Entries in GOP Presidential Debate (17)


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


Republican Candidates Ready for Debate in New Hampshire

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- With the race for the Republican presidential nomination at its most critical moment to date, only days before the crucial New Hampshire primary, the six candidates will square off Saturday night in Manchester at a debate that has the potential to be the most explosive one yet.

The debate will air from 9-11 p.m. ET from Saint Anselm College, where it will be moderated by ABC News’ Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos, as well as WMUR-TV anchor Josh McElveen.

For every candidate, there is a lot at stake.

Fresh off his narrow eight-vote victory in the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney is the favorite to win the nation’s first primary on Tuesday. A resounding win in New Hampshire would leave Romney poised to run away with his party’s nomination with the primary season only just begun. The former Massachusetts governor has held massive leads in New Hampshire polls throughout the past six months, and he also sits atop the polls in South Carolina, where the race heads next. Convincing wins in both states would make Romney almost unstoppable before the race has even hit Florida in late January.

That only increases the odds that Romney will face a slew of attacks from his rivals at the debate.

Rick Santorum, riding a wave of momentum after his virtual tie with Romney in Iowa, comes into the debate with much to prove. The former Pennsylvania senator was almost an afterthought for much of last year, buried in the polls, but he surged to the forefront in Iowa.

Now the question is whether or not Santorum can survive in the spotlight and avoid the same fates that have befallen the other candidates who have attempted to emerge as the chief alternative to Romney. Just ask Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich. All three enjoyed stints atop the polls only to then plunge back into the pack.

Expect Santorum at the debate to try to draw clear contrasts with Romney, such as emphasizing his blue-collar roots. Santorum this week has already struggled to duplicate his Iowa magic in New Hampshire. He gave long-winded answers at numerous campaign stops and on Thursday came in for a frosty reception from a college crowd. At an event with students in Concord, Santorum was even booed after denouncing same-sex marriage, which is legal in New Hampshire.

“[For] 230 years marriage has been between one man and woman. So if you want to change the law … you have to make the positive argument about why,” he said, prompting several members of the audience to voice their disagreement with his stance.

If Santorum is eager to go toe to toe with Romney, then Gingrich is positively chomping at the bit. After Romney’s political action committee blasted Gingrich, an attack that played a part in Gingrich’s recent slump, the former House speaker is now prepared to take off the gloves and duke it out with Romney, a change of strategy after his initial promise to run a positive campaign. However, Gingrich must strike a delicate balance in Manchester if he is to succeed: go on the offensive against Romney without appearing angry and frustrated. In an interview Friday with George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America,” Gingrich sought to cast himself as a Reagan conservative while dubbing Romney Moderate Mitt, a line that he repeated later in the day at a campaign stop in the Granite State.

“There’s a point when you just have to say to somebody – get real. He’s a Massachusetts moderate,” Gingrich said in Newport, N.H.

Ron Paul, who came in third in Iowa, has proven that he can get under the skin of Gingrich and Santorum. The Texas congressman is not one to shy away from debate duels. At the last Republican debate in Sioux City, Iowa, he went back and forth with Michele Bachmann in a heated exchange. Now Bachmann is out of the race, leaving Paul free to set his sights on other rivals. With consistent support in most New Hampshire polls, Paul may also feel emboldened to deliver an aggressive performance in Manchester.

While there is a lot on the line for Paul, Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, perhaps no candidates need a good debate more than Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman. The former left Iowa with his campaign in tatters after a disappointing fifth-place finish. Perry said he wanted to return to Austin, Texas, to take time to reassess his struggling campaign, leading many observers to expect him to drop out altogether. But a mere 12 hours later, Perry had settled on soldiering on in the GOP contest, with his sights set firmly on a good finish in South Carolina. Despite his focus on the Palmetto State, Perry desperately needs to put in a strong showing in Manchester to jumpstart his campaign.

Huntsman comes into the debate with the same goal but with a completely different focus: He has staked his entire campaign on New Hampshire. Huntsman’s decision not to make a push for Iowa or South Carolina leaves him in dire need of a victory in New Hampshire, something that looks unlikely with his weak poll numbers, despite an endorsement by the Boston Globe. His tenuous position, combined with his tendency to take on Romney at every turn, makes a fiery performance from Huntsman in Manchester nearly a guarantee.

With so many candidates in such desperate positions, it is a safe bet to expect fireworks at the debate, especially involving Romney – the frontrunner is likely to bear the brunt of the attacks in Manchester. How successful the attacks are – and how well Romney responds to them – could go a long way toward determining the fate of the GOP race.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ron Paul Receives Media and Public Attention

ABC News(CONCORD, N.H.) -- Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is learning what it's like to be a top tier contender.

Flanked by two dozen members of the national and local press corps, Ron and his wife Carol were forced to abandon a leisurely breakfast at a New Hampshire diner when the media circus became too much for the small mom and pop establishment to handle.

Paul and his wife Carol twisted and turned through the tight Windmill Family Restaurant in Concord, shaking hands and answering voter's questions.

At one point, an elderly woman stopped Paul and politely asked his position on gay marriage, "I understand that you are for gay marriage," said the woman.

"I'm for government staying out of marriage," said Paul. "The government screws it all up."

As the woman retorted, "but it’s unnatural," the cameramen pressed in, some jumping in nearby booths, pressing against confused diners enjoying their breakfast.

"The important thing is how they live and what examples they set," said Paul trying to dodge the boom microphones hovering overhead.

Blocked by media swarm, Paul's security team was forced to clear a path for the U.S. Congressman from Texas to sit down at a nearby table.

However it was soon evident that the media corps wasn't going away and Paul, sitting alone at a large table as his security detail debated what to do, eventually abandoned his breakfast.

Getting into his car, Paul was asked for his prediction at tonight's debate.

Shaking his head and clearly annoyed by the whole experience, Paul mumbled, "nothing special."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Herman Cain Won't Answer Questions on Sexual Harassment Claims

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(THE WOODLANDS, Texas) -- Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain refused to answer questions on sexual harassment allegations against him on Saturday.

Cain was in Texas for a debate with fellow Republican candidate Newt Gingrich. After the debate reporters asked Cain questions, and when a reporter attempted to ask about the allegations Cain responded,
"Don't even go there."     

When other reporters pressed Cain to answer questions on the allegations and he did not respond, another reporter then asked Cain if he was never going to answer questions on the allegations, to which he replied, "You got it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Piling on Rick Perry: Texas Governor Draws Fire at Tea Party Debate

Win McNamee/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- In his second debate as a presidential candidate, Rick Perry found himself on the receiving end of a steady volley of attacks from his Republican rivals over his position on Social Security, his controversial executive order mandating an STD vaccine, his economic record in Texas and his stance on illegal immigration.

From his chief rival Mitt Romney to Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann to outsiders Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, Perry was subjected to an all-out ambush -- a fitting reception for a candidate who has shot to the top of the polls in recent weeks.

Romney dismissed Perry’s success as a job creator in Texas, suggesting that it had more to do with luck than skillful governing.

“If you’re dealt four aces, that doesn’t necessarily make you a great poker player,” Romney said.

Bachmann accused him of endangering the lives of “innocent little 12-year-old girls” by issuing an executive order -- later overturned by the Texas legislature -- requiring young women to receive inoculations against a virus that can lead to cervical cancer.

“I’m offended for all the little girls and parents who didn’t have a choice,” Bachmann said.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum added, “This is big government run amok.  It is bad policy, and it should not have been done.”

And several of the candidates took on Perry for signing a bill that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Texas, and for saying that it is unrealistic to build a fence along the country’s entire southern border with Mexico.

“Of course we build a fence, and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who have come here illegally,” Romney said.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman went even further: “For Rick to say that you can’t secure the border is pretty much a treasonous comment.”

Nevertheless, Perry was mostly able to withstand the broadsides from his fellow Republicans at the debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express.  Many of the Texas governor’s answers drew applause from the audience, which included Tea Party activists from around the country who offered questions for the candidates.

Romney, who has been trailing Perry in most national polls since the Texan entered the race about a month ago, did not wait long to go after his biggest rival.  But some of Romney’s attacks garnered only a tepid response -- and, at times, even boos -- from the Tea Party crowd.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palin Critiques GOP Candidates, Stays Vague on 2012 Plans 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sarah Palin is still not ready to reveal whether she’ll get into the presidential race, and though she’s said in the past that she’s happy with the current Republican field, following Monday night’s debate, she voiced a dissatisfaction with the current crop of GOP contenders.

“They haven’t tackled debt and deficit spending to the degree that they should, so they don’t have a record to stand on,” Palin said of the GOP candidates on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News show, immediately following the Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida.  Palin is a paid contributor for Fox News.

Despite her misgivings, Palin stood up for one candidate: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who during the debate criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for allowing a state law that required HPV vaccinations for adolescent girls.  According to Bachmann, Perry supported the legislation because one of his top staffers was a lobbyist for Merck, the drug company that manufactured the vaccine.  Merck also donated to Perry’s gubernatorial campaign.

“I knew there was something to it,” Palin said about discovering that Perry had approved the use of the vaccine.  “Now we’re finding that now, yeah, something was up with that issue.  It was an illustration or bit of evidence of some crony capitalism.”

As for her own plans for 2012, Palin told Susteren she’s “engaged internally” on whether to get in the race.  She added that she doesn’t see a “drop dead” timeline to her entry -- previously, the former Alaska governor said that she’d announce her 2012 decision by the end of September.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ron Paul Booed over 9/11 Remarks during GOP Debate

Win McNamee/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul was booed at Monday night’s CNN/Tea Party debate while explaining his view on why America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

During the debate, the Texas Congressman was asked if he planned to decrease defense spending to balance the budget.

Paul agreed that there is waste to cut, specifically dealing with outdated technology.  However, he said that a lot more money could be saved if America embraced a policy of non-intervention.  He added that the United States is in 130 countries and has 900 bases around the world, and added that “we’re broke.”

Paul then went a step forward, criticizing America’s global presence, especially in the Middle East, as being a catalyst for terrorism.

“We have to be honest with ourselves.  What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?” Paul asked.

His view of foreign non-intervention received applause from the audience.  It was also the subject of his latest Texas Straight Talk column marking the anniversary of 9/11.  In it, Paul argues that foreign occupation is the “real motivation behind the September 11 attacks and the vast majority of other instances of suicide terrorism.”

Fellow GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum challenged Paul to explain that article, which he said blames America for 9/11.  However, when Paul began to cite U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and America’s policy on Palestine as being the causes of the attacks, the audience booed him.  Undaunted, Paul continued to explain his view of why the attacks occurred.

At the end, Paul said, “Would you be annoyed?  If you’re not annoyed, then there’s some problem.”

Opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more generally to U.S. military activity abroad, has been a cornerstone of Paul’s candidacy and sets him apart from the rest of the Republican field.

Paul has a long record of voting against international intervention.  He voted against both Iraq wars.  He voted against the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 which he called a “declaration of virtual war.”  Although he did vote for the use of force and emergency appropriations in Afghanistan after 9/11, he now says he regrets the votes and says the money was misused.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Candidates Ready for Debate as Obama Focuses on Jobs

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President Obama takes to the Rose Garden Monday morning to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, eight of the Republicans seeking to replace him will gather in Florida for their second debate in less than a week.

According to a White House official, the president is expected to announce that he’s sending the jobs bill he outlined last week to Congress.

And while Obama is talking jobs, the topic du jour at Monday night’s CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, which starts at 8 p.m. ET, is likely to be Social Security.  With front-runner Rick Perry touting his “Ponzi scheme” line almost everywhere he goes, several of his rivals are planning to pounce.

For starters, there’s Michele Bachmann, who was largely relegated to second-tier candidate status at last week’s debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

“Bernie Madoff deals with Ponzi schemes, not the grandparents of America,” a Bachmann adviser told the Washington Examiner.  “Clearly she feels differently about the value of Social Security than Gov. Perry does.   She believes Social Security needs to be saved, that it’s an important safety net for Americans who have paid into it all their lives.”

In addition to Bachmann, look for rival Mitt Romney to step up his attacks on Perry over Social Security and other issues.  Romney and his advisers have been pushing the notion that Perry’s dim view of the entitlement program makes him unelectable in a general election.

Also likely to be on the agenda on the debate stage Monday night: immigration.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Analysis: Who Won the Republican Presidential Debate?

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(SIMI VALLEY, Calif.) -- The organizers of Wednesday night’s GOP debate did their best to turn the eight person debate into one that was really about two people: Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

And in that match-up, Romney came out the winner.  He was confident and solid throughout the entirety of the debate, a benefit of being a two-time presidential candidate.  He stuck to his strong points -- economy and jobs -- deftly sidestepped his weakness -- healthcare -- and took advantage of stumbles made by his main opponent, Perry.

Perry’s first outing on the GOP debate stage was decent, but inconsistent.  He was like a boxer who comes out strong for the first two rounds, but then runs out of stamina by the later rounds.  His attacks on Romney’s record of job creation in Massachusetts during the first few minutes of the debate were sharp and crisp.  But, when it came to defending his own statements on Social Security and climate change later in the debate, he floundered.

Two candidates who struggled in last month’s debate in Iowa -- former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Herman Cain -- were more polished and poised Wednesday night.  Still, Huntsman’s message of moderation and his emphasis on electability is going to do little to improve his standing among the GOP base.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the surprise “winner” of the first GOP debate in South Carolina earlier this year, was solid but lacked the sizzle of previous debates.  Instead of attacking Perry, the guy who is the biggest threat to her candidacy, she stuck to her well-worn talking points.

Wednesday night's debate is the first of three over the next two weeks which means these eight candidates will have plenty of opportunities to improve -- or falter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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