, and flapping their gums about but who in fact is the best person to beat Barack Obama and we think that’s me.”

He pledged that he wouldn’t change his message for the less socially conservative state of Florida, but he would focus on some of the issues that are “unique” to the state.

“I’m excited about that because I’ve had experience dealing with all those issues whether it’s Cuba, whether it’s off shore drilling, whether it’s the environmental issues here that Florida has to deal with, whether it’s the diversity issues,” Santorum said.  “These are all issues I’m very comfortable with because I come from a state that has a lot of diversity too.”

The former Pennsylvania senator will campaign in the state on Tuesday, flying around to several cities in the central and west coast regions of Florida before heading to Virginia on Wednesday to fundraise after a campaign stop in the morning in Naples.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Analysis: Winners and Losers of South Carolina Debate

John Moore/Getty Images(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- Who came out on top during Thursday night's GOP debate in Charleston, S.C.?

By the looks of it, the CNN-sponsored resulted in two winners: Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

Thursday night's debate was Santorum's strongest performance of the entire campaign.  He was confident, polished and substantive.  He was determined to fight Gingrich for the mantle of the “conservative alternative” to Mitt Romney.

But does this give Santorum enough of a boost to win the South Carolina primary?  Probably not.  It does, however, offer him the opportunity to pull in some of the undecided conservative voters and, ultimately, to deny Gingrich a win in the Palmetto State on Saturday.

As for Gingrich, the former speaker dominated the first five minutes of the debate with his scathing attack on moderator John King. 

King opened the debate by asking Gingrich to respond to allegations made by Gingrich’s ex-wife Marianne in an interview with ABC News and the Washington Post that Gingrich encouraged her to enter into an open marriage.  The question was an invitation for Gingrich to do what he does best -- chastise the media.

Gingrich got the crowd on their feet with lines like this one: “I’m am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”

Romney, for his part, fell right in the middle.  Despite his confidence and poise, his halting answer on releasing his tax records elicited audible boos from the audience.  Given the fact that this issue has dominated the race for the last week, it is surprising that he has yet to come up with a solid answer on this.

Moreover, Romney continues to look uncomfortable when he tries to downplay his considerable wealth.  But, the fact that Gingrich and Santorum both turned in solid performances Thursday night means there’s still a strong likelihood that they'll divide the conservative vote and allow Romney to squeak out a win.

Ron Paul, the fourth candidate on stage, came out in the bottom, fading into the background during the debate.  Even Santorum and Gingrich, who have enjoyed sparring with the Texas congressman in previous debates, essentially left him alone Thursday night -- a sign that his relevance in South Carolina is much more limited.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gingrich Releases 2010 Tax Returns During SC Debate

Kris Connor/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newt Gingrich’s tax returns aren’t the flashiest or the most complicated, but the former House speaker pulled in quite a few dollars in 2010.

Gingrich and his wife, Callista, made an adjusted gross income of $3,142,066 in 2010 -- most of it from one of Gingrich’s companies, Gingrich Holdings, Inc., headquartered on K Street in downtown Washington, D.C.

Gingrich’s campaign released his 2010 returns during Thursday night’s debate in South Carolina, after the candidate repeatedly called on Mitt Romney to release his 2010 returns during the latest leg of the GOP campaign.


During the debate, Romney said he would release multiple years of tax returns.  Until then, he had pledged to release his 2011 returns after they’ve been prepared in April.  Romney recently said he paid an effective tax rate of about 15 percent in 2010, as capital gains accounted for most of his income.

Here are some of the highlights of the Gingriches' 2010 tax returns:

-- Newt paid $19,800 in alimony in 2010
-- The couple paid an effective tax rate of 31.5 percent, a total of $989,945 in taxes paid
-- Newt drew $76,200 from the federal government, listed as income from the Office of Personnel Management
--  Of their total income, the Gingriches made $2,478,539 from the corporation Gingrich Holdings
-- The Gingriches made $191,827 from Gingrich Productions, Inc., a production company Callista heads
-- They made $60,868 in capital gains
-- The two also reported losses on some investment portfolios, including $25,357 in capital-gains losses on long-term holdings
-- They gave $9,540 to their church, the Basilica of the National Shrine, but Callista also drew $5,918 in income from the church for singing in its choir
-- The couple paid household help $14,774 in 2010
-- Total charity giving added up to $81,133
-- Newt has a bit of overseas holdings, too: he reported $1,681 in foreign qualified dividends
-- The Gingriches own a house in Wisconsin worth nearly $78,000 but lost about $6,000 in depreciated value

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich Turns Ex-Wife's Interview Into Attack on Media

/AFP/Getty Images(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- The most vibrant episode of Thursday night's Republican debate happened at the very beginning, as Newt Gingrich dismissed an explosive interview given by his ex-wife and accused the mainstream media of shielding President Obama.

CNN moderator John King opened the forum by asking Gingrich about an interview that his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich gave to ABC News, in which she said the former House speaker wanted an "open marriage" with her in 1999. Gingrich turned the question around on King, blaming the mainstream media for detracting from the issues and earning a standing ovation from the audience.

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"I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that," Gingrich said to cheers. "Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

As King tried to point out that CNN didn't show the interview, Gingrich jumped in and said that "it was repeated by your network."

"You chose to start the debate with it," he said. "Don't try to blame it on somebody else."

Gingrich has won support from Republican audiences by being openly skeptical of the media. In Thursday's debate, he triumphed as he said, "I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking the public."

The other candidates -- only three others, now -- were asked if the matter was a valid campaign issue. Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the race, said simply, "Let's get on to the real issues."

Rick Santorum, though, said that "these are issues of our lives" and that "those are things for everyone in this audience to look at."

The candidates also got heated while discussing health care, an issue that has taken a backseat to other matters during the campaign. Santorum led the charge against Romney as he lambasted "RomneyCare" for being the starting point for Obama's health care program that is hated among many Republicans.

Bluntly, Santorum said Romney's health care plan that was put in place in Massachusetts was the model that Obama used.

"He's going to have run against a president who's going to say: 'Well, look. Look at what you did for Massachusetts, and you're the one criticizing me?...I used your model for it.'"

While the crowd responded warmly, signaling many conservatives' hesitance to embrace Romney, the former Massachusetts governor said his plan was "absolutely not" perfect but that "having been there, having been on the front lines," he'd know how to repeal Obama's plan.

Santorum didn't buy it. "You do not draw a distinction that's going to be effective for us, just because it was at the state level, not the federal level," he said.

But Santorum also didn't save his criticism just for Romney. He accused Gingrich of being late to back off his stance on the individual mandate, and he later argued that Gingrich would be a dangerous Republican nominee because he's unpredictable. As an example, Santorum cited Gingrich's comment that Santorum should drop out of the GOP race, even though the former Pennsylvania senator beat him in Iowa and in New Hampshire.

"These are not cogent thoughts," Santorum said, adding that he feared a "worrisome moment that something's going to pop, and we can't afford that in a nominee.

"I'm steady. I'm solid. I'm not going to go out and do things that you're going to worry about," Santorum said.

The candidates also debated economic proposals, and with it, the focus on Romney's tenure at Bain Capital.

Romney has been criticized by Democrats and some GOP candidates alike for his role at Bain, being portrayed as a corporate raider who profited while people lost their jobs at companies in which the private-equity firm invested.

Romney has defended his time there by saying that four major companies that Bain helped have created more than 100,000 jobs, including 10,000 jobs that were lost.

"Capitalism works. Free enterprise works," Romney said at the South Carolina debate, adding that it felt "kind of strange on a stage like this with Republicans having to explain" how private equity and capitalism works.

Gingrich, who is gaining on Romney's lead in South Carolina, took a local angle as he tried to highlight Romney's time at Bain, saying that the company Georgetown Steel was hurt.

"He cited his experience as a key part of his preparation for being president," Gingrich said. "Those cases ought to be looked at."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Analysis: Romney Stumbles, Gingrich Shines at SC Debate

Charles Dharapa-Pool/Getty Images(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) -- Monday night's Republican presidential candidates debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was not one of Mitt Romney’s stronger debate performances; he stumbled when confronted by Rick Santorum about super PAC ads, and his answer on whether he’d release his personal tax returns was a muddled mess.

But, it wasn’t bad enough to derail his momentum as the frontrunner going into Saturday’s Republican primary in South Carolina.

As has been the case for the entire primary process, none of Romney’s opponents was able to make a clear, consistent or substantive case for why Romney shouldn’t be the nominee -- or, more important, why one of them should be the party’s standard bearer this fall.

Instead, it felt like four candidates going through the motions of yet another debate, while one -- Romney -- tried to run out the clock.

Newt Gingrich had a solid debate performance, perhaps his strongest since the ABC/Des Moines Register debate in early December.  Yet, his most memorable exchange was with Fox News moderator Juan Williams, not Romney.

Santorum tried to engage with Romney early on but, as he has done in previous debates, he spent more of his time arguing with Ron Paul over foreign policy.

Rick Perry, who is in a distant fifth place in South Carolina, took some swings at Romney early on, but by the middle of the debate his focus wavered to attacking Washington and the Obama administration.

In the end, Gingrich’s performance could help give him some needed momentum over Santorum, who's nipping at his heels.

Still, Monday night's debate did not have the feel of a “game changing” event.  If one of these candidates really wanted to distinguish himself from Romney, this was the night to do it.  Yet, no one did.  That means the ultimate winner Monday night, by default, was Romney.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


SC Debate: Romney Says He Will 'Probably' Release Taxes in April

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) -- Amid continued pressure from his rivals to make public his tax returns, Mitt Romney said at a Republican presidential candidates debate Monday night that he will "probably" release that information in April.

That timetable is in line with tradition of past nominees, who have released their information around tax day in early April.

"I have nothing in them that suggests there is any problem," he said.  "I'm happy to do so."

Romney had said as recently as last Wednesday that he doesn't feel the need to do anything more than the law requires him to do, which is reveal his assets.

Rick Perry took the lead in assailing the former Massachusetts governor, accusing him of dodging the question of tax records and called on him to release them before a nominee is decided.

"My income tax have been out every year.  Newt [Gingrich], I think you will let your income tax come out Thursday.  And Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money," the Texas governor said.  "Here's the real issue for us as Republicans.  We cannot fire our nominee in September.  We need to know now."

The other candidates came out swinging at Romney Monday night in the 16th debate of this primary season, attacking his leadership at Bain Capital along with his refusal to release tax returns.

Rick Santorum was perhaps Romney's most vocal critic of the evening.  He criticized the former governor for not standing up to his super PAC when it ran ads attacking Santorum for giving the right to vote to felons who have served their time.

"If you felt so impassionedly about it that you're going to go out there and have someone criticize me," the former senator said in a testy exchange, "then why didn't you try to change that when you were governor of Massachusetts?"

When Romney responded by dismissing super PACs, the former senator countered: "I would say stop it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio