Entries in Republican Presidential Debate (16)


Analysis: Perry Takes Off Gloves at Debate But Doesn’t Land KO Punch

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- For the first time since he got into the presidential race just over two months ago, Rick Perry finally looked comfortable on the debate stage Tuesday night.

Gone was the laconic and vaguely dazed Texas governor.  In his place, was a feisty candidate eager to engage Mitt Romney.  But, even as he took the gloves off, Perry didn’t land any knockout punches -- or even leave a bruise.

Meanwhile, it was Herman Cain who struggled throughout the night.  Cain, who normally shows up with a spring in his step and a quick quip at the ready, looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He’s learning, as Romney knows all too well, that it’s not so fun coming into a debate with a bulls-eye on your back.  The relentless assault on his 9-9-9 plan by his opponents and the media has clearly taken its toll.

The always-steady Romney did get a bit flustered at points by Perry’s more aggressive style -- even reaching out to touch Perry at one point in an attempt to get him to let him answer a question.

A number of times, Romney chastised his opponents for not following the “rules” of the debate.  That may work well in high school forensics, but in real life no one likes the kid who comes across as the know-it-all.  Remember, Romney’s biggest hurdle is not to convince voters he’s the smartest guy in the room, it’s to convince them that he’s real.

Even so, Romney proved once again that he’s the strongest debater in the bunch.  Romney found a way to turn almost every attack into a counter-punch.  He even found a way to undercut Perry on his greatest asset -- his record of job growth in the state -- saying that “almost half the jobs created in Texas were taken by illegal immigrants.”

Which brings us to the bigger issue for Perry: his inability to get on the economic/jobs message that his campaign was supposed to be all about.

When he got into this race he was the “jobs” governor, creator of the “Texas Miracle.”   Tuesday night, it wasn’t until one hour and 47 minutes into the debate that Perry finally mentioned that record.

In the end, Perry proved that he can compete on a debate stage, but he hasn’t proven his ability to dominate it.  For wary Perry donors and supporters, however, his performance on Tuesday night should make their job of selling the Texas governor a bit easier.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palin Praises Gingrich's Debate Performance, Goes after Perry

Allison Shelley/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In one of Sarah Palin’s first appearances since announcing her decision not to enter the GOP primary, she praised Newt Gingrich, declaring him the winner of Tuesday night’s CNN debate in Las Vegas while also criticizing Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Palin said on Fox News’ On the Record with Greta van Susteren that Gingrich would “clobber Barack Obama in any debate,” but that he probably won’t end up being the nominee although “he’s seen it all” when it comes to politics.

“I think we [Republicans] are more interested in substance and that’s why like tonight Newt Gingrich again I think did the best because he seems to be above a lot of the bickering that goes on,” Palin told Susteren, comparing the fighting rivals to her bickering children.  “I don’t know if he’s going to be the one that surfaces as the fortunate candidate who gets to face Barack Obama because unfortunately, in this day and age, sometimes conventional wisdom would dictate that he who has the most money, the campaign dollars, wins.  I don’t want to believe that this is going to be the case this go-around.”

She also praised Michele Bachmann for pledging not to stop aid to Israel, but went hard after one time friend Rick Perry, saying he is seen as someone who is “incentivizing” illegal immigration.

“By providing in state tuition for those who are not residents of his state, because the illegal immigrants who are there -- they are not even obviously -- not residents of America legally much less the state of Texas,” Palin said.  “It sounds like Rick Perry is having a heck of a time trying to explain his position on illegal immigration when he has incentivized some to be able to really grasp a benefit that the majority of Americans would never be able to take an advantage of: in state tuition in the state of Texas.”

Palin told Susteren she was hoping the candidates would go into more detail about their economic plans, adding that even after the eighth debate “we are still looking for that candidate that will rise to the top and be the frontrunner.”

She also gave some advice to the debate moderators saying she hopes in future debates “they can press [the candidates] a little hard on detail” and “dig a little bit more.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan Gets Grilled at Nevada GOP Debate

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- GOP frontrunner Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan took a beating at Tuesday night’s debate in Las Vegas.  His fellow contenders took his proposal to the mat, using the first 20 minutes of the debate to zero in on the businessman’s so called “economic vision for growth and renewal”.

Since climbing to the top of the polls, Cain’s plan has come under attack across the board, from former Ronald Reagan economic advisors to Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform.  But on Tuesday night, it was the job of those vying for the Republican nomination to try and expose the plan that has helped catapult Cain forward.

Following the debate, Cain told reporters, “The higher up you are in the polls, the more they’re gonna target you and come after you.”

“I believe that the attacks I got tonight shows that they still don’t have a plan so their only strategy is to attack mine.  All of the attacks that were made were erroneous.  I’m not worried about it,” he said.

Michele Bachmann, a former tax lawyer, derided Cain’s plan for being a tax plan and not a jobs plan.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said, “Herman’s well-meaning, and I love his boldness, and it’s great.  But the fact of the matter is, I mean, reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan.  That’s the analysis.”

A recent study from the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, said that Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would raise taxes on 84 percent of American households -- something Herman Cain denied on his bus tour across Tennessee.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took a soft approach saying, “Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out.  Go to New Hampshire, where they don’t have a sales tax, and you’re fixing to give them one."

“... [R]ight here in Nevada you’ve got 8-plus percent.  You want nine cents on top of that, and nine cents on a new home -- or 9 percent on a new home, 9 percent on your Social Security, 9 percent more?  I don’t think so, Herman.  It’s not going to fly,” Perry added.

Cain has addressed this claim on the trail saying that his tax is a replacement tax not an added tax, saying his fellow candidates were mixing apples and oranges, something he reiterated at the debate over and over again.

“This is an example of mixing apples and oranges.  The state tax is an apple.  We are replacing the current tax code with oranges.  So it’s not correct to mix apples and oranges,” said Cain.  “What the 9 percent does is that we take out those five invisible taxes and replace it with one visible 9 percent.”

When Mitt Romney, went after the plan, Cain responded “Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you’re still going to pay that.  That’s apples and oranges.”

Romney responded, “Fine.  And I’m going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it because I’ve got to pay both taxes and the people in Nevada don’t want to pay both taxes.”

Cain stood his ground under the intense scrutiny of his plan: “Once again, unfortunately, none of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me up here tonight understand the plan.  They’re wrong about it being a value-added tax.  We simply remove the hidden taxes that are in goods and services with our plan and replace it with a single rate 9 percent.  I invite every family to do your own calculations with that arithmetic.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Romney Explains Record of Hiring Illegal Immigrants as Lawn Workers

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- The Romney campaign dubbed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s accusations that the former Massachusetts governor employed illegal immigrants as a “personal, cheap shot,” that came from someone who came to Tuesday night’s debate “angry” and “out to get Mitt Romney.”

Perry accused Romney of hiring illegal immigrants at his Massachusetts home during Tuesday night’s CNN debate in Las Vegas, recalling a story first reported by The Boston Globe in 2007 when it discovered that lawn workers at the Romney’s Belmont home were not in the country legally.

“Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year,” said Perry.  “And the idea that you stand here before us and [say] that you’re strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy.”

The issue of illegal immigration has pitted Perry and Romney against one another again and again this campaign cycle.  While Perry has said he does not support a fence across the border between the U.S. and Mexico, Romney has advocated for one, arguing that employers in America are acting as “magnets” to illegal immigrants who are looking for work and whose legality is never properly checked.

At the Fox News debate in September, Perry accused Romney of “not having a heart,” after Romney said he opposed giving in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.  Romney in turn responded by saying, “I think if you’re proposed to illegal immigration it doesn’t mean you don’t have a heart it means you have a heart and a brain.”

Tuesday night, the exchange over illegal immigration didn’t die down, with the duo going back and forth and interrupting each other repeatedly.  “Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life,” said Romney, prompting an argument between him and Perry during which Romney asked, “I’ll tell you what, let me take my time, and then you can take your time.  All right?”

Romney later went on to explain what happened back in 2006, when the story was first reported.

“We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal immigrants that were working there.  And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go,” said Romney, as Perry interrupted him again.  “I suggest if you want to become president you have to allow both people to speak.”

“So we went to the company and we said, look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property,” said Romney.  “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.  It turns out that once questioned, they hired someone who had falsified their documents, had documents, and therefore we fired them.”

Romney then quickly turned the accusation into a talking point, reiterating his suggestion that an e-verify system be put in place to check the status of employees getting hired for work.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Huntsman Calls Las Vegas Debate a ‘Game Show’

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images(HOPKINTON, N.H.) -- Jon Huntsman may have skipped out on CNN’s Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, but at his town hall event in Hopkinton, N.H., Tuesday night, he worked the stage like it was the Improv at Harrah’s.

“You see, I was offered an invitation to a game show tonight out in Las Vegas,” Huntsman joked to a packed house.  “It’s called a presidential debate.  There will be sound bites, and there will be talking points, and there will be buzzers."

“You’ll probably have some people wander around after the show is over,” Huntsman continued, walking across the floor.  “I know my friend Herman Cain will likely play the roulette wheel and he’ll be focusing on getting the ball on 9, 9, 9.  And Romney will likely be staying at Trump Tower because he’s already won the apprenticeship for the presidency. … I thought we’d come here together and talk about serious issues because I’ve also heard that what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Vegas.  And I say that what happens in New Hampshire impacts the world.”

Last week, Huntsman was the first GOP candidate to announce that he would boycott the Nevada caucus if it threatened New Hampshire’s position as the first primary in the nation, with five of the seven other major candidates announcing soon after that they would do the same.  However, Huntsman was the only one to take his threat one step further by rejecting his invitation to participate in CNN’s Las Vegas debate.

At an event Tuesday afternoon, Huntsman told a small group of reporters that his GOP rivals were making the wrong decision by appearing at the debate.

“All I can say is they’re missing out on a huge opportunity by not embracing a total boycott of the Nevada caucus and doing what the New Hampshire voters would expect,” Huntsman said.  “That’s to stand in a town hall meeting, delivering a vision for this country and taking questions from the average voters here.  That’s where the action is and that’s what ultimately is going to allow someone to win the New Hampshire primary.  And at a critical time when we need to be discussing our economy and how we’re going to create jobs, that’s how it’s done.  So I’m happy to be here.”

While Huntsman was able to pull a fairly large New Hampshire crowd away from the debate, it is unclear whether his strategy to boycott Nevada will lead to success in the Granite State.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Romney, Perry Wage War of Authenticity at Republican Debate

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- In their third debate in as many weeks, the two leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination waged a war of authenticity, challenging each other on their records in government -- even on the words printed in their books.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has seen his lead in national and some early primary state polls evaporate, swiped at front-runner Rick Perry on the issue of Social Security.  Romney has been trying to make the case that the Texas governor’s stance on the entitlement program is too extreme.

“There’s a Rick Perry out there that’s saying that -- almost quoted it says that the federal government shouldn’t be in the pension business, that it’s unconstitutional, unconstitutional and to be returned to the states,” Romney said, referencing Perry’s book, Fed Up!  “So you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.”

Later in Thursday night's debate, showing that he too has been carefully studying Romney’s writings, Perry accused his opponent of changing his tune between printings of his book, No Apologies, on whether the health care plan he signed into law in Massachusetts should be a model for the rest of the country.

“You said that it was exactly what the American people needed to have,” Perry said.

Romney shot back, “I said no such thing.”

“It’s fine for you to retreat from your own words in your own book, but please don’t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book,” Romney said.

The exchange at the debate in Orlando, sponsored by Fox News and Google, reflected the larger battle between the two campaigns, each trying to jockey for the top spot in the Republican field along with seven other candidates who shared the stage Thursday night, who were just hoping to get some attention and airtime.

Despite some lines he might wish he could take back -- “There are a lot of reasons not to elect me” -- Romney delivered a mostly solid performance displaying his command of issues and even some sharp-edged responses while under attack.

Perry landed some punches on Thursday night, but his performance was uneven at times.  He fumbled through an answer to a foreign policy question about what he would do if, as president, he received a middle-of-the-night phone call informing him that a Pakistani nuclear weapon had fallen into the hands of terrorists.  The Texas governor also appeared to lose his way while trying to portray Romney as a flip-flopper.

Other candidates had their blunders too.  When Michele Bachmann was asked to give a specific answer about how much out of every dollar earned, Americans deserve to keep, she said, “I think you should keep every dollar that you earn.”

A moment later, she added: “Obviously we have to give money back to the government so that we can run the government.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Romney Book Changed to Remove Line about National Health Reform

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- After the Republican presidential debate Thursday night, a senior advisor to Mitt Romney acknowledged that a line about spreading health care reform throughout the country was changed in the paperback version of Romney’s book No Apology.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said during the Florida debate that Romney took out the single line that suggested the Massachusetts health reform law could be applied to the country.  The line that is removed in the paperback version reads, “We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country.”

Romney has been dogged during the presidential campaign by the Massachusetts health reform law, which was a model for the national law Democrats enacted in 2010.  Republicans are united in their opposition to the national law.

During the debate Romney denied that his book had been changed.

“I actually -- I actually wrote my book, and in my book I said no such thing.  What I said -- actually, when I put my health care plan together -- and I met with Dan Balz, for instance, of The Washington Post.  He said, is this a plan that if you were president you would put on the nation, have the whole nation adopt it?  I said, absolutely not.  I said, this is a state plan for a state, it is not a national plan."

Perry and Romney spent a good amount of time at the debate sparring over their respective books.  Romney criticized Perry’s writings about Social Security.

“It’s fine for you to retreat from your own words in your own book, but please don’t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book.  I stand by what I wrote.  I believe in what I did.  And I believe that the people of this country can read my book and see exactly what it is,” said Romney.

But Thursday night after the debate, Romney’s staffer Eric Fehrnstrom said that line was indeed removed because there was more information.

“Every time a book goes from hardcover to paperback there are updates that are made,” said Fehrnstrom after the debate.  “When Mitt Romney wrote his book No Apology it came out before the health reform law passed and the stimulus bill passed came so of course there were updates a year later when the paperback edition came out.  That’s not unusual in the publishing industry.”

“They were simple updates to reflect that we had more information at the time the paperback came out,” said Fehrnstrom.

The first edition of Romney’s book was published on March 2, 2010.  Obama’s Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.  The paperback version of Romney’s book was first issued in February of 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Debate Day: GOP Readies for Showdown in Sunshine State

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Nearly the entire Republican presidential field descends on Florida Thursday for their third debate in as many weeks, and a new poll in the pivotal primary state shows a familiar story line.

Rick Perry has pulled the rug out from under Mitt Romney in the Sunshine State, usurping his once first-place standing there.  According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, 28 percent of Florida Republicans favor Perry compared to 22 percent who are supporting Romney.

In a state replete with retirees, it also appears that Perry's "Ponzi scheme" line plays well.  By a 60 percent to 14 percent margin, Florida Republicans say "Perry wants to fix Social Security."

It's a potentially distressing finding for the Romney campaign, which spent much of Wednesday hammering away at Perry on Social Security.

Paraphrasing Perry, Romney told a group of Miami residents who gathered at a town hall meeting, "He said, by any measure, Social Security is a failure.  I disagree. I  think by the measure of the tens of millions of people who rely on Social Security it's a success.''

Perry's communications director, Ray Sullivan, accused Romney of "sounding like a Democrat, distorting the truth and trying to scare senior citizens."

Look for Romney to offer up the electability argument again Thursday night on the debate stage in Orlando, Fla., where nine of the candidates, including the little-known former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, will square off.

Thursday's Quinnipiac poll found that in general election matchups with President Obama, Romney leads 47 percent to 40 percent.  By contrast, Perry comes up short against the president, 44 percent to 42 percent.

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

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