Fox News and the Republican Party of Iowa hosted a Republican presidential candidate debate at the Sioux City Convention Center in Sioux City, IA last night. It was the last debate prior to the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd.
Bret Baier of Fox News was the Moderator of the debate, with Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto, and Chris Wallace (all also of Fox News) serving as panelists.
Baier kicked off the debate with the topic of electability, saying that Fox had received a lot of e-mail on that subject. Newt Gingrich responded first, making the case that he is as electable as Ronald Reagan was considered to be in 1980 when he trailed Jimmy Carter by 30 points. He asserted he was a genuine conservative and cited his accomplishments in the House to prove it.
Megyn Kelly broached the same subject with Ron Paul, who suggested that any one of the Republican candidates could beat Barack Obama. He went on to say that he viewed his philosophy of civil liberties, monetary policy, a pro-America foreign policy, and cutting spending as electable.
Neil Cavuto asked Rick Perry if he could go head to head with President Obama in a debate, and he said “there were a lot of folks who said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback…I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa Caucuses.”
Chris Wallace brought up the subject of Government Sponsored Enterprises, and Gingrich found himself defending his consulting work for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as his views on GSEs and affordable housing. Ron Paul called the concept of a GSE “dangerous”, but the most withering attacks came from Michelle Bachmann, who accused Gingrich of “influence peddling”.
Ron Paul was asked about his foreign policy views, specifically Iran, and if his position on Iran was actually to the left of the Democrat party. Paul never really answered that question, but did say that over-reacting to the situation was a real danger. He went on to say that Iran was another Iraq, having said earlier that there was no evidence that Iran was working on nuclear arms. When asked what he would do if there was “solid evidence” that they were, Paul didn’t appear to change course. He emphasized the need to work with people diplomatically. “We don’t need another war”, he said.
Rick Santorum drew a sharp contrast between his view and that of Paul, who has suggested that we provoke people around the world with our policies and actions. Militant Islam doesn’t “hate us for what we do, or our policies. They hate us for who we are.” He went on to say that Iran needed to shut down its nuclear program or “we will shut it down for you.”
Romney, for his part, scoffed at what he called a foreign policy based upon “pretty please”. Bachmann, who was on the attack all night, went after Paul calling his view “dangerous”. Paul responded that the danger was in the over-reaction, to which Bachmann replied that under-reaction was where the real danger was. Paul reiterated his claim that there was no evidence with respect to the claim that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.
Mitt Romney was asked about his changing positions on social issues. Romney was quick to point out that his position hadn’t changed with regard to gay rights, making a distinction between gay rights and gay marriage. He said he’d always been for the rights of individuals regardless of their sexual orientation, but that he had also always been against gay marriage. He did, however, change his mind on abortion while he was governor of Massachusetts. Rick Santorum was asked if Romney’s answer was acceptable, but Santorum wasn’t buying it. He cited a court case in Massachusetts in which he maintained Romney supported gay marriage. Romney retorted that Santorum’s description of the case was a “novel understanding” of what really happened and that he (Romney) was a “champion” of traditional marriage.
Michelle Bachmann again went on the attack against Newt Gingrich, hammering him for defending Republicans who’d supported partial-birth abortion and for failing to support the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. Gingrich dismissed her charges as simply false, stating that Bachmann had her facts incorrect, and that his position on life was clear and consistent. This irritated Bachmann, who replied that she thought it outrageous that Gingrich says over and over that she doesn’t have her facts straight when in fact she does.
The debate was far better than many I’ve seen, certainly better than last week’s ABC News debate. I’ll have analysis of the debate as well as some observations from the post-debate spin room in another post.
Note: I didn’t receive a transcript of the debate last night and that hampered me a bit with this post. If any of the quotes in this post are inaccurate, I want to apologize in advance.