Sioux City GOP debate and Iowa caucus discussion thread

Seven Republican candidates take the stage tonight as Fox News and the Iowa GOP co-host a presidential debate in Sioux City. I’ll be live-blogging after the jump, where I’ve also posted some recent news about the race in Iowa.

UPDATE: Scroll down for the live-blog.

Tonight the pressure will be on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to make up for his $10,000 bet from the last debate–a moment that may become this year’s equivalent of the Howard Dean “scream.” I was more troubled by Romney lying about a bunch of other stuff at the debate and on the stump, but commentators prefer to obsess about something that fits the “out of touch with the common people” narrative.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be hard-pressed to top his performance in the Des Moines debate, and there are signs that his lead in Iowa is slipping. Public Policy Polling’s latest Iowa poll shows Gingrich only one point ahead of Representative Ron Paul. In addition,

Paul’s supporters are considerably more committed to him than Gingrich’s are.  77% of current Paul voters say they’re definitely going to vote for him, compared to only 54% for Gingrich.  Romney has much more solid support than Gingrich as well, 67% of his voters saying they’re with him for the long haul. Among only voters who say their mind’s totally made up, 29% support Paul to 21% for Gingrich, 18% for Romney, and 11% for Bachmann.

Romney’s staying right in place. He was at 16% last week and he’s at 16% this week. His net favorability was a +4 spread last week and it’s a +4 spread this week.  Gingrich’s support is declining in Iowa but Romney’s not gaining, just as he failed to gain when Cain and Perry and Bachmann collapsed before. One statistic that really jumps out- only 44% of Romney’s supporters from 2008 say they plan to vote for him again. If he was even just retaining all his support from last time around he’d be in the lead.

Like Romney, there’s been little change in Michele Bachmann’s standing over the last week.  Her favorability was +21 (56/35). Now it’s +18 (55/37). She’s gone from 13% support to 11%.

I’m skeptical about the University of Iowa’s Hawkeye poll (Paul’s numbers seem quite low), but that survey also suggests that Gingrich’s lead over Romney is shrinking, especially among Republicans who are “very likely” to caucus on January 3. The same Hawkeye poll sampled 982 registered Iowa voters and found both Gingrich and Romney leading President Obama, though their leads were within the poll’s margin of error.

I got a kick out of this story about conservative talk radio host Michael Savage offering Gingrich $1 million to drop out of the presidential campaign within 72 hours. Gingrich missed that deadline today–will he be kicking himself a few months from now?

I have been wondering what the main line of attack will be on Gingrich tonight. Texas Governor Rick Perry has a new television commercial up denouncing Gingrich and Romney as “Washington insiders.” Romney’s latest direct-mail piece highlights the television commercial Gingrich filmed with then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling for government action to combat climate change. Paul, a veteran of the Air Force and Vietnam War, went on Fox News today and questioned Gingrich’s multiple deferments, given that he supports sending U.S. troops to fight various wars. Immigration policy is another potential line of attack, though some analysts claim data shows Iowa caucus-goers favor the Gingrich approach to this issue.

Gingrich just picked up Fred Grandy’s endorsement. Grandy grew up in Sioux City and represented Iowa’s fifth Congressional district for four terms (1987 through 1994). Former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants of Sioux City is in the Romney camp now, as he was in 2008. Earlier this year Rants was a paid consultant for Representative Thad McCotter’s short-lived presidential campaign.

Social conservatives in Iowa haven’t coalesced around any of the candidates. Bob Vander Plaats has said the FAMiLY Leader board will meet after tonight’s debate and will decide on an endorsement by December 19. Among politically active pastors, there’s a lot of resistance to Gingrich. Both Representative Michele Bachmann and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum have influential clergymen campaigning on their behalf. Santorum has a relatively small campaign bank account, but the Red White and Blue Fund PAC just started running this “true conservative” ad on his behalf in Iowa.

I expect lots of pandering on social issues during tonight’s debate. Santorum, Bachmann, Gingrich and Perry have all signed a “personhood pledge” to support 14th Amendment protection for all humans from the moment of conception. Last night those same four candidates spoke to an anti-abortion forum organized by Citizens United in Des Moines. C-SPAN posted video from that event here. According to Lynn Campbell’s report for, Santorum “drew the most enthusiastic applause and whistles.” All the speakers called for ending federal funding to Planned Parenthood. (When Gingrich and Santorum served in Congress, contraception funding for providers including Planned Parenthood wasn’t a particularly controversial issue.) Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was on hand to introduce a new anti-abortion film called “The Gift of Life.” He told National Public Radio that he does not plan to endorse any of the presidential candidates before the Iowa caucuses.

The deficit reduction group Strong America Now hasn’t endorsed a candidate either but released a report card on the GOP presidential field this week. Strong America Now gave “A” grades to Gingrich, Perry and Santorum. Paul and Bachmann received “B” grades, while Romney (who declined to sign the group’s pledge) got a “D.”

Getting back to tonight’s debate, I will be watching to see whether Paul gets more screen time than he did in Des Moines. He’s running close to Romney in a lot of the Iowa polling, but the ABC debate moderators only gave him half as much air time as Romney.

The ABC moderators also let several candidates get away with factually wrong assertions. In the friendly Fox News environment, will the candidates feel free to indulge in even more exaggerations and lies?

Spending by presidential campaigns in Iowa is way down this year compared to 2007, but here’s hoping lots of locally-owned businesses benefit from tonight’s debate and from the heavy-duty Iowa touring several contenders have scheduled during the next three weeks.  

Speaking of the business climate in Iowa, here’s one statistic you won’t hear at tonight’s debate: same-sex weddings have brought approximately $12 million to the state economy and have increased state and local tax revenues by some $850,000 to $930,000, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA College of Law.

Any comments about the Republican contenders or the presidential campaign generally are welcome in this thread. Live-blogging will commence at 8:00 pm central.

UPDATE: First debate question is about electability (I question the premise that beating Obama is the “top priority” for Republican voters–I’ve seen polls that suggest the GOP base is more concerned about getting a strong conservative candidate).

Gingrich answers first: wishes everyone merry Christmas, notes that in 1980 many people worried that Ronald Reagan was unelectable, but Reagan carried more states against Jimmy Carter than FDR did against Herbert Hoover in 1932.

Follow-up is about Romney saying Gingrich isn’t consistent conservative, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad suggested that Gingrich lacked discipline and focus.

Gingrich says his record in Congress was conservative, he balanced budget four years in a row [Mr. desmoinesdem asks “at what tax rates?”], passed welfare reform. Regarding Branstad’s comments, Gingrich talks about commitment and discipline that it took to bring GOP back to House majority, balanced budget. He strives for very large changes and is ready to lead the country back to the right track.

Next question is to Ron Paul: you have strong views and organization, but many question whether you are electable. Asks Paul why people should believe he could win the election and will Paul commit right now to support the GOP nominee, whoever that is.

Paul says anyone on stage could beat Obama. I have something different to offer, civil liberties, pro-American foreign policy, monetary policy. Talking about the constitution and freedom is a philosophy that can bring Democrats and independents over–rule of law, balancing budget. [Paul didn’t answer the question about whether he would endorse the eventual nominee.]

Next question to Santorum: you’ve spent time in Iowa but you haven’t surged in polls/caught fire.

Santorum–I’m counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me. I’ve been to 99 counties and held 350 town meetings. We present a clear contrast. I’m a conservative with conviction, and you can trust me that I’m going to fight for the conservative cause. I was an effective advocate, and we need someone strong in political and personal life to contrast themselves to the president. Iowans are beginning to respond, they like the accountability and like that I’ve been there and believe in then.

Next question is to Romney: many viewers tell us they support Gingrich because they think he’ll be tougher than you in debates with Obama.

Romney: Let’s step back and talk about what’s happening in the country. People out of work, stopped looking for work, middle class struggling. American people care deeply about having a president who will get America right again. I spent my career in the private sector, and I understand from my successes and failures what it’s going to take to put America back to work. I will have credibility on the economy where Obama doesn’t. Cites companies he helped turn around, also some failures (he chose not to invest in Jet Blue, for example).

Question to Bachmann: no one questions your conservative credentials, but how could you appeal to independents? How would you respond to Obama’s efforts to portray you as too extreme for moderates?

I’ve won four elections, first Republican woman elected from Minnesota–I won votes from Dems and indies as well as Republicans. They respected my authenticity and sincerity and knew that I was an action person. I’ve worked very hard in the brief time that I’ve been in Congress. I can win on that record.

Next question to Perry: You’ve said yourself that you’re not a great debater, and you’ve downplayed that. If you are the nominee you would have to debate Obama. Many worry that you’re not up for that fight.

Perry: I’m getting to like these debates, and I look forward to debating Obama and I’ll get there early. I look forward to talking about the contrasts between me and the president. A lot of folks said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a good NFL quarterback. I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.

Question to Huntsman: Many question your ability to appeal to conservatives in the party, given your refusal to sign no-tax pledge.

Huntsman says he is a consistent conservative, but he’s not going to pander and he’s not going to sign those silly pledges, and he’s not going to appear in any Donald Trump debate. This nation has been downgraded, and we are “getting screwed” as Americans. [I don’t remember hearing that expressino in a presidential debate before!] Huntsman advocates term limits and closing the revolving door between Congress and lobbying firms. Criticizes too big to fail banks. I can lead the charge on all of the above, not just economic deficit, but also trust deficit.

Next question deals with potential for government shutdown. How would you handle the situation?

Santorum: you do what leaders do, you bring people together. In 2008 people thought Obama was someone to believe in, but we need a president who believes in Americans.

Perry: After 3 years you would think this president would learn how to work in Washington DC. On the job training couldn’t have come at a worse time for America. We need a president with executive, governing experience. Obama walked away from the work at hand, he didn’t lead when the super-committee was in place.

Romney: Question takes longer than 60 seconds to answer. What is leadership? I had the disadvantage of being governor in a state with an 85 percent Dem legislature. I was able to find common ground and work together when crises arose. There are Democrats who love their country as much as Republicans do. We need to have a leader in the White House

Gingrich echoes what Romney said about leadership. Talks about Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan working together. Says he worked things out with Bill Clinton to get a tax cut, welfare reform and four balanced budget. Leadership matters immensely to get this done.

Paul: the main problem is that we need to cut spending, debt is too big. We need to work together to cut spending–we’ve been working together to spend more for many years. Two big factions up there: one want welfare, the other wants warfare around the world. Have to get them together: I’ll cut welfare if you’ll cut warfare.

Bachmann talks about what she tried to do during the debt ceiling debate over the summer–tried to get people together not to add one penny to the debt, reform spending right now.

Huntsman: leadership is action, not words. I learned this when I ran for governor in 2004. He ran for governor on flat tax proposal, got it done in two years, good business climate, health care reform without a mandate. Was re-elected with 80 percent of the vote, learned that people respect you if you deliver.

First commercial break.

Next part of debate is about “DC culture.” Question to Romney about his experience bankrupting companies, “creative destruction of capitalism”–are you vulnerable to that kind of attack?

Romney says it’s a great opportunity. Obama will attack me saying that not all the companies we invested in succeeded. Some cut jobs, but if you look at all the companies we invested in, they added thousands of jobs. Obama doesn’t understand capitalism–not every company succeeds. I’ve led four organizations, all successful. In the real world some things don’t make it–I’ve learned from successes and failures. I’ll ask Obama how he ran General Motors as president–he closed factories and dealerships. President doesn’t know how the economy works, I’ve created jobs.

Question to Gingrich. In 2007 he praised Freddie Mac government enterprise model, but in a debate this year you said politicians like Barney Frank should go to jail for benefiting from Freddie Mac, but you were paid $1.6 million by them. How do you answer questions about being a hypocrite?

Gingrich: Frank was a public servant, as was Chris Dodd. They abused their privileges. I was a private citizen. I worked with Habitat for Humanity for years, I think it’s a good model. We should have as a goal helping Americans buy homes. Praises credit unions for helping Americans. [audience very quiet there–don’t think they were convinced]

Paul asked to respond to what Gingrich said, says that Freddie Mac isn’t private enterprise, it’s a govt-sponsored enterprise, dangerous mixture of business and government. Dangerous when big business and govt get together. He’s been talking about these problems, community investment act, for 10 years. To go work for them and get money from them, literally money from the taxpayer, we had to bail them out–it’s a govt sponsored enterprise, not free enterprise.

Gingrich: govt sponsored enterprise is broad name, lots of institutions are govt sponsored, cites memebership electric coops. There are many things govts do, some are good. I did no lobbying for any organization, that was a key part of our agreements.

Bachmann asked to respond to this issue, question of influence peddling. She says we know that Gingrich cashed over $1.6 million in checks from Freddie Mac. I’m shocked to hear the former speaker of the House defend Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Big difference between a credit union and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which were at the epicenter of the housing meltdown. He had his hand out and tried to influence Republicans to stand for them. I wanted to shut them down, put them in bankruptcy, not build them up.

Gingrich: It’s not true, what she said is factually not true, I never lobbied in any way. I tried to defeat the housing act when Democrats were in control. I helped Rick Lazio pass housing reform. People should have facts without making wild accusations.

Bachmann: Politifact said that everything I said in last debate was true. Gingrich took $1.6 million. You don’t have to be a lobbyist to be engaged in influence peddling. Our nominee can’t stand for this. We have to shut down these government enterprises.

Gingrich: I want to shut down Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and I want everyone watching to know that I never once changed my opinion because of money. I was doing just fine, I only worked for people whose values I shared, and I think that owning a house is valuable.

Next question to Gingrich: mentions new Paul Ryan/Ron Wyden plan for Medicare, involves partial privatization. References Gingrich’s comments in the spring criticizing Ryan’s Medicare plan for social engineering. How do you respond to Romney saying you haven’t been consistent on this issue?

Gingrich: I’m not in the business of pleasing Romney. Talks about specific comments on Meet the Press, says that if you make big changes like Medicare you need to have the consent of the people. Praises Romney for helping improve the Ryan proposal for Medicare, he likes the plan and working together to save Medicare.

Romney reacts: I hope people understand how important this is for the country. Not just national debt, but national balance sheet is a huge problem. Today Republicans and Democrats came together to say we have a solution. It means we finally have a chance to deal with this problem, help future generations. Applauds effort.

Next question to Paul: We’re on brink of government shutdown because of what you’ve called out of control spending, but haven’t you contributed to the problem by supporting earmarks for your district? Isn’t that a mixed message?

Paul: Says he never voted for an earmark, but this a principle that I deal with–if the government takes my money, I have the right to try to get some of it back. Takes on whole question of earmark–Congress has an obligation to earmark every penny so that executive branch doesn’t have control over how money is spent. Otherwise Congress is groveling to executive branch, please give me back some of my highway money! I never voted for an earmark but I do argue the case for the people I represent to try to get their money back.

Follow-up question: aren’t you trying to have your cake and eat it too?

Paul repeats what he said in primacy of Congressional power. I wouldn’t want to run the world as president–wouldn’t try to police lifestyles, run the economy, different approach consistent with constitution.

Next question to Perry: You rail against culture of Washington, but describes Texas program that made bad loans to businesses. Aren’t you guilty of doing the same things you criticize at the federal level?

Perry says don’t believe everything you read in the Austin Statesman. Goes back to what Gingrich said, rejects idea that you can’t tell the difference between lobbying and consulting. He wants to change culture of Washington, cut Congressional budget in half, send them home for half the year, make them go home and have a real job and live under the laws they pass.

Follow-up: Congress only worked 150 days last year, how much would you cut?

Perry: Maybe 140 days every other year like we do in Texas.

Next question is to Huntsman about China. He talks about inviting dissidents to US embassy, supporting groundswell of reform, we need more than transactional relationship–we need shared values. In 21st century, we need shared values of democracy, human rights, tolerance for religion in US-China relationship.

Next question to Santorum–would you support tax holiday to get companies to bring capital back to US, require them to hire more workers?

Santorum: supports holiday to allow companies to bring money back, pay 5% rate as we did in 2004, but I would have a special zero rate if the companies use the money to buy equipment and hire workers. Talks about cutting corporate tax on manufacturers to zero. Repeal regulations, Obamacare and other Obama regulations. I can’t repeal laws, but I can repeal regulations, every single one of them.

Next question is from Twitter to Romney: In what sector or industry will the most jobs be created during the next 10 years?

Romney: the great thing is that the private sector will determine that, not government. This president doesn’t understand that, he thinks government will decide. This president wants to decide what kind of energy we’ll have. Romney predicts that manufacturing will come back to US, and high-tech will be big source of growth. We have extraordinary energy resources in this country, but the president holds them off, doesn’t give them permits to keep drilling.

Question to Gingrich is about subpeonas to judges to testify before Congress to defend their decisions. Some people say your plan would alter the balance of power.

Gingrich: it would alter the balance because courts have become too powerful. There’s a paper at, I’ve been working on this issue since 2002, cites “anti-American” judges who thought “one nation under God” was wrong. Those people should not be on the court. I warned judges, if you keep attacking American exceptionalism, you will find an uprising against you. We don’t have a judicial dictatorship. Like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and FDR, I would be willing to take on the judges.

Follow-up is about former attorneys general who criticize his plan. Gingrich cites Jefferson who got rid of judges. Lincoln repudiated Dred Scott decision, saying no nine people can make law in this country. AGs are behaving like lawyers, I’m talking as a historian. [big response from crowd–the GOP base must love this]

Question to Bachmann: Do you agree that the 9th Appeals court circuit should be abolished? What if Democratic Congress tried to get rid of a conservative leaning court?

Answer is in the constitution. President and Congress should take their authority back. They have failed to do that. We’ve gotten to the point where the final arbiter is the court system, but that wasn’t the intention of the founders. If courts make law, people lose representation. I commend Iowans, because they chose not to retain three judges because of marriage (interrupted by applause). Iowans decided to take their constitution back, that’s what Americans need to do. I would only appoint judges who agree with original intent.

Paul asked whether Congress should be able to get rid of courts. Paul–proper procedure is impeachment if judges abuse power, but he criticizes subpeonas of judges before Congress. Doesn’t like idea of getting rid of courts you don’t like. That opens up can of worms, would lead to trouble. Questions idea that Congress can bring judges before us–that’s an affront to separation of powers.

Question to Romney: as governor of Massachusetts, you appointed Dems or independents for 75 percent of judgeships. Romney says I didn’t get to appoint judges, I nominated them, and committee decided on appointments. That committee was dominated by Democrats. I had to choose people who could get through. I overwhelmingly chose former prosecutors. Says next president is going to appoint huge number of judges, very important. Doesn’t like idea of Congress overseeing judges. But does say we have ability to remove judges who need to be impeached, and we can pass amendments to overturn bad court rulings. We can pass new

Favorite Supreme Court justices?

Santorum: These people talk about taking on courts and judges, but I’ve done it. I was in Iowa campaigning against those judges, only one on stage who did. I helped pass new law after partial birth abortion law was struck down. Favorite justice is Thomas.

Perry: When I talk about overhauling DC, I think we shouldn’t have lifetime terms for federal bench. Unaccountable dictators in robes. Likes Alito, Roberts, Thomas.

Romney names Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia.

Gingrich praises all four, says Scalia is most intellectual, if we had nine judges like those four it would be good.

Paul: They’re all good and all bad. Not going to name a favorite Supreme Court justice.

Bachmann: Scalia at top, also Thomas, Roberts and Alito.

Huntsman: Governors have experience appointing judges. He names Roberts and Alito.

Next commercial break.

Foreign policy segment: first question to Paul, what if you had intelligence that Iran was going to get a nuclear weapon? You say you’d remove sanctions from iran, so you’d be running left of Obama on Iran.

Paul: I’d be with the American people, there’s no scientific, UN evidence that Iran is on brink of having a nuclear weapon? I fear this is another Iraq coming, war propaganda going on. To me the greatest danger is a president who will overreact, bomb Iran. Sentiment is mixed, even in Israel. Former head of security in Israel said it wouldn’t make sense to take Iran out, overreact. If we lived through the Cold War with 30 thousand missiles pointed at us, we ought to be able to live through this. Criticizes “useless” war in iraq.

Follow-up: question assumed you had solid intelligence. Are you saying that as GOP candidate you would run to left of Obama?

Paul says we are driving them to try to get nuclear weapon, we treat people with more respect when they have a nuclear weapon. Pakistan, India, Israel have them, we have to get it in a proper context, we don’t need another war!

Follow-up: Iran is running military exercises on closing the straits of Hormuz. How should US react if that happens?

Paul: They are threatening to close straits if we bomb them. Why wouldn’t they plan to do that? Paul think it makes sense to pull back overreaching sanctions. Sanctions can be an act of war. We should use diplomacy once in a while.

Santorum asked next question. Says Iran has been at war with us since 1979. Iran is equivalent to Al Qaeda, have manufactured IEDs that have killed Americans in other countries. The idea that Cold War mutual assured destruction would work on Iran, whose ideal is martyrdom…Mutual assured destruction wouldn’t prevent war with Iran, it would induce war. They believe it’s their mission to take on West. They hate us because of who we are and what we believe in. We need to make sure they do not have a nuclear weapon, we should be working with Israel, planning military strike against their facilities (applause from crowd).

Question to Romney about high-tech drone Iranians have on display. Are president Obama’s actions inviting war?

Romney: Absolutely: timidity and weakness invite war. This president said “pretty please” when spy drone was brought down–are you kidding? This president believes century will be post-American century, but he’s wrong. It has to be an American century, leading free world. Obama wants to shrink our military [IF only that were true!!] Romney wants to build up military, increase troops and equipment. Strong America doesn’t create war, it prevents people from trying to test us all over the world.

Question to Bachmann about Iraq, Iranian influence in Iraq. Are there any circumstances where you would send US troops back into Iraq?

Bachmann: Obama’s biggest mistake on foreign policy was iraq. He was given victory on a silver platter, he’s choosing to lose the peace. We know Iran will try to be the hegemon, coming into Iraq, having dominance all the way to Mediterranean through ally Syria. With all due respect to Ron Paul, I’ve never heard a more dangerous answer for US security than what Ron Paul said. We know that Iran would use nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off map and they would use it against America. Look at Iranian constitution. We would be fools and knaves to ignore their purpose and their plan.

Paul given chance to respond: I would like to see a lot less nuclear weapons, and I don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapon. But to declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims and say they’re all the same is dangerous and absurd. Muslims come here to do us harm because we are harming them. CIA says this. Why were we flying a drone over Iran, and now we have to go to war to get it back? We have hundreds of bases all over the world and we’re bankrupt. This wild goal to have another war in name of defense is the dangerous thing. Danger is us overreacting. We need to only go to war with a declaration of war.

Bachmann responds: it would be greatest underreaction in world history to allow a nation to wipe another nation off the earth. Cites IAEA report claiming Iran is months away from nuclear weapon.

Paul disputes evidence suggesting Iran is close to getting nuclear weapon. He said diplomacy resolved Cuban Missile Crisis–you can’t solve these problems with war. Need to respect our constitution, only go to war when Congress declares war.

Next question to Gingrich, who’s been critical of UN and its support for Palestinians. Would US leave UN in Gingrich administration?

No, but we’d reduce our reliance on UN and would confront some realities. Hundreds of missiles fired into Israel this year. Do you think that if we had hundreds of missiles fired into US–maybe this president would say let’s communicate more (laughter)–look, UN funds schools teaching terrorism. We have to tell truth about how bad UN bureaucracy is, and we should radically cut what we are paying.

Huntsman asked to comment. He says UN serves valuable purpose in peacekeeping in humanitarian work, but he hates anti-Israel and anti-Americanism. Says US needs new foreign policy, we’re still stuck in George Kennan mindset. We seem weak when our economy is broken. We have to fix our core if we’re going to be effective overseas. Economics should drive our foreign policy. We need to change the way we’re doing business.

Perry asked about recent UN report on torture, killing in Syrian regime. When should US consider military intervention?

Perry says he’s already called for no-fly zone over Syria. They are Iran’s partner, we need to stand with our ally, no space between US and Israel. This president has bungled foreign policy. We stood by when Iranians were trying to overthrow regime, criticizes Obama policy in Egypt and Libya, asking Iran to give us drone back. We should have destroyed it or retrieved it–Obama took worst route, doing nothing.

Next question is about payroll tax cut extension, tying that to Keystone pipeline. How would Gingrich recommend that Republicans force the issue of the Keystone pipeline?

Gingrich says he sometimes is accused of using too-strong language, doesn’t want to appear “zany,” but he wants to paint a picture here. Iranians are talking about closing Straits of Hormuz, Canadian PM says if we don’t build the pipeline, I am going to send this oil to China, and you will lose the jobs in Houston. The president can’t figure this out–he wants to veto a middle-class tax cut to protect liberal environmentalists, kill jobs, help Iranians, it makes no sense to any rational American.

Follow-up: you didn’t answer my question. What would you do to move this within a year? Gingrich says send it to the president, force him to veto it. We sent welfare reform to Clinton three times, he vetoed it twice but finally signed it in an election year.

Question to Huntsman about Keystone pipeline. Is there any condition under which a Huntsman president would say protecting land trumps jobs? Huntsman says it’s a balancing act. There will be land we need to protect, but our economy is against the wall. We need to get rid of dependence on foreign oil. I want to disrupt oil monopoly as president. Says we should draw more on natural gas. When are we going to convert transportation and manufacturing to run on natural gas? It’s within our grasp, but president has to understand balance and have aggressive plan for energy independence.

Bachmann asked about moratorium on oil drilling after BP disaster. If you were president, what would be an acceptable period for drilling to cease to get to the bottom of a problem like that?

She says Obama administration jumped to conclusion without doing full investigation of what happened to cause disaster. I want to add on Keystone that this pipeline is extremely important, at least 20,000 jobs and $6.5 billion in economic activity. If I were president I wouldn’t have made that decision. His decision was based on re-election because radical environmentalists said they wouldn’t do door to door work for Obama. I would have put Keystone on line immediate.

Question to Perry: you’ve criticized government policies on Solyndra, etc., but you’ve done similar things in Texas to give certain companies tax savings and other benefits, favoring an industry?

Perry says today is 220th anniversary of signing of bill of rights. One of those, the 10th amendment, I like a lot. That’s how the founding fathers set things up. Laboratories in states, let them experiment in states to find best tax policy. We didn’t just help oil and gas, we helped wind industry in texas too, but government shouldn’t be picking winners and loser from Washington DC. I guarantee you that Governor Branstad knows how to make industry competitive in Iowa. We need to get states competing against each other, get Washington, federal government out of their hair.

Another commercial break. This is the strongest performance I’ve seen from Perry, but he just isn’t as good at this as Gingrich.

Fox News seems to be giving Romney a lot less air time than previous debate organizers like ABC, MSNBC, CNN.

I agree 100 percent with this comment by Chris Rants: “#RickPerry lucky that everyone has been digging into Newts background, no time to dig into his.”

Question to Perry: You’ve joined members of Congress calling on AG Eric Holder to resign over Fast and Furious program. He says he stopped this program when he found out about it. Aren’t you playing politics?

Perry: If I were president and my AG didn’t know about a program like this, I would have him resign immediately. President came to El Paso and claimed that border w/Mexico is safer than it’s ever been. I’ve been dealing with this issue for 11 years. Our agents face fire from other side because of drug cartels. Not safe, country is in jeopardy. Terrorists are using Mexican border to penetrate US. Time for this country to have real conversation about Monroe doctrine again, as we did against Cuba in 1960s.

Santorum agrees with Perry–he would fire an AG in that situation. Holder should have been aware of this. [Will anyone point out that this was a Bush administration policy?] Santorum talks about flights from Syria to Venezuela, terrorists and jihadists working with drug cartels to try to attack US. This president has insulted our allies like Honduras, has embraced people in central and South America who don’t represent our interests. We need to stop spread of terrorism in cent and S America.

Question on immigration to Romney: why would illegal immigrants voluntarily leave America to apply for chance at legal status from back home if they know we won’t deport them?

Romney says illegal immigrants will have a card, will have to show it to employer. If employers hire people without the card, they will have to pay for sanctions. We tell people here illegally that you will have to register and get one of these cards, we’ll give you a transition period, but then you have to go home and get in back of the line. [What he’s describing makes no sense.]

Gingrich praises Steve King for introducing bill to reduce businesses hiring people here illegally. [pander alert!] Gingrich again defends his idea to let people who have been here for 25 years stay, quickly moves on: he would drop federal lawsuits against state laws in AZ, AL, etc. [applause]

Question to Huntsman: doesn’t the GOP have to take moderate view on immigration to beat Obama in light of Latino views on the issue?

Huntsman points out that illegal immigration is down because economy is weak. Legal immigration is an engine of growth, half of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants. We have to remake the way people are moving back and forth, H1 visa system.

Question to Romney: you’ve changed your position on abortion, gay rights, guns. You say you’ve had an open mind, others say this was to your political advantage. Principle or politics?

Romney takes exception to list: he’s firmly in support of people not being discriminated against because of sexual orientation, but I have never supported gay marriage. Wrt abortion, I changed my mind. I said I wouldn’t challenge pro-choice laws, but when stem cell research bill came to my desk I studied the issue and I vetoed the bill. Changed my mind like George Herbert Walker Bush.

Follow-up: Romney says he’s always supported second amendment. He signed assault weapon ban, but the gun lobby supported that bill because it had other things they wanted.

Follow-up: in 1994 when you ran for Senate you talked about equality for gays and lesbians, and you supported assault weapons ban and five-day waiting period. When running for governor in 2002 you said you supported Massachusetts gun laws.

Romney: I don’t believe in discriminating against people because of sexual orientation. Some people do, but I as a Republican I had a potential to fight against discrimination. But in 1994 and throughout my career I said I opposed same-sex marriage. Marriage is between man and woman. Protect sanctity of marriage and of life, that’s my position.

Santorum is asked to comment on what Romney said. He said that Romney was governor and faced with Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Court said they didn’t have power to change the law because of Mass constitution. Only governor and legislature can change the law. Court gave legislature chance to change law, but they did not. Romney chose to go alone with the court and ordered people to issue gay marriage licenses, and he personally as governor issued gay marriage licenses. [Is that true? I haven’t heard that before.] Santorum says he had anti-discrimination policy in his office, but we’re talking about marriage.

Romney responds that his legal counsel said court determined that same-sex marriage was required under Mass constitution. Romney says he tried to pass constitutional amendment on marriage in Massachusetts, I fought it as hard as I could, I went to Washington to fight for federal marriage amendment.

Next question is to Bachmann on Gingrich’s record about abortion. He says life should begin at implantation, not conception.

Bachmann says GOP can’t afford to get issue of life wrong. Criticizes Gingrich for not defunding Planned Parenthood when he was speaker of the House. He said he would campaign for Republicans who were for barbaric procedure of partial birth abortion. George Will asked, is it a virtue to tolerate infanticide? We can’t get this wrong. As president i will be 100 percent pro-life from conception until natural death.

Gingrich says he had a 98 percent pro-life voting record in 20 years. Only difference was that they didn’t like initial welfare reform bill. I believe that life begins at conception. I was proposing a commission to look at fertility clinics to see what happens with embryos, because I believe life begins at conception and there’s a concern about that.

Bachmann demands to respond: this isn’t just once. It’s outrageous to say during the debates that I don’t have my facts right. I do. I’m a serious candidate for president of US, and my facts are accurate. speaker Gingrich said he would support and actively campaign for GOP candidates who were for partial birth abortion.

Gingrich: what I said on that issue is that I’m not going out to purge Republicans. I moved legislation on partial birth abortion, but Clinton vetoed it. I would defund Planned Parenthood and give money to adoption services. [but Bachmann is right that as speaker, Gingrich did nothing to defund Planned Parenthood]

Question about Reagan’s 11th commandment (not speaking ill of fellow Republican). How do you balance trying to win nomination with need not to damage eventual nominee?

Santorum: We have responsibility to vet the candidates. I’ve had 350 town meetings in Iowa. That’s the process, let’s find out who can stand up, who can fight for the principles they believe in. We have to have someone who can stand and fight the good fight.

Perry: That was the Republican chairman who said that, not Reagan. If you don’t get your tail kicked, you’re not playing at a high enough level, I give all of you credit for letting me play

Romney: We can handle it. There’s nothing that’s been said about me that won’t be said by Obama. He’s going to have a billion dollars to attack. But let’s remember every day that we need to talk about Obama.

Gingrich: Look at my ads, website, debates. I reserve right to correct attacks against me, but I try to talk about big solutions, what we need to do. These are friends of mine, any of these folks would be better than Barack Obama, would be assets to administration.

Paul: Media has responsibility, and we have responsibility to expose candidates, flip-flops. We have to ask questions, get information out if media fails. When we disagree on important issues, should expose them.

Bachmann: Reagan brought clarity to his opponents in primaries. He asked the famous question: are you better off today than four years ago? Who will continue the legacy of Reagan, take on Obama toe to toe? I’m the best one to do that.

Huntsman: This nation desperately needs heightened trust. This kind of debate over time will elevate the trust level, will allow us to defeat Barack Obama.

End of debate. I like that they no longer waste time on candidates’ opening and closing statements.

Santorum has some good positive ads up during the commercial breaks. It’s too bad the moderators didn’t give him more time to answer questions, but he did ok.

I think Bachmann landed the toughest punch against Gingrich, pointing out that he didn’t defund Planned Parenthood and said he would support Republicans who were for late-term abortions. Overall, though, Gingrich made a lot of crowd-pleasing remarks.

Paul stood his ground on foreign policy, but you just can’t get more than 20 percent in the GOP with those views.

Romney tried to weasel his way out of that abortion/gay marriage question, but I don’t think any undecided Iowa Republicans are going to buy what he’s selling. By the way, Steve Kornacki wrote a good history of Romney’s stand on abortion.

The more I think about it, the more disturbed I am that most of the candidates were for Gingrich’s proposal to haul judges before Congress and abolish the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Only Ron Paul was talking sense about checks and balances, constitutional intent there.

Agree with Joy Reid: “Michele Bachmann, extreme as she is, proved her potential worth as a veep candidate tonight. Her attacks on Newt stuck.”

You need to signin or signup to post a comment.