GOP Debate Highlights

On Thursday night, eight Republican presidential candidates (Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum — Rick Perry was noticeably absent) gathered in an auditorium at Iowa State University for a debate sponsored by Fox News and the Washington Examiner. Saturday is the famous Ames straw poll, an essentially meaningless vote that observers tend to think will provide an early clue as to which candidate will win the Iowa caucuses and perhaps the Republican nomination. Here are the highlights from the debate:

Romney, bizarrely indicating his opposition to the debt deal: “Look, I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food, all right?”

Pawlenty, criticizing Obama and hinting at his next career move: “Where is Barack Obama’s plan on Social Security reform, Medicare reform, Medicaid reform? In fact, I’ll offer a prize tonight to anybody in this auditorium or anyone watching on television: If you can find Barack Obama’s specific plan on any of those items, I will come to your house and cook you dinner. Or, if you prefer, I’ll come to your house and mow your land. But in case Mitt wins, I’m limited to one acre. One acre.”

Pawlenty, on fellow Minnesotan Bachmann: “Look, she has done wonderful things in her life, absolutely wonderful things, but it is an indisputable fact that in Congress her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent.”

Bachmann, on Pawlenty: “You said the era of small government was over. That sounds more like Barack Obama, if you ask me.”

Pawlenty, on Bachmann: “She’s got a record of misstating and making false statements.”

Pawlenty, on Bachmann: “She fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare… If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you’re killing us.”

The most serious sparring between Pawlenty and Bachmann occurred when they discussed a Minnesota cigarette tax they both voted in favor of, back when Pawlenty was governor of Minnesota and Bachmann was a State Senator. In order to get conservatives to accept the tax — which he felt necessary to balance the budget — Pawlenty bundled it with an anti-abortion provision that forced doctors to scare pregnant women out of abortions by asking whether they wanted to anesthetize the fetus. The anti-abortion measure convinced Bachmann, who said in the debate that she voted in favor of the tax bill because, in her words, “you can get money wrong, but you can’t get life wrong.” Unfortunately, she misspoke during the debate, claiming that the cigarette bill “stripped away” anti-abortion provisions rather than increased them. This upset and confused Pawlenty, who responded to Bachmann’s answer with, “Yeah, what is wrong in the answer is the answer,” and “Her answer is illogical. Her answer is illogical!”

Gingrich, wary of “gotcha questions” from Fox: “I’d love to see the rest of tonight’s debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead, instead of playing Mickey Mouse games.”
Chris Wallace, moderator: “Speaker Gingrich, if you think questions about your records are Mickey Mouse, I’m sorry.”

Gingrich, when asked about his flip-flopping on Libya: “This is a good example of a gotcha question.”
Brett Baier, moderator: “No, it is not.”
Gingrich: “Yes, it is.”
Baier: “But Mr. Speaker, you said these two things.”

Chris Wallace, moderator, to Huntsman: “Some people have suggested that maybe you’re running for president in the wrong party.”

Cain: “America has got to learn how to take a joke.”

Brett Baier, moderator, surprised: “They all raised their hands. They’re all saying that they feel so strongly about not raising taxes that a 10 to one [spending cuts to tax increases] deal, they would walk away from.”

Pawlenty on Romney’s healthcare plan: “I called it Obamneycare, and I think that’s a fair label, and I’m happy to call it that again tonight.”
Romney: “I think I like Tim’s answer at the last debate [when he refused to criticize the plan, despite doing so a day earlier] better.”

Romney tried to defend his health care plan with a federalist “states’ rights” argument based on the 10th Amendment. The problem with Obama’s health care plan, Romney argued, is not that it requires people to buy health insurance if they can afford it (which is why most Republicans dislike it), but because it forces people in all states to buy health insurance. Romney wants to let the states develop their own health care plans. Ron Paul, though he clearly disliked the health care plan, is an adamant supporter of states’ rights, so he reluctantly agreed with Romney.

Romney, supporting states’ right when it comes to health care: “The right answer for every state is to determine what’s right for those states and not to impose Obamacare on the nation.”

Romney, opposing them when it comes to gay marriage: “I believe the issue of marriage should be decided on the federal level… and the reason is because people move from state to state of course.”

Santorum, on hypothetical abuse of the 10th Amendment: “We have Ron Paul saying, oh, what the states want to do — whatever the states want to do under the 10th Amendment’s fine. So if the states want to pass polygamy, that’s fine. If the states want to impose sterilization, that’s fine. No, our country is based on moral laws, ladies and gentlemen.”

Paul, trying to find an even more outrageous example: “That is sort of like asking the question if the states wanted to legalize slavery or something like that. That’s so past reality that no state is going to do that.”

Baier, stalling for time while his assistants find Bachmann: “Are we actually missing a candidate on the stage? We are. She’ll be right back, Congresswoman Bachmann. There she is. That’s OK.”

Paul, on Rick Perry’s entry into the campaign: “I’m very pleased that he’s coming in, because he represents the status quo… He’ll just gather all [my opponents’] votes.”

Huntsman, on why he didn’t hire American workers: “If you want to build a facility in the United States, you can’t because of the EPA’s regulatory reign of terror.”

Bachmann, on her BFF: “I like Sarah Palin a lot. We are very good friends.”

Pawlenty’s foreign policy: “People killed Americans. We needed to go there, find them, bring them to justice or kill them.”

Paul, putting himself in Ayatollah Khamenei’s shoes: “Why wouldn’t it be natural that [Iran] might want a weapon?”

Wallace to Bachmann: “Could you please tell Congressman Paul why he’s wrong?”

Bachmann, secretly: “I sit on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. I can’t reveal classified information.”

Santorum, on Iran: “[The Iranian people] are under a mullah-cracy that tramples the rights of women, tramples the rights of gays.”

Santorum, on gay marriage: “Seven justices forced gay marriages on the people of Iowa. I was the only one on this panel who came to Iowa last year and made sure that those three justices were defeated.”

Bachmann, on another kind of marriage: “I have an absolutely unblemished record when it comes to this issue of man-woman marriage.”

Bachmann, on her own marriage: “What submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband.”

Santorum, simultaneously supporting the death penalty and opposing abortion: “The Supreme Court of the United States on a recent case said that a man who committed rape could not be killed, could not be subject to the death penalty, yet the child conceived as a result of that rape could be.”

Cain, on why companies should get tax breaks even if they don’t create jobs: “If a company were to decide that they want to take some of that money and pay a bigger dividend, so what, it is their money. The people receiving the dividends might be happy with that.”

Gingrich, skeptical of the Fed: “I think that it is a scandal that the Federal Reserve is secret.”

Paul, solving the deficit crisis: “We owe the Fed $1.6 trillion in treasury bills. Where’d they get the money to buy it? They created it out of thin air.”

Santorum: “Disagree with most of what Ron Paul said. Just because he’s mostly wrong, doesn’t mean he’s always wrong.”

Romney, praising job holders even though he’s unemployed: “I think in order to create jobs, it’s helpful to have had a job.”

Pawlenty, possibly referencing Spiderman: “With great blessing comes responsibility.”

Huntsman, sounding like an attack ad: “This nation is hurting, it is scared, and it is bankrupt. We have a cancer growing in this country called debt.”

Cain, inadvertently quoting the theme song from Pokemon: the Movie 2000: “A poet once said, life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line.”


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Lin Wood, left, and Sidney Powell.

Lin Wood, left, and Sidney Powell.

Photo, left, by Gage Skidmore (CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0). Photo, right, screenshot from C-SPAN.

Do you remember Lin Wood, the Trump attorney who in December, 2020, accused Chief Justice John Roberts of raping and murdering children? How about this one: the very same Lin Wood accused Roberts of being responsible for the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in his sleep during a trip to a luxury hunting resort in Texas, a trip, incidentally, Roberts did not make with Scalia and his billionaire buddies.

Keep reading...Show less
No, Biden Isn't Terribly Unpopular (And He Polls Better Than Trump)

Time was when getting caught in a malicious lie about a rival would have ended an American politician’s career. We no longer live that way. Just the other day, Donald Trump unleashed a series of falsehoods attacking President Biden that would have shamed a carnival barker.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ }}