September 22, 2011: Fox News / Google /  Florida Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Orlando, Florida September 22, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Former Governor Gary Johnson (NM);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATORS:
Bret Baier (Fox News);
Megyn Kelly (Fox News);
Chris Wallace (Fox News)

BAIER: Welcome to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, the site of our Republican presidential debate. It is being sponsored by Fox News and Google in conjunction with the Florida Republican Party.

Besides watching us on Fox News Channel, we are being streamed on YouTube.com/Fox News and heard on Fox News Radio.

Now let’s meet the candidates.

Texas Governor Rick Perry. [applause]

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. [applause]

Congressman Ron Paul. [applause]

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. [applause]

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. [applause]

Businessman Herman Cain. [applause]

Former Senator Rick Santorum. [applause]

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. [applause]

And former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. [applause]

Joining me at the big desk tonight, my Fox News colleagues Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace. [applause]

With our partner Google, we have some new features we’d like to quickly tell you about.

Throughout the night we’ll be playing some questions from viewers who posted their video and text questions on YouTube. We will also be polling viewers on key issues while the debate is under way. We will have updates from our own Shannon Bream.

Our rules are similar to previous Fox debates, one minute for answers, 30 seconds for follow-ups. And after an outpouring of e-mails from dog owners who said the last bell sounded like their doorbell, we have a new sound for the candidates if they run too long.

Thank you to Google for that sound. We hope after a string of debates we don’t have to use that too much.

Now, we received thousands and thousands of questions from around the world on different topics. Each one of these pins on the map is another question from health care and immigration, to foreign policy and social issues. But the highest percentage of questions dealt with jobs, the economy, debt, and government spending. And that was even before today’s major market slide.

What makes this debate unique is that not only did you submit the questions, you voted on them, letting everyone know which questions you think the candidates should be asked tonight.

We received questions from all 50 states, but our first question comes from Dave Meldeau, right here in Florida.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: As a small business owner, one of the obstacles I have in growing my business in today’s economy is having the confidence and incentive to go out and hire new employees. I’m wondering what each one of our candidates would propose to do as president to help incent small businesses like mine to hire new employees and to confidently grow our business in this troublesome economic environment.

[end video clip]

BAIER: Governor Perry, I’ll put that question to you.

PERRY: Yes, sir.

Well, Rick Scott is sitting right over there, and he and I compete every day with trying to get jobs into our states. And what we have done in the state of Texas over the course of the last decade is to lower that tax burden on the small businessmen and women, have a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable, and sweeping tort reform that we passed in 2003 that told personal injury trial lawyers, don’t come to Texas, because you are not going to be suing our doctors frivolously. [applause]

PERRY: That’s the way you get the government off of the back of small businessmen and women. And that’s the way you free up those small business entrepreneurs, where they know that they can risk their capital and have a chance to have a return on investment.

If it will work in the state of Texas, it will work in Washington, D.C. And that’s exactly what I’m going bring to Washington when I go there in November — or, excuse me, in January of 2013.

BAIER: Governor Perry, the thing we’ve heard from most people who submitted questions is they wanted specifics, they wanted details. Most of the people on the stage, opponents, have a specific jobs plan on paper that people can read.

Where is your jobs plan?

PERRY: Well, you will see a more extensive jobs plan. But the fact of the matter is, you look at the state of Texas and see what we’ve done there from the standpoint of lowering that tax burden, the regulatory climate in the state of Texas. We’ve taken those types of regulation off the throat of small business operators.

People understand that the state of Texas, during the last decade, something special happened there. It was the number one state for relocation for five years in a row. And we plan on keeping it that way, Rick. [laughter]

BAIER: Governor Romney — Governor Romney, you have a specific plan. In recent days, actually, the top rising search of your name on Google actually dealt with people searching for specifics of that plan.

But a Wall Street Journal editorial recently called your 59-point economic plan, quote, “surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament.” Specifically, the editorial board had a problem with you picking the $200,000 income threshold for eliminating interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes, writing that you were afraid of President Obama’s, quote, “class warfare rhetoric.”

How do you response to that criticism?

ROMNEY: Well, let’s go back — let’s go back and talk — microphone on? Can we get the mike on? There we go.

BAIER: There we go.

ROMNEY: Let’s go back and talk about the question that Dave asked, which is how to get small business a break. And President Obama has done everything wrong.

I happen to believe that to create jobs it helps to have had a job, and I have. And having had a job in small business and in big business, I know what you have to do is make America the most attractive place in the world for business, and that means our corporate tax rates, our employer tax rates have to be competitive. Small business pays at the highest rate. We need to get those rates down to globally competitive levels.

Number two, government and regulators have to be allies of business, not foes.

Number three, we’ve got to become energy secure in this country.

Number four, we have to have trade policies that work for us, not just for the other guys, and crack down on cheaters like China.

And my list goes on in my 59 points. But finally, let me tell you this… [applause]

I — I know there are some that say, look, we should lower taxes for the very highest-income people. Other folks have different plans. My view is very simple: The people that have been hurt most by the president’s economy, the Obama economy, has been the middle class.

That’s why I cut taxes for the middle class.

BAIER: So, sir, what… [applause] … what do you consider rich? Is half-a-million dollars, a million dollars rich? At what income does someone reach your definition of rich?

ROMNEY: I don’t try and define who’s — who’s rich and who’s not rich. I want everybody in America to be rich. I want people in this country to have opportunity. [applause]

And I want everybody to have the kind of opportunities that we on this stage have had. I want people in America to recognize that the future will be brighter for their kids than it was for them.

I know that the — the president’s party wants to try and take from some people and give to the others. That isn’t the way to lift America. The way to lift America is to give people opportunity and to let them enjoy the freedoms that have made us the envy of the world. [applause]

BAIER: Governor, thank you very much. Occasionally, through the debate, we will ask the same questions we ask the candidates to you at home. The first one, what is your definition of rich? You can vote on that answer at youtube.com/foxnews. We’ll bring some of those results throughout the show with Shannon Bream.

Now to my colleague, Megyn Kelly.

KELLY: Thanks, Bret.

Congresswoman Bachmann, after the last debate, a young member of the California Tea Party said he didn’t feel he had had his question fully answered. And it’s a question that received the most votes on Google and YouTube on the list, as well. The answer his question is a number. And the question was, quote, “Out of every dollar I earn, how much do you think that I deserve to keep?”

BACHMANN: And after the debate, I talked to that young man, and I said I wish I could have answered that question, because I want to tell you what my answer is: I think you earned every dollar. You should get to keep every dollar that you earn. That’s your money; that’s not the government’s money. [applause]

That’s the whole point. Barack Obama seems to think that when we earn money, it belongs to him and we’re lucky just to keep a little bit of it. I don’t think that at all. I think when people make money, it’s their money.

Obviously, we have to give money back to the government so that we can run the government, but we have to have a completely different mindset. And that mindset is, the American people are the genius of this economy. It certainly isn’t government that’s the genius. And that’s the two views.

President Obama has embraced a view of government-directed temporary fixes and gimmicks. They don’t work. He’s destroyed the economy. What does work is private solutions that are permanent in the private sector. That gives certainty; that will grow our economy. [applause]

KELLY: Senator Santorum, next question is for you. This map from Google depicts 22 states in the U.S. are right-to-work states. In the other 28, if a business is a union shop, you have to join the union if you want to work there. Now, this next question is one of the top-voted questions online, and it comes to us via YouTube from Yates Wilburn of Hilton Head, South Carolina.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: With unemployment numbers remaining above 9 percent, union issues, such as the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit against Boeing and several union battles in state legislatures across the country have become incredibly relevant to the national discussion. For all the candidates, would you support some form of a federal right-to-work law, allowing all workers to choose whether or not to join a union?

[end video clip] [applause]

KELLY: That’s for you, Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: I — I think the most important area that we have to focus in on when it comes to unions is public employee unions. That’s the area of unionization that’s growing the fastest and it’s costing us the most money.

We’ve seen these battles on the state level, where unions have — have really bankrupted states from pension plans to here on the federal level, for example, 30 percent to 40 percent union — union employees make above their private-sector equivalents.

I do not believe that — that state, federal or local workers, unions, should be involved in unions. And I would actually support a bill that says that we should not have public employee unions for the purposes of wages and benefits to be negotiated. [applause]

KELLY: Speaker Gingrich, this next one’s for you. You criticized extending unemployment benefits, saying that you were, quote, “opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.” Benefits have already been extended to 99 weeks, and they are set to expire soon. If you were president today, would you extend unemployment benefits? And if not, how do you justify that to the millions of unemployed Americans who are looking in earnest and whose families are depending on those checks?

GINGRICH: Well, what I’ve said is that I think unemployment compensation should be tied directly to a training program. And if you have to — if you don’t have a job and you need help, then in order for us to give you the help, you should sign up for a business-led training program so that that 99 weeks becomes an investment in human capital, giving us the best-trained workforce in the world so you can get a job.

But I believe it is fundamentally wrong to give people money for 99 weeks for doing nothing. That’s why we had welfare reform. [applause]

And, frankly, the easiest thing for Congress to do, if the president sends up a proposed extension, is to allow all 50 states to experiment at the state level with developing a mandatory training component of unemployment compensation, so you’d have 50 parallel experiments, and not pretend that Washington knows best or that Washington can solve the problem by itself. But I believe deeply, people should not get money for doing nothing. [applause]

BAIER: Now I turn to my colleague, Chris Wallace.

Chris?

WALLACE: Bret, thank you. Good evening, candidates.

Governor Huntsman, in Utah, you offered millions of dollars in tax credits to promote clean energy. In June you said that as president you would subsidize natural gas companies. How is that different from the Obama administration, which gave the solar panel company Solyndra a half-a-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees, and as we all know, that company ended up bankrupt, and we taxpayers ended up on the hook?

HUNTSMAN: Chris, first of all, it’s an honor to be here in Orlando, home of my wife, the greatest human being I’ve known in 28 years.

We’ve learned some important lessons as this economy has spun out of control. We have some hard decisions to make. And we’re not going to fix the problem. We’re not going to be able to bring our people together in America until we fix the economy.

I’m convinced that part of the divide that we’re experiencing in the United States, which is unprecedented, it’s unnatural, and it’s un-American, is because we’re divided economically, too few jobs, too few opportunities.

We have learned that subsidies don’t work and that we can no longer afford them. I believe that we can move toward renewable energy, but we’re going to have to have a bridge product. Everybody wants to draw from the sun and draw from the wind, and I’m here to tell you that eventually that will make sense, but today the economics don’t work.

We need something like natural gas. I’ve put forward an energy independence program, along with tax reform and regulatory reform. Just by drawing from natural gas, for example, you’re looking at 500,000 to 1 million jobs over the next five years. It is ours, it’s affordable, it has important national security implications, and we should begin the conversion process.

WALLACE: But just a 30-second follow-up, sir. In June, you told the New Hampshire Union Leader as president you would subsidies the natural gas industry.

HUNTSMAN: I would be willing to begin an effort, so long as there was a rapid phase-out. I do not like subsidies. I do not like long-term subsidies. But if there was some sort of way to get the ball rolling with a — with a — with a quick phase-out, I would be in favor of that.

WALLACE: Mr. Cain, I want to follow up on your 999 plan for economic growth. That’s a 9 percent… [applause]

Well, they seem to already know what it is. But for the few who don’t, it’s a 9 percent flat corporate tax, a 9 percent flat income tax, and a new 9 percent national sales tax.

Now, conservatives usually say repeal the income tax before you impose a new tax. Isn’t there a danger with your 999 plan, with these three taxes, that some government down the road after President Cain is going to increase three forms of taxation on Americans?

CAIN: No, there’s no danger in that. And first, let me answer Dave’s question with the 9, 9, 9 plan. Unfortunately, nobody up here answered his question. He wanted to know as a small businessman what are we going to do to help him as a small business person? I have walked in Dave’s shoes.

This economy is on life support, that’s why my 9, 9, 9 plan is a bold solution. It starts with throw out the current tax code and pass 9 percent business flat tax, 9 percent personal income tax, and the 9% national sales tax. This is the most important part, it eliminates, or replaces corporate income tax, personal income tax, capital gains tax as well as the estate tax.

Then it treats all businesses the same. And the people who are paying only payroll tax, 15.3, that 15.4 they don’t have to pay, now they only have to pay that 9 percent.

And unlike Governor Romney’s plan my plan throws out the old one.

He’s still hooked to the current tax code. That dog won’t hunt. [applause]

WALLACE: The rule is if your name is mentioned in an answer you get 30 seconds to respond — Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: That’s fine. I put my plan out, I want to make it clear my intent is to help the people who have been most hurt by President Obama’s economy. And the people who have been most hurt are the middle income families of America. And that’s why my plan says that if middle income families want to save their money, anybody earning under $200,000 and not pay any taxes on interest, dividends or capital gains, zero tax on their savings, that’s the plan I’m for. And I will get that done in my first year. Thank you.

WALLACE: Congressman Paul I want to show the video that got the most votes of all the video questions submitted to YouTube. And this one comes, as you can see, from Brandy and Michael in Spencer, Indiana.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: There’s growing concern among Americans about the size and the scope of the federal government and its infringement upon state and individual rights.

QUESTION: If you’re elected president how do you plan to restore the 10th amendment, hold the federal government only to those enumerated powers in the Constitution and allow states to govern themselves?

[end video clip]

WALLACE: Congressman what is your answer for Brandy and Michael?

PAUL: Well obviously, it would take more than one individual, but the responsibility of the president would be to veto every single bill that violates the 10th amendment. That would be the solution. [applause]

WALLACE: Anything else? You have a little time left. [laughter]

PAUL: Well, I’ll tell you what, that is the subject that is crucial because government is too big in Washington, D.C. It’s run away. We have no controls of spending, taxes, regulations, no control in the Federal Reserve printing money. So if we want government, whether it is medical care or whatever, it is proper to do it at the local level as well as our schools. But there’s no authority in the constitution to do so much what we’re doing. There’s no authority for them to run our schools, no authority to control our economy, and no authority to control us as individuals on what we do with our personal lives! [applause]

BAIER: OK, we got to the full answer there at the end. Governor Johnson, same question to you about the 10th amendment. With this added, you are an outspoken libertarian. What makes you a better choice for libertarian Republicans than Congressman Paul?

JOHNSON: I’m not going to presume to make that assumption, but I would like to say that I do bring a unique perspective to this stage. I started a one-man handyman business in Albuquerque in 1974 and grew it to over 1,000 employees. I have run for two political offices in my life: governor of New Mexico and reelection. I promise to submit a balanced budget to congress in the year 2013. I promise to veto legislation where expenditures exceed revenue.

And if anybody doubts my willingness to veto bills, I think I vetoed more bills than any governor in the history of the United States. I think I vetoed more bills than all the other governors in the country combined.

Add to that, throwing out the entire federal tax system and replacing it with a consumption tax, the fair tax, which would absolutely reboot the American economy because it does away with the corporate tax to create tens of millions of jobs in this country.

BAIER: Governor Johnson, thank you.

We’ll be coming back to the issue of the economy throughout this debate tonight. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we’ll also be checking in with our own Shannon Bream throughout the night to get real-time updates from people watching — Shannon.

BREAM: Hi Bret.

Well, this is the most interactive debate ever, and it’s thanks to our partner Google. You can go to YouTube.com/Fox News. What happens there, folks can see the debate streaming live. But also, to the right of the screen, all night long, we are sending out questions so we can get your answers at home. And you can participate and weigh in.

Bret, a little bit earlier, asked Governor Romney how he defines rich. It’s a question we put to folks out on the Internet as well, and we’ve got the results.

Here’s the question: “I define rich as someone having an annual income higher than.” A hundred thousand dollars, 13 percent of you weighed in there; $250,000, 22 percent; $500,000, 22 percent; and the majority went with $1 million annual income, that defines you as rich,
44 percent of those who voted.

We’ll be going through all kinds of polls and data on the commercials. Join us at YouTube.com/Fox News.

Bret, back to you.

BAIER: Thanks, Shannon.

After the break, we will be tackling foreign policy, government spending. Shannon will have more on that, too. And also the issue of immigration.

Now, here for a preview of what’s to come, let’s take a look at what’s called a word cloud. It shows the words that were used most often in all of the questions you asked about immigration. The bigger the word, the more often it was used.

The biggest word in this cloud, as you see, is “illegal.”

Back after a short break. [applause]

[commercial break]

[begin video clip]

GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.: Good evening. I’m Florida Governor Rick Scott. Because of Florida’s size and diversity, our state represents the very pulse of our great nation. Not only will Florida be a must win for a Republican to be our party’s nominee, Florida is a must win on the road to the White House.

It is my belief that the next president will be the candidate who both articulates a plan for getting America’s economy back on the right track and inspires confidence in the hearts and minds of all Americans.

Good luck to all the candidates.

This debate is a partnership with Fox News and Google. I thank the men and women of Fox News and Google for choosing Florida, and thank all of you for being part of this exciting event.

[end video clip]

BAIER: Thank you Governor Scott.

And welcome back to Orlando, Florida, and the Republican presidential debate. [applause]

BAIER: My colleague Megyn Kelly will take us through the next round of questions on government spending and debt.

KELLY: Thanks, Bret.

Governor Perry, Governor Romney has been hammering you on your idea of turning Social Security back to the states, repeatedly. Can you explain specifically how 50 separate Social Security systems are supposed to work?

PERRY: Well, let me just say first, for those people that are on Social Security today, for those people that are approaching Social Security, they don’t have anything in the world to worry about. We have made a solemn oath to the people of this country that that Social Security program in place today will be there for them.

Now, it’s not the first time that Mitt has been wrong on some issues before. And the bottom line is, is we never said that we were going to move this back to the states. What we said was, we ought to have as one of the options the state employees and the state retirees, they being able to go off of the current system, on to one that the states would operate themselves.

As a matter of fact, in Massachusetts, his home state, almost 96 percent of the people who are on that program, retirees and state people, are off of the Social Security program. So having that option out there to have the states — Louisiana does it, almost every state has their state employees and the retirees that are options to go off of Social Security.

That makes sense. It’s an option that we should have.

KELLY: Governor Romney, you’re satisfied with that?

ROMNEY: Well, it’s different than what the governor put in his book just, what, six months, and what you said in your interviews following the book. So I don’t know. There’s a Rick Perry out there that is saying — and almost to quote, it says that the federal government shouldn’t be in the pension business, that it’s unconstitutional.

Unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states.

So you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that. [applause]

ROMNEY: Now, my own view is, that we have to make it very, very clear that Social Security is a responsibility of the federal government, not the state governments, that we’re going to have one plan, and we’re going to make sure that it’s fiscally sound and stable.

And I’m absolutely committed to keeping Social Security working. I put in my book that I wrote a couple of years ago a plan for how we can do that and to make sure Social Security stable not just for the next 25 years, but for the next 75.

Thank you.

PERRY: And I would like to respond to that.

KELLY: Go ahead, Governor Perry.

PERRY: Speaking of books and talking about being able to have things in your books, back and forth, your economic adviser talked about Romneycare and how that was an absolute bust. And it was exactly what Obamacare was all about.

As a matter of fact, between books, your hard copy book, you said it was exactly what the American people needed, to have that Romneycare given to them as you had in Massachusetts. Then in your paperback, you took that line out. So, speaking of not getting it straight in your book sir, that would be a — [applause]

KELLY: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Governor Perry, we were talking about Social Security, but if you want to talk about health care, I’m happy to do that.

BAIER: We are going to have a round on that.

ROMNEY: 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 is a plan that if you were president you would put on the whole nation, have a whole nation adopt it?”

I said, “Absolutely not.” I said, “This is a state plan for a state, it is not a national plan.”

And it’s fine for to you 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.

Thank you. [applause]

KELLY: We’ve got plenty of questions for all the other candidates up here tonight, but I want to stick with you on this one, Governor Romney.
Congresswoman Bachmann has said that President Obama has “ushered in socialism” during his first term. Governor Perry says that this administration is “hell bent” toward taking America toward a socialist country” When Speaker Gingrich was asked if he believes President Obama is a socialist, he responded, quote, “Sure, of course he is.” [laughter]

Do you, Governor Romney… [applause]

Do you, Governor Romney, believe that President Obama is a socialist?

ROMNEY: Let me tell you the title that I want to hear said about President Obama, and that is: former President Barack Obama. That’s the title I want to hear. [applause]

Let me tell you this. What President — what President Obama is, is a big-spending liberal. And he takes his political inspiration from Europe and from the socialist democrats in Europe. Guess what? Europe isn’t working in Europe. It’s not going to work here.

I believe in America. I believe in the opportunity and in the freedom that is American opportunity and freedom. I believe in free enterprise and capitalism. I believe government is too big. It’s gone from 27 percent of our economy in the years of JFK to 37 percent of our economy. We have to rein in the scale of government or we’re not going to be — continue to be a free economy.

I love this country. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I only spent four years as a governor. I didn’t inhale. [laughter]

I’m a business guy. I’m going to get America working again, because I believe in the principles that make America the hope of the Earth.

Thank you. [applause]

KELLY: Governor Huntsman, this next one’s for you. This week, President Obama proposed a tax hike on millionaires, saying that they need to pay their, quote, “fair share.” According to an August Gallup poll, 66 percent of American adults actually believe that a tax hike on the wealthy is a good idea to help tackle our mounting debt. Is there any scenario under which you could side with the 66 percent of people who believe that it is a good idea to raise taxes on millionaires?

HUNTSMAN: We’re not going to raise taxes. This is the worst time to be raising taxes, and everybody knows that. [applause]

We need to grow. We need to be reminded of what Ronald Reagan told us so beautifully, that which is great about America, freedom. We need to re-establish freedom in the marketplace.

We need to address our underlying structural problems that we have.

And in order to do that, we’re going to have to fix our taxes. And we put forward a program endorsed by the Wall Street Journal that phases out for individuals all the loopholes, all the deductions, and creates three rates, 8, 14, 23.

On the corporate side, it phases out all of the corporate welfare, all of the subsidies, and it gets it from 35 percent to 25 percent.

This is exactly where we need to be. We need to grow; we need to create jobs. This is not a point in time where we should be raising taxes.

We need to fix the underlying structural problems in this economy.

And until such time as we do, we’re not going to provide the confidence to businesses who are looking to deploy capital in the marketplace and hire people. And that would be serious tax reform, like I proposed, and like I did in the stay of Utah, and that would be — that would be structural reform, as well, dealing with Dodd-Frank, and repealing Obamacare, because they are presenting tremendous uncertainty to the marketplace right now.

KELLY: Thank you, Governor.

Mr. Cain, this question was one of the top 10 video questions voted on by people online, and it comes to us from Lee Doren of Arlington, Virginia, via YouTube.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: My question is, if you were forced to eliminate one department from the federal government, which one would you eliminate and why? Thank you.

[end video clip] [laughter]

CAIN: The first — the first department, if I were forced to eliminate a department, I would start with the EPA and start all over.

It’s out of control. [applause]

Now, I know that makes some people nervous, but the EPA has gone wild. The fact that they have a regulation that goes into effect January 1, 2012, to regulate dust says that they’ve gone too far. [laughter]

So rather than try to fix it, eliminate all of the things that they have right now and then start rebuilding a responsible EPA.

Now, with the rest of my time, may I offer a solution for Social Security, rather than continuing to talk about what to call it? I have proposed the Chilean model. It’s been around 30 years, and it works.

It’s a personal retirement account. And in the last 30 years, not only has Chile succeeded with that model, but 30 other countries have done so. I don’t think we’re doing a service to the American people to keep bantering about what you call it and what you don’t call it. The solution is: Fix it. [applause]

KELLY: Speaker Gingrich, every day the federal government takes in about $6 billion, but spends about $10 billion. So we borrow 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Now, I understand that you believe that if we modernize the federal government that it’ll help a lot, it’ll save billions. But given the resistance that we’ve seen in Washington — the seeming intractable resistance we’ve seen in Washington to spending cuts, how can you possibly slash spending by 40 percent? How can you do it?

GINGRICH: Well, the way you described the question, you can’t. [laughter]

KELLY: Well, that’s it. Stick a fork in us.

GINGRICH: If — if you assume Washington remains the way Washington is right now, it’s all hopeless. We might as well buy Greek bonds and go down together. [laughter]

KELLY: How do you get us out of that? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, next Thursday in Des Moines, I’m going to outline a 21st century Contract with America. And it’s going to be far bolder, far deeper, far more profound than what we did in 1994 or what I helped Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan do in 1980.

It’s important to remember, this month, in the Reagan administration, September 1983, we created 1,100,000 new jobs. Obama’s socialist policies, class warfare, and bureaucratic socialism, we created zero in August.

I believe with leadership we can balance the budget. I did it for four consecutive years. We went from $2.2 trillion projected deficit over a decade to $2.7 trillion projected surplus when I left. I think it is doable, but it takes real leadership. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Megyn.

The next question is for all of the candidates. It comes to us from Atlanta, Georgia, on the topic of education.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Stella Lohmann from Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve taught in both public and private schools, and now as a substitute teacher I see administrators more focused on satisfying federal mandates, retaining funding, trying not to get sued, while the teachers are jumping through hoops trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all education for their students. What as president would you seriously do about what I consider a massive overreach of big government into the classroom? Thank you.

[end video clip] [applause]

BAIER: That topic is for all candidates. And to get everyone to weigh in, 30 seconds each, please.

Governor Johnson?

JOHNSON: I’m promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013. That’s a 43 percent reduction in federal spending.

I am going to promise to advocate the abolishment of the federal Department of Education. [applause]

The federal Department of Education gives each state 11 cents out of every dollar that every state spends, but it comes with 16 cents worth of strings attached. So what America does not understand is that it’s a negative to take federal money. Give it to 50 laboratories of innovation, the states, to improve on, and that’s what we’ll see dramatic improvement. [applause]

BAIER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Yeah, 20 years ago, the federal contribution to education was 3 percent. It’s now at 11 percent, and our schools are doing worse, and it’s exactly what Gary Johnson just said. It’s because the federal government’s meddling.

The bottom-line problem with education is that the education system doesn’t serve the customer of the education system. And who’s the customer? The parents, because it’s the parents’ responsibility to educate the children.

It’s been that responsibility — from the moment they were born, they began the education of their children. And at some point, we have
— the government has convinced parents that at some point it’s no longer their responsibility. And in fact, they force them, in many respects, to turn their children over to the public education system and wrest control from them and block them out of participation of that.

That has to change or education will not improve in this country. [applause]

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I think you need very profound reform of education at the state level. You need to dramatically shrink the federal Department of Education, get rid of virtually all of its regulations.

And the truth is, I believe we’d be far better off if most states adopted a program of the equivalent of Pell Grants for K-through-12, so that parents could choose where their child went to school, whether it was public, or private, or home-schooling, and parents could be involved. Florida has a virtual school program that is worth the entire country studying as an example. [applause]

BAIER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: If you care about your children, you’ll get the federal government out of the business of educating our kids. [applause]

In 1980, when the Republican Party ran, part of the platform was to get rid of the Department of Education. By the year 2000, it was eliminated, and we fed on to it. Then (inaudible) Republicans added No Child Left Behind.

So the first thing a president should do is — the goal should be set to get the government out completely, but don’t enforce this law of No Child Left Behind. It’s not going to do any good, and nobody likes it. And there’s no value to it. The teachers don’t like it, and the students don’t like it.

But there are other things that the federal government can do, and that is give tax credits for the people who will opt out. We ought to have a right to opt out of the public system if you want.

BAIER: Governor Perry.

PERRY: There are a lot of good ideas here on the side and whether it is cutting back on the Department of Education, making those types of reductions.

I happen to believe we ought to be promoting school choice all across this country. I think school — the voucher system, charter schools all across this country. But there is one person on this stage that is for Obama’s Race to the Top and that is Governor Romney. He said so just this last week. And I think that is an important difference between the rest of the people on this stage and one person that wants to run for the presidency.

Being in favor of the Obama Race to the Top and that is not conservative.

BAIER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Nice try.

Let me tell you what I think I would do.

One, education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level. We need get the federal government out of education. And secondly, all the talk about we need smaller classroom size, look that’s promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teachers. We looked at what drives good education in our state, what we found is the best thing for education is great teachers, hire the very best and brightest to be teachers, pay them properly, make sure that you have school choice, test your kids to see if they are meeting the standards that need to be met, and make sure that you put the parents in charge.

And as president I will stand up to the National Teachers Unions.

BAIER: Governor Romney, I want give you more time. Did Governor Perry say something that wasn’t true?

ROMNEY: I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying. I don’t support any particular program that he’s describing. I think that the president — I think the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is doing a good thing by saying, you know what, we should insist that teachers get evaluated and that schools have the opportunity to see which teachers exceeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful are removed from the classroom. Those ideas by Secretary Duncan, that is a lot better than what the president did which is cutting off school choice in the Washington, D.C. schools. So let’s give us a full chance to talk about it.

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: We need that to do with education what has always worked historically, and that’s local control with parents. What doesn’t work is what we see happen right now.

I’m a mom five biological kids. We’ve raised 23 foster children in our home. The reason why I got involved in politics was because of the concern I had about our foster children and the education they were getting. What I would do as president of the United States is pass the mother of all repeal bills on education. I would take the entire federal education law, repeal it. Then I would go over to the Department of Education, I’d turn off the lights, I would lock the door and I would send all the money back to the states and localities.

BAIER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: A lot of good ideas, I won’t repeat them.

All of the programs at the federal level where there’s strings attached, cut all the strings. We have got to encourage parents to take advantage of choices, but provide those choices and we must find ways to empower the students. This is how we are going to improve education, but primarily get the federal government out of trying to educate our kids at the local level.

BAIER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: This is a key question, because it has so much to do with our nation’s competitiveness. I feel like I’ve run my own clinical trial in my home, raising seven kids. We’ve seen every option. We’ve experienced everything out there. But as governor I learned some important things. I signed the first — or the second voucher bill in the United States, Carson-Smith. I’ve actually done something about this.

We actually worked on early childhood literacy. If you can lock in the pillars of cognitive development around reading and math before age six, you are giving those kids the best gift possible as they then proceed through education.

Finally, you’ve got to say no to unfunded mandates coming out of Washington. They are totally unacceptable. No one loves their schools more than parents and local school boards, and local elected officials.

Localize, localize, localize. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Huntsman thank you.

And by the way, everyone likes the new sound, it’s far more pleasing instead of the bell? OK, I guess they do. [laughter]

BAIER: …round of questions on immigration.

WALLACE: Congresswoman Bachmann, as you well know, a number of states are trying to crack down on illegal immigration. We got a bunch of questions on immigration like this one from Tim Emerson, this is a text question so you don’t need to look up there. Tim Emerson of California.

He wrote this, “would you support each state enforcing the immigration laws since the federal government is not?”

Congresswoman, could you answer Tim’s question? And if your answer is yes, how do you square that with the constitution which says that congress has the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization?

BACHMANN: Well, the reason why he’s asking this question is because the federal government has failed the American people and has failed the states. It’s reprehensible that President Obama has sued the state of Arizona and the governor of Arizona for trying to protect the people in Arizona. That’s wrong. [applause]

BACHMANN: As president of the United States, I would do what my job would demand of me. That’s to uphold the sovereignty of the United States of America.

To do that, I would build a fence on America’s southern border on every mile, on every yard, on every foot, on every inch of the southern border. I think that’s what we have to do, not only build it, but then also have sufficient border security and enforce the laws that are on the books with the ICE agents, with our border security.

And here’s the other thing I would do. I would not allow taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens or for their children. [applause]

BACHMANN: That’s a madness. End the madness for illegal aliens to come into the United States of America.

WALLACE: Congresswoman, thank you.

And we’re going to get back to that issue in a moment.

But first, Speaker Gingrich, as you well know, there’s a debate going on in Congress right now about whether or not to make all employers, all businesses use E-Verify, a government database, to check whether or not new hires are illegal. Now, some Tea Partiers object to that idea because they say it would turn small businessmen into immigration agents.

But Kristen Williamson of the Federation for American Immigration Reform sent this question. Please look at it.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: Kristen Williamson, the Federal for American Immigration Reform.

Struggling U.S. workers continue to compete with millions of illegal aliens. Do you support legislation to require all employers to use E-Verify in order to ensure that the people that they hire are actually legally authorized to work in the U.S.? And will you impose penalties against employers who continue to hire illegal workers?

[end video clip]

WALLACE: The question, Mr. Speaker, is, should employers be required to use E-Verify?

GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, I think we would be better off to outsource E-Verify to American Express, MasterCard or Visa, because they actually know how to run a program like that without massive fraud. [applause]

GINGRICH: Second, the program should be as easy as swiping your credit card when you buy gasoline. And so I would ask of employers, what is it you would object to in helping the United States of America in dealing with the problem involving illegal immigration?

But, in addition, I want to reinforce what Congresswoman Bachmann said. I strongly favor 100 percent control of the border, and I strongly favor English as the official language of government. [applause]

GINGRICH: And I favor modernizing the legal visa system to make it far more convenient, far easier and far more practical. Here in Orlando, where we have a huge interest in people being able to visit easily for tourism, we have a terribly antiquated legal system while our border is too open for people who are illegal. [applause]

WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

Governor Romney, I want to continue a conversation that you had with Governor Perry in the last debate.

In Massachusetts, you vetoed legislation to provide interstate tuition rates to the children of illegals. Governor Perry of course signed the Texas Dream Act to do exactly that. But what about Governor Perry’s argument that it’s better to get these kids an education and to get them jobs than to consign them just to being a burden on the state?

ROMNEY: It’s an argument I just can’t follow. I’ve got be honest with you, I don’t see how it is that a state like Texas — to go to the University of Texas, if you’re an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That’s $22,000 a year.

Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien go to the University of Texas. If you are a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn’t make sense to me. And that kind of magnet — [applause]

ROMNEY: That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense. We have to have — just as Speaker Gingrich said, and as Michele Bachmann said as well, Congresswoman Bachmann, and that is we have to have a fence, we have to have enough Border Patrol agents to secure the fence, we have to have a system like E-Verify that employers can use to identify who is here legally and illegally.

We have to crackdown on employers that hire people that are here illegally. And we have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 tax credit — or, excuse me, discount for going to the University of Texas. That shouldn’t be allowed. It makes no sense at all. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Perry, I’m going to ask you a question, so you don’t need to respond to him, because you’re going to get a full minute to answer your question, which is on directly this point. You’re the candidate whose name, by a wide margin, came up most often in the questions being submitted to all of you candidates about immigration.

Dave Hollenback of Arizona sent this “To date, it appears that you have not tried to stop the illegals from coming. We have high unemployment and a considerable amount of jobs going to illegals. Are you going to exert an effort to stop the abuse of U.S. citizens by illegals?”

Now, last year, more than 16,000 children of illegals, young people in Texas, took advantage of your in-state tuition rate. Speak to that issue. And just, generally, how do you feel being criticized by a number of these other candidates on the stage for being too soft on immigration, sir?

PERRY: Well, I feel pretty normal getting criticized by these folks, but the fact of the matter is this: there is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working on border security than I have.

For a decade, I’ve been the governor of a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. We put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. We’ve got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now.

I supported Arizona’s immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it. Every day I have Texans on that border that are doing their job.

But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society.

I think that’s what Texans wanted to do. Out of 181 members of the Texas legislature, when this issue came up, only four dissenting votes.

This was a state issue. Texans voted on it. And I still support it greatly. [applause]

WALLACE: Senator Santorum — [booing]

SANTORUM: Chris, no one here is suggesting —

WALLACE: Senator Santorum, you don’t need to butt in because I was about to ask you a question on this exact issue.

You say that Governor Perry’s opposition to building a border along the entire fence shows that he is a “big government moderate.”

Question: Is he soft on illegal immigration?

SANTORUM: Governor Perry, no one is suggesting up here that the students that are illegal in this country shouldn’t be able to go to a college and university. I think you are sort of making this leap that, unless we subsidize this, the taxpayers subsidize it, they won’t be able to go.

Well, most folks who want go to the state of Texas or any other state out of state have to pay the full boat. The point is, why are we subsidizing?

Not that they can’t go. They can go. They just have to borrow money, find other sources to be able to go.

And why should they be given preferential treatment as an illegal in this country? That’s what we’re saying. [applause]

SANTORUM: And so, yes, I would say that he is soft on illegal immigration. I think the fact that he doesn’t want to build a fence — he gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about, buy national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don’t even think Barack Obama would be for buy national health insurance.

So I think he’s very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration, yes.

WALLACE: Governor Perry, 30 seconds to respond, sir.

PERRY: I’ve got one question for him.

Have you ever even been to the border with Mexico?

SANTORUM: Yes.

PERRY: I’m surprised if you have, but you weren’t paying attention, because the idea that you —

SANTORUM: Well, the answer is, yes, I have.

PERRY: — are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles, and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana, does not make sense. You put the boots on the ground.

We know how to make this work. You put the boots on the ground.

You put the aviation assets —

SANTORUM: But it’s not working, Governor.

PERRY: — in the ground. No, it’s not working because the federal government has not —

SANTORUM: But you said we know how it works. Is it working in Texas?

PERRY: The federal government has not engaged in this at all. When I’m the president of the United States, I’ll promise you one thing —

SANTORUM: But you’re saying you put the assets there. Has it worked in Texas?

PERRY: — we will put the assets on the ground —

SANTORUM: You said you have.

PERRY: — the boots on the ground —

BAIER: Senator Santorum, let him finish, please.

PERRY: — the aviation assets on the ground, and we will stop illegal immigration, we will stop the drug cartels, and we will make America secure.

SANTORUM: Can you answer the question? Is it working?

WALLACE: Well, you know, you asked your question, he gave his answer, sir.

SANTORUM: OK.

WALLACE: Sometimes we are frustrated with all of you answering questions. [laughter]

WALLACE: Congressman Paul, I want to ask you a question about a comment you made a couple of weeks ago about a border fence with Mexico. Here’s what you said, sir. I want to quote it: “There’s capital controls and there’s people control. So every time you think of a fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.”

Question, Congressman, do you know a lot of Americans who want to take their money and flee the United States of America? [laughter]

PAUL: There are — there are some. All the candidates up here talk about repatriation of dollars. They’ve already taken them overseas.

We’re talking about trying to bring in $1.5 trillion because they leave our country, because we make it uncomfortable, too many regulations, too much taxation. They can’t start business; they’ve lost confidence.

Yes, when countries destroy a currency, they do lead to capital controls and they lead to people control. So I think it is a real concern. [applause]

And, also, once you have these data banks, the data banks means that everybody is going to be in the data bank. You say, oh, no, the data bank’s there for the illegals. But everybody’s in the data bank.

That’s national ID card. If you care about your personal liberty, you’ll be cautious when you feel comfortable, blame all the illegal immigrants for everything. What you need to do is attack their benefits: no free education, no free subsidies, no citizenship, no birth-right citizenship. [applause]

And that would get to the bottom of it a lot sooner. But economically, you should not ignore the fact that, in tough economic times, money and people want to leave the country. That’s unfortunate.

WALLACE: Congressman Paul, thank you very much, sir.

BAIER: Chris, thank you. Let’s check in now with Shannon Bream.

Shannon?

BREAM: Well, Bret, one of the really interesting and valuable pieces of information we get from our partner, Google, is looking at search trends. We want to take you through some of those.

They’ve looked online for people within the U.S. who have been searching for coupons. We’ve talked about the economy a lot. If you look at the trend, it has been going up, up, up very steadily since 2004 to right now.

Another search compares home loan searches for foreclosure searches. Those have slipped over time. And now more people searching for information about foreclosures than home loans.

And another look, this compares folks searching for the best SUV miles per gallon and also gas prices, and those go together. When people are worried about their pocketbooks, worried about finding a bargain, they’re also looking at how they can save on gas and how they can conserve.

We’ve also been tracking questions that you’ve been putting to the candidates. We’ve put them to the folks at home, as well, and we’ve got some results. This question the same one we asked the candidates. If you had to cut a government department, what would you cut?

This is what the folks at home told us: the Labor Department, 8 percent; the EPA, 12 percent; Housing and Urban Development, 12 percent; Education,
47 percent, easily the majority there; and none, 20 percent. [applause]

Check it all out, YouTube.com/foxnews. Bret, back to you.

BAIER: Thanks, Shannon. We’ll check back with you a little later.

Up next, foreign policy, social issues, and health care, after the break.

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to Orlando and the Republican presidential debate. We’re parting — partner — partnering — easy for me to say — with Google and the Florida Republican Party.

Now to the topic of foreign policy. And all night we’ve been showing you these word clouds. Take a look at this one. All the searches on foreign policy, Israel is the biggest word. These are actually the words used in questions.

And that brings us to our first question. This week, with the Palestinian efforts at the United Nations, the issue of the future of Israel is a big concern to questioners. In fact, Governor Romney, the next question was a top question voted in the foreign policy section from Yigal Marcus in Teaneck, New Jersey.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: As president, how would you approach the new reality in the Middle East, specifically with regards to our ally, Israel, and the existential threats it faces from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and now the Palestinian Authority?

[end video clip]

BAIER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Very simple. You start off by saying that you don’t allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and your allies. [applause]

The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America. He — he addressed the United Nations in his inaugural address and chastised our friend, Israel, for building settlements and said nothing about Hamas launching thousands of rockets into Israel.

Just before Bibi Netanyahu came to the United States, he threw Israel under the bus, tried to negotiate for Israel.

The right course — if you disagree with an ally, you talk about it privately. But in public, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your allies. The right course for us… [applause]

The right course for us is not to try and negotiate for Israel. The right course is to stand behind our friends, to listen to them, and to let the entire world know that we will stay with them and that we will support them and defend them.

And with regards to Iran, which perhaps represents the greatest existential threat to Israel, we have to make it abundantly clear: It is unacceptable — and I take those — that word carefully — it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear nation. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Governor Romney.

Mr. Cain, this week, the Palestinian Authority brought their bid for statehood to the United Nations. How would you respond to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state?

CAIN: It starts with an extension of the Reagan philosophy of peace through strength. My philosophy would extend that to peace through strength and clarity. This administration has not made it clear how it stands with Israel.

When I was in Israel last month, I met with the deputy prime minister. And he made it shockingly, chillingly clear that, given everything that’s going on, number one, Israel will defend itself, with all of the tensions going on in the Middle East.

And he also made it real clear that he wasn’t sure how this administration stood when it came to Israel. I made it clear, which — and I would also make it clear to all of — our — the other people in the world, that if you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the United States of America. We will stand solidly behind Israel. [applause]

CAIN: If in fact it was clear to the Palestinians, where the United States stood, they might have had second thoughts about trying to pull such a move without negotiating with Israel.

BAIER: Mr. Cain, thank you.

Here’s a comparison of searches on Google for Israel, Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past few years. You can see the lines, Israel dominates the searches except for a few critical moments in time for Pakistan.

Which brings us to this, Governor Perry, if you were president, and you go a call at 3 am telling you that Pakistan had lost control of is nuclear weapons, at the hands of the Taliban, what would be your first move?

PERRY: Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with — and that’s the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.

For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16’s, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

Today, we don’t have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.

BAIER: Senator Santorum if the security situation were to fall apart in Iraq in 2012 would you support sending U.S. troops back to the region to stabilize the gains made?

SANTORUM: I’m not for taking them out of the region. I believe we need to listen to our generals, and our generals are being very, very clear that we need to continue to stabilize Iraq, the Iraqi government wants and needs our intelligence in particular, needs force protection.

We need to have anywhere — I’m hearing numbers of 20,000, 30,000 troops potentially to remain in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition.

This is the difference between Congressman Paul, Governor Huntsman, Governor Perry and myself when it comes to this issue. I stand up and say that when we engage in Iraq and Afghanistan, we engage because we want to be successful. We want victory. We want to have accomplished a national security objective for this country to make sure that we are safer.

We are not on a political agenda to withdraw troops. So the first thing is to make sure that we secure success.

To answer the question on Pakistan, which I’m not too sure was answered. The bottom line is, that we should be establishing relationships in Pakistan with allies of ours, folks like relationships with President Musharraf who we had in the past with others in that country so if in fact something like that would occur we could work in concert to make sure that that coup could be overturned and make sure those nuclear weapon do not fall in those hands.

But working with allies at that point is the last thing we want to do. We want to work in that country to make sure the problem is defused.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich, many of the foreign policy questions we received had directly to do with the U.S. economy as well when it came to the topic of foreign aid.

Butch Russell had the top voted video question in the section of foreign policy.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: When are we gonna get someone in the White House that can stand up to these other countries and say you are not getting any more of our money. This is stupid. We send billions of dollars overseas to countries that hate us.

[end video clip] [applause]

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich.

GINGRICH: I think — I actually there’s a lot to that. And I’ve been a strong supporter of international assistance, but I think there are a couple of good reasons to review the whole program.

First of all, I would replace virtually all government to government aid with some kind of investment approach that encouraged American companies to create jobs that made both the United States and the other country wealthier. Our bureaucrats giving their bureaucrats money is a guaranteed step towards corruption.

Second, I think when you have countries that vote against you in the United Nations consistently you really have to ask yourself why are you giving them anything? I mean, if they are not your ally why are… [applause]

GINGRICH: We came out of World War II with the generosity that made perfect sense when we had 50 percent of the world economy. And it was a different world. And we need to understand how different it is.

But I want to go back to your question on Pakistan, because I think people need to understand how real this is. This world is in danger of becoming dramatically more dangerous in the not-too-distant future.

People talk about an Iranian weapon? There may be well over 100 nuclear weapons in Pakistan. And the example you used is not too far-fetched to worry about.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich, thank you.

Governor Johnson, here in Florida, charter flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Havana, Cuba, have resumed. Is there a problem with that? And what are your thoughts on U.S.-Cuba policy?

JOHNSON: I think the biggest threat to our national security is the fact that we’re bankrupt, so I am promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013, and included in that is a 43 percent reduction in military spending.

I think it’s crazy that we have foreign aid to company — to countries when we’re borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar to do that. [applause]

Military alliances — military alliances are really key to other countries taking up the slack.

With regard to flights to Cuba? You know, I’m — I’m in favor, I think, of the whole notion that trade promotes friendship, as opposed to not. So I would be inclined to looking at establishing or supporting those kinds of flights.

BACHMANN: Bret? Bret?

BAIER: Governor Johnson, thank you.

Now…

BACHMANN: Excuse me, Bret? Could I weigh in on this?

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: I’d like to weigh on this, because according to the State Department’s website, there are four nations that are state sponsors of terror. Cuba is one of those nations. We would never have flights between the United States and Cuba. It’s a state sponsor of terror. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Congresswoman.

Now to my colleague, Megyn Kelly, on the topic of social issues.

KELLY: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Just one issue. I just want to respond to my friend, Rick Santorum, here. Is the microphone working?

BAIER: It is.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you. We do have a difference of opinion here in terms of overall foreign policy. And I think, you know, as the only one on stage with any hands-on foreign policy experience, having served — having lived overseas four different times, we’re at a critical juncture in our country. We don’t have a foreign policy, and we don’t project the goodness of this country in terms of liberty, democracy, open markets, and human rights, with a weak core.

And right now in this country, our core, our economy, is broken.

And we don’t shine that light today. We’re 25 percent of the world’s GDP. The world is a better place when the United States is strong. So guiding anything that we talk about from a foreign policy standpoint needs to be fixing our core.

But, second of all, I believe that, you know, after 10 years of fighting the war on terror, people are ready to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, Rick. [applause]

They’re ready to bring our troops home. This country — this country has given its all.

KELLY: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: What remains behind, some element to collect intelligence, special forces capability, and we’re going to have to do that in every corner of the world. But we need to fix this core and get serious about what the rest of the 21st century holds for this country.

BAIER: Senator Santorum, very quickly?

SANTORUM: Just because our economy is sick does not mean our country is sick, and it doesn’t mean our values are sick. And we’re going to stand up for those values every opportunity… [applause] … and to do so to make sure that our country is safe. The bottom line is — that you just mentioned is — is — is we should be fighting wars to win, not fighting wars for politics. [applause]

And this president is fighting a war in Afghanistan — in Afghanistan with one hand tied behind our generals, not giving the troops they need, not giving the authority, the rules of engagement to allow us to be successful. And unless we change those rules of engagement and make sure that our folks can win, then we are going to play politics with our military. [applause]

HUNTSMAN: This — this may — this may not come as a huge revelation. We’ve been talking about Pakistan here. But at the end of the day, folks, only Pakistan can save Pakistan. Only Afghanistan can save Afghanistan. [applause]

All that I want right now at this point in history is for America to save America. We’ve got to fix our core and… [crosstalk] [applause]

BAIER: Thank you very much. Now, as I originally said, Megyn Kelly on social issues. [laughter]

KELLY: And now I’m moving on from you, Governor Huntsman, to you, Congresswoman Bachmann. In 2006, you said that public schools are, quote, “teaching children that there is separation of church and state,” and said, quote, “I am here to tell you that’s a myth.”

Do you believe that there is a limit… [applause] … on government’s ability to inject religion into the public square? And if so, what is that limit?

BACHMANN: Well, I think that Thomas Jefferson stated it best. He was the author of the — the religious liberty that he valued so much, and that’s the — the United States government should not be a state church. That’s really what the fundamental was of separation of church and state.

And when Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists, the Danbury Baptists wanted to know, will you have a national church in the United States? He said no, because we believe in freedom of conscience, we believe in freedom of religious liberty, and expression, and speech.

That’s a foundational principle in the United States. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t people of faith and that people of faith shouldn’t be allowed to exercise religious liberty in the public square. Of course we should be able to… [applause] … (inaudible) exercise our faith. And — and whether that expression occurs in a public school or occurs — occurs in a public building, we should be able to allow — to have freedom for all people to express our belief in God. [applause]

KELLY: Senator Santorum, this question stirred up a whole lot of controversy online, and it comes from Stephen Hill, who is a soldier serving in Iraq.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job.

My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?

[end video clip] [booing]

SANTORUM: Yeah, I — I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to — to — and removing “don’t ask/don’t tell” I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.

We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform. [applause]

And I believe this undermines that ability. [applause]

KELLY: So what — what — what would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill? I mean, he’s — now he’s out. He’s — you know, you saw his face on camera. When he first submitted this video to us, it was without his face on camera. Now he’s out. So what would you do as president?

SANTORUM: I think it’s — it’s — it’s — look, what we’re doing is playing social experimentation with — with our military right now. And that’s tragic.

I would — I would just say that, going forward, we would — we would reinstitute that policy, if Rick Santorum was president, period.

That policy would be reinstituted. And as far as people who are in — in — I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in — in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was, sex is not an issue. It is — it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it — keep it to yourself, whether you’re a heterosexual or a homosexual. [applause]

KELLY: Congressman Paul, you have said that you believe that life begins at conception and that abortion ends an innocent life. If you believe that, how can you support a rape exception to abortion bans, and how can you support the morning-after pill? Aren’t those lives just as innocent?

PAUL: They may be, but the way this is taken care of in our country, it is not a national issue. This is a state issue. And there are circumstances… [applause]

There are circumstances where doctors in the past have used certain day-after pills for somebody with rape. And, quite frankly, if somebody is treated, you don’t even know if a person is pregnant, you don’t even know if there’s a disease, but if it’s 24 hours after rape, I don’t know where — how you’re going to police it.

So I don’t think you should create — we have too many laws already. Now, how are you going to police the day-after pill? It doesn’t make any sense to me in a practical matter.

So I would say that nobody can out-do me on respect for life. I’ve spent a lifetime dealing with life. But I still think there is a time where the law doesn’t solve the problems. Only the moral character of the people will eventually solve this problem, not the law. [applause]

KELLY: Governor Perry, you and our former president, George W. Bush, have a lot in common. You’re both Republicans from Texas. You both ran on the same ticket for the statehouse. You both share a deep religious faith.

Now, you’ve made a point of saying, well, we went to different colleges, Texas A&M and Yale, and point out that you have a different approach from President Bush when it comes to government spending. But what are the other differences that you can cite between you and President Bush? And what say you about these reports that there is some bad blood between the two of you?

PERRY: Well, let me address the first — or the last issue first.

And we got a great rapport. I talk to the president from time to time, call him on his birthday, wish him happy birthday, talk to him on a relatively regular basis. I highly respect the president and his public service.

What we have in — in — in difference is probably as much as in style as in substance on various issues. For instance, you know, I was very vocal in my disagreement with him on Medicaid Part D that the federal government should be involved in that very expensive program.

And I was also vocal against No Child Left Behind.

It gets back to the federal government has no business telling the states how to educate our children. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Meagan.

We’ve been showing you these word clouds throughout the night. Take a look at this one, all of the questions on health care. You can see the big word there, Obamacare.

Chris has the questions on health care.

WALLACE: And we’ll get right to that question of Obamacare.

Mr. Cain, you are a survivor of stage 4 colon and liver cancer. And you say, if Obamacare had been… [applause]

WALLACE: …and we all share in the happiness about your situation. But, you say if Obamacare had been in effect when you were first being treated, you would dead now. Why?

CAIN: The reason I said that I would be dead under Obamacare is because my cancer was detected in March of 2006. From March 2006 all the way to the end of 2006, for that number of months, I was able to get the necessary CAT scan tests, go to the necessary doctors, get a second opinion, get chemotherapy, go — get surgery, recuperate from surgery, get more chemotherapy in a span of nine months. If we had been under Obamacare and a bureaucrat was trying to tell me when I could get that CAT scan that would have delayed by treatment.

My surgeons and doctors have told me that because I was able get the treatment as fast as I could, based upon my timetable and not the government’s timetable that’s what saved my life, because I only had a 30 percent chance of survival. And now I’m here five years cancer free, because I could do it on my timetable and not a bureaucrat’s timetable.

This is one of the reasons I believe a lot of people are objecting to Obamacare, because we need get bureaucrats out of the business of trying to micromanage health care in this nation. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Huntsman, you say President Obama’s health care plan is a trillion dollar bomb dropping — dropped on taxpayers and job creation. But I want to show you the top voted question on YouTube that was submitted on health care. And it comes from Ian McDonald of Michigan who says he has a health problem. Watch it, sir.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: Hi, I’m a student. And I have a chronic heart condition. So for me, and those like me, the Democrats’ health care reform, allowing us to stay on our parents’ insurance longer was a godsend.

If were you elected, would you work as is the stated position of your party to repeal this reform? And if so, are we supposed to pray really hard that our ailments don’t prevent us from going to class?

[end video clip]

WALLACE: Governor, what about provisions that Ian talks about? For instance, the one that allows kids to stay on their parents’ policies until they were 26, or not limiting coverage for preexisting conditions. President Obama says the only way that insurance companies can afford to provide those kinds of reforms is with the individual mandate where they get a lot of new customers.

HUNTSMAN: When I hear this discussion, I think of my daughter Elizabeth who is sitting on the front row who suffers from juvenile diabetes. And I also am reminded that we are fundamentally approaching health care reform the wrong way.

This one trillion dollar bomb that Obamacare means to this country over 10 years is creating such uncertainty in the marketplace that businesses aren’t willing to hire, they’re not willing to deploy capital into the marketplace. It everyone it has gummed up our system.

So you say what do we do? I say we go out to the states and let the states experiment and find breakthroughs in how we address health care reform. Health care reform, it’s is a three trillion dollar industry.

It’s the size of the GDP of France. It’s large. It’s complicated. All I want to do is do the kind of thing we did in the state of Utah.

In direct response, we need affordable insurance policies. We don’t have affordable insurance policies today. We got one in Utah a stripped down bare bones catastrophic coverage policy that young people can finally afford.And then you can start whittling down the high percentage of the people who are uninsured in this country because they have an affordable policy. That’s number one.

Number two, we have to deal with cost containment measures like harmonizing medical records. We were the first state to do that. So let’s forget federal fixes in solutions and turn to the states where we’re going to find real breakthroughs and real answers to this terribly difficult and complicated problem.

WALLACE: Thank you, governor.

Congresswoman Bachmann, in the last debate you criticized Governor Perry for his executive order mandating that 6th graders get the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Then afterward, you suggested that the vaccine was linked to mental retardation and you said that it could be, quote, “potentially be a very dangerous drug.”

But the American Academy of Pediatrics has looked at it and says that the HPV vaccine has an excellent safety record. So my question to you is, do you stand by your statement that the HPV vaccine is potentially dangerous? And if not, should you be more careful when you’re talking about public health issue?

BACHMANN: Well, first I didn’t make that claim nor did I make that statement. Immediately after the debate, a mother came up to me and she was visibly shaken and heart broken because of what her daughter had gone through. I so I only related what her story was.

But here’s the real issue, Governor Perry mandated a health care decision on all 12-year-old little girls in the state of Texas. And by that mandate, those girls had to have a shot for a sexually transmitted disease. That is not appropriate to be a decision that a governor makes.

It is appropriate that parents make that decision in consultation with their doctor.

But here’s the even more important point, because Governor Perry made a decision where he gave parental rights to a big drug company.

That big drug company gave him campaign contributions and hired his former chief of staff to lobby him to benefit the big drug company.

That’s what was wrong with that picture. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Perry, obviously 30 seconds to respond.

PERRY: Thank you.

I got lobbied on this issue. I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady who had stage 4 cervical cancer. I spent a lot of time with her.

She came by my office talked to me about in program.

I readily admitted we should have had an opt-in, in this program.

But, I don’t know what part of opt-out most parents don’t get. And the fact is, I erred on the side of life and I will always err on the side of life as a governor as the president of the United States. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Perry, I now have a question for you. Texas has the most uninsured residents of any state in the country, 25 percent.

In the last debate, you blamed it on restrictions imposed by the federal government. But we checked about that, sir, in fact the feds treat Texas like they do all the other big states. On its own, on its own, Texas has imposed some of the toughest eligibility rules for Medicaid of any state in the country. In fact, you rank 49th in Medicaid coverage of low income residents.

So the question is, isn’t Texas’ uninsured problem because of decisions made by Texas?

PERRY: Well, I disagree with your analysis there, because we’ve had a request in for the federal government so that we could have a Medicaid waiver for years. And the federal government has stopped us from having that Medicaid waiver. Allowing the state of Texas, or for that matter the other states that we’re making reference to here, that have waivers give them more options to be able to give the options, there’s a menu of options that we could have, just like Jon Huntsman talked about. That is how we go forward with our health care.

Each state deciding how they’re going to deliver that health care.

Not one size fits all. And I think this whole concept of not allowing the states to come up with the best ideas about how to deliver health care in their state. And the fact is, people continue to move to the state of Texas. Some of the highest rates in the country, because we’ve created a state where opportunity is very much the word of the day there, if you will, for finding work and what have you.

And our health care is part of that. Our education is part of that. And we are proud of what we put together in the state of Texas.

WALLACE: Governor Romney, the other day Governor Perry called Romneycare socialized medicine. He said it has failed in western Europe and in Massachusetts. And he warns that Republicans should not nominate his words, Obama-lite.

How do you respond to Governor Perry?

ROMNEY: I don’t think he knows what he was talking about in that — in that regard.

Let me tell you this about our system in Massachusetts: 92 percent of our people were insured before we put our plan in place. Nothing’s changed for them. The system is the same. They have private market-based insurance.

We had 8 percent of our people that weren’t insured. And so what we did is we said let’s find a way to get them insurance, again, market-based private insurance. We didn’t come up with some new government insurance plan.

Our plan in Massachusetts has some good parts, some bad parts, some things I’d change, some things I like about it. It’s different than Obamacare.

And what you — what you heard from Herman Cain is one absolutely key point, which is Obamacare intends to put someone between you and your physician. It must be repealed. And if I’m president of the United States, on my first day in office, I will issue an executive order which directs the secretary of health and human services to provide a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. That law is bad; it’s unconstitutional; it shall not stand. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor — Governor Perry, 30 seconds to respond.

PERRY: I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment?

Was it — was before he was before the social programs, from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? He was for Race to the Top, he’s for Obamacare, and now he’s against it. I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and — and — and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.

WALLACE: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: I’ll use the same term again: Nice try. [laughter]

Governor, I’m — I wrote a book two years ago, and I laid out in that book what my views are on a wide range of issues.

I’m a conservative businessman. I haven’t spent my life in politics. I spent my life in business. I know how jobs come, how jobs go. My positions are laid out in that book. I stand by them.

Governor Perry, you wrote a book six months ago. You’re already retreating from the positions that were in that book.

PERRY: Not an — not an — not an inch, sir.

ROMNEY: Yeah, well, in that book, it says that Social Security was forced upon the American people. It says that, by any measure, Social Security is a failure. Not to 75 million people. And you also said that — that Social Security should be returned to the states.

Now, those are the positions in your book. And simply, in my view, I’m stand by my positions. I’m proud of them.

There are a lot of reasons not to elect me, a lot of reasons not to elect other people on this stage, but one reason to elect me is that I know what I stand for, I’ve written it down. Words have meaning, and I have the experience to get this country going again. [applause]

WALLACE: Gentlemen, thank you both.

Bret?

BAIER: Coming up, we return to issue number one: jobs.

Stay tuned.

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to the Orange County Convention Center here in Orlando, Florida, and the Republican presidential debate.

Now a question for all of the candidates. Independent New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently fretted over the possibility of the unemployed rioting in the streets. Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich recently said, quote, “For the first time in my life, I’m worried about this country.” And recently, a liberal columnist wrote this, quote, “We’ve lost our mojo.”

You know, President Obama promised hope and change. And according to many polls, fewer and fewer Americans believe he’s delivered.

Now, I’m not asking for your jobs plan here. What I’m asking for is, how are you going to turn this country around? We’ll go down the row, 30 seconds each.
Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: First of all, let me say that this is a human tragedy playing out, with 15 million unemployed, so many million beyond who are so dispirited, they’ve absolutely given up.

Sheriff Hardy, who’s a great sheriff in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, talks about foreclosures, that his folks are now handing out first time ever to the middle class.

I would drop three things on the doorstep of Congress to change and turn the situation around: one, my tax reform package, endorsed by the Wall Street Journal; two, serious regulatory reform, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare repealed; three, energy independence. Boone Pickens had some great ideas in terms of converting to natural gas. It’s a 500,000 job creator over five years. It would get the engines of growth going like nothing else I can think of.

BAIER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Obviously starts with economic growth. And, yes, I’ve already laid out how I would do that with my 999 plan. But what Americans are looking for in order to build their confidence is leadership. There is a severe deficiency of leadership in Washington, D.C. And once we fill that void, I believe the American people will begin to develop some confidence again.

In terms of believing in this nation, Ronald Reagan was the one who said that we are a shining city on a hill. We’ve slid down the side of that hill. [laughter]

Americans want somebody who’s going to lead them back up to the top of that hill. That’s how we turn this country around. [applause]

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: I agree. It’s time to reach for the brass ring of liberty once again. And we can. The signature issue of Barack Obama and his presidency has been the passage of Obamacare. This week, a study came out from UBS that said the number-one reason why employers aren’t hiring is because of Obamacare.

That’s why I introduced the bill to repeal Obamacare. And as president of the United States, that’s the very first thing I would do, is repeal Obamacare.

BAIER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: All across America, you’ve got families sitting across from their — sitting in their living rooms and their kitchens, sitting at that kitchen table, with a calculator and a checkbook, seeing if they have enough money to make ends meet for the month or the week.
You’ve got people who are sitting at that same table filling out job application forms, knowing that there are hundreds of other people that are doing the same thing for the same job.

These are tough times for a lot of people in this country, but we are a patriotic people. We place our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem. No other people on Earth do that. And if we’re led by a leader who draws on that patriotism, who tells the truth, who lives with integrity, and who knows how to lead, America will remain the hope of the Earth and the strongest nation in the world. I’ll do it. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Perry?

PERRY: Americans — Americans want a leader who’s got a proven record of job creation. Number one, we get rid of Obamacare. Secondly, we pull back all of those regulations that are job-killing today, whether it’s Dodd-Frank or whether it’s the EPA.

And then we sit with Congress and we lower those corporate tax rates, we lower those personal tax rates, and then we put our plan to make America energy independent, and that is the way you get America working again. [applause]

BAIER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Government destroys jobs; the market creates jobs. So the government isn’t going to be expected to create the jobs; they have to change the environment. But you can’t do that unless you understand where the depression, recessions come from, and you can’t understand that unless you know where the bubbles come from.

I’ve been arguing this case for 20 years and warning about bubbles and housing bubbles and Nasdaq bubbles. And a lot of other economists have been doing the same thing.

Until we understand that, you can’t solve the problem. You have to deal with the Federal Reserve system. You have to deal with free markets. And you have to deal with the tax program and the regulatory system. [applause]

Then you can get your jobs, because the people will create the jobs, not the government. [applause]

BAIER: Waiting for the applause.

Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Thirty-two years ago, we were in the same place. We had a failing president. He gave a speech on malaise. People wrote about the presidency being too big, nobody could do it. The Soviet Union was on offense.

And a leader came along. He said, when your brother-in-law is unemployed, it’s a recession. When you’re unemployed, it’s a depression. When Jimmy Carter’s unemployed, it’s a recovery. [applause]

Nothing — nothing will turn America around more than Election Night, when Barack Obama loses decisively. [applause]

BAIER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: The last words Ronald Reagan said as president of the United States in his farewell address, he was concerned about the future of our country because we were forgetting who we were, didn’t remember what America was really all about.

I think that’s what’s the problem right now, is we have a president who doesn’t understand what America is all about.

America is a great country because we are a country that believes in God-given rights to every single man, woman and child in America… [applause] … and that we built this country from the bottom up, believing in free people, to have that responsibility to live their lives in service to themselves, their family, their community, and their god, and in so doing, we transformed the world.

We had a leader in Reagan who believed in you. President Obama is the new King George III, who believes in things being dictated from on high. We need to replace him with someone who believes in the American people again. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Johnson?

JOHNSON: My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration. [laughter] [applause]

Balance the federal budget now, not 15 years from now, not 20 years from now, but now. And throw out the entire federal tax system, replace it with a fair tax, a consumption tax, that by all measurements is just that. It’s fair. It does away with corporate income tax. If that doesn’t create tens of millions of jobs in this country, I don’t know what does. [applause]

BAIER: You just made your neighbor’s dog very famous. [laughter]

When we come back in just one minute — one minute — the final round. We’ll be talking about the Republican ticket. We’re back from Orlando, Florida. [applause]

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to Orlando for our final round, our final question from YouTube. Our wildcard question comes from Darrell Owens in Richmond, Virginia.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: If you had to choose one of your opponents on the stage tonight to be your running mate in the 2012 election, who would you choose, and why? And why would this person help you make the country better?

[end video clip]

BAIER: Again, if you had to choose a running mate, one of the people on the stage with you, who would you choose and why? Thirty seconds down the row.
Governor Johnson?

JOHNSON: Well, that would be the guy three down, Congressman Paul.

And that would be… [applause]

And that would be the notion that this country is about liberty and freedom and that right now we are facing an extraordinary crisis that, if we do not address it now, we’re going to find ourselves in a monetary crisis that is going to leave us all with nothing. And if we want to look at an example of that, that would be Russia that experienced a monetary collapse, that in our lifetimes may never acquire. We need to avoid that now.

BAIER: Senator Santorum, who would you choose?

SANTORUM: I would pick someone who would do what I have articulated I would do as president of the United States. That’s what you — that’s what a vice president should be, someone who would follow through on what you promise the American public to do.

BAIER: You have eight to choose.

SANTORUM: And — and I — and I would say that, you know, right now that, you know, the guy that I’m agreeing with most up on stage is probably the guy to my left. So I would say that Newt Gingrich would be the guy that I would — I would pick as someone who — who would follow through with what I’m saying.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Yeah, I’m going to disappoint those in the audience who want this to be a Hollywood game. I don’t have any idea who I would pick as the vice presidential nominee. What I do know is, it would have to be a person capable of being president of the United States, and that would be the first criteria. These are all good friends of mine. I couldn’t imagine hurting any of their feelings by choosing one tonight. [laughter]

BAIER: Congressman Paul, hurt away.

PAUL: I don’t plan to make a choice at the moment, because I am on national polls. It seems like I’m in third place now. I think it would be inappropriate. [applause]

As soon as — as soon as I’m one of the two top tier, then I will start thinking along that line. But right now, I’m going to defer, and just work very hard, and make sure that I stay in the top tier and then eventually be one of the top two contenders. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Perry, how do you answer Darrell Jones?

PERRY: Well, staying with the game show idea here, I don’t know how you would do this, but if you could take Herman Cain and mate him up with Newt Gingrich, I think you would have a couple of really interesting guys to work with. [laughter]

I don’t know how you’d do it.

BAIER: Governor Romney, Darrell Owens would like an answer.

ROMNEY: There are a couple of images I’m going to have a hard time getting out of my mind. [laughter]

That’s one, and Gary Johnson’s dogs are the other, I’ll tell you. [laughter]

I’m — I’m going to go with Newt on this, meaning I’m going to subscribe to his same view. I know I’m going to disappoint.

But my view is, if you pick a vice president, if you’re lucky enough to become the nominee of this party, picking a vice president would be something you give a lot of thought to, a lot of evaluation to, and you want someone who without question could become the president of the United States.

These people could all fill that — that position. Any one of them would be a better president than what we have now. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Romney, I hate to follow up here, but you called Governor Perry unelectable based on his Social Security…

ROMNEY: Actually, I — actually, I didn’t use that term, but the newspaper did. That happens now and then. But the point is still, I think, that there are some problems that exist in each of our backgrounds that make it harder for us to get elected. I hope we get elected. I hope one of us gets to that White House. I think we will, because I think this president has failed miserably.

But I’ll tell you one thing. I — look, Governor Perry and I disagree on some issues. I think I probably disagree with everybody — we all have differing views on different issues. But one thing’s for sure: We all agree that President Obama needs to be former President Obama, and we’re going to make that happen. [applause]

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann, back to the original question?

BACHMANN: Obviously, we need to have a strong constitutional conservative, and that’s what I would look for in a vice president.

But I want to say this, as well. Every four years, conservatives are told that we have to settle, and it’s anybody but Obama. That’s what we’re hearing this year.

I don’t think that’s true. I think if there’s any year — President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times. He hasn’t gone to the basement yet. It’ll be a lot lower than what it is now. That’s why we need to choose a candidate who represents conservatives and constitutional conservative positions. [applause]

BAIER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: This is a game, and it is hypothetical. I’ll play the game. [laughter]

If — if Governor Romney would throw out his jobs growth plan and replace it with 999, he has a shot. [laughter]

If he does not, I would probably go with Speaker Gingrich, who I have the greatest admiration for, in all seriousness, because of his history and because of his depth of knowledge. I could go on because I have respect for everybody up here. But it’s a game. [laughter]

BAIER: It is a YouTube question.

Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: You know, I’m tempted to say that, when all is said and done, the two guys standing in the middle here, Romney and Perry, aren’t going to be around, because they’re going to bludgeon each other to death. [laughter]

But — but I’m also reminded of about four years ago, we had two frontrunners in similar situations, one by the name of Rudy Giuliani, I think, and the other by the name of Fred Thompson. They seemed to disappear altogether; I can’t remember where they went.

But I would have — I would have to say, since Chris Wallace doesn’t qualify as somebody on the stage, so I can’t — I can’t pick one of you, that Herman Cain, because of his selection of ties, the fact that — the fact that we both — we both apparently agree with the gold standard, wearing the yellow ties here tonight. And because of the good neighbor policy, 999, mixed with my tax policy, would be the most competitive thing this nation could ever achieve. I’d have to say Herman’s my man. [applause]

BAIER: Candidates, thank you very much. That is it for our debate tonight. Our thanks to the candidates and their staffs. A big thank you to our debate partner, Google, and the Florida Republican Party, to all the great people here in the Orange County Convention Center and, of course, the state of Florida. They could not have been more hospitable.

Stay with Fox News Channel, America’s election headquarters, all the way to the general election and the inauguration.

September 12, 2011: CNN /  Tea Party Express Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Tampa, Florida September 12, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
Wolf Blitzer (CNN);

BLITZER: And welcome to the Florida State Fairgrounds here in Tampa, the site of the first ever Tea Party/Republican presidential debate.

One year from now, right here in Tampa, the Republican National Convention will nominate the Republican candidate for president of the United States.

Tonight, eight contenders will be on this stage to try to convince voters he or she is the best choice to hold the highest office in the country. And joining them inside this hall, Tea Party activists from Florida and across the nation.

I’m Wolf Blitzer.

I’d like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, including U.S. troops and their families watching overseas.

Tonight’s debate is airing on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, and the American Forces Network seen on U.S. military bases in 175 countries and aboard Navy ships at sea around the globe.

We also want to welcome our co-sponsors, the Tea Party Express, and more than 100 state and local Tea Party groups from across the United States.

Members of the Tea Party movement will play an active role in this debate. We’ll take questions from here in Florida, one of the most critical battleground states in the nation. We’ll also take questions from Tea Party activists in three other key states.

Watch parties are under way right now in Portsmouth, Virginia, an historic Navy port and a 2012 election battleground. In Phoenix, Arizona, the western states shaping the national debate over immigration. And in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Midwestern swing state that has been decisive in so many elections.

BLITZER: It’s time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders.

[applause]

Joining us now on stage, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

[applause]

BLITZER: The former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

[applause]

BLITZER: Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

[applause]

BLITZER: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

[applause]

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

[applause]

ROMNEY: Hey, guys. Hi.

BLITZER: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

[applause]

The former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain.

[applause]

And the former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman.

[applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates for president of the United States.

[applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, please rise now and join recording artist Diana Nagy as she leads us in the national anthem.

DIANA NAGY, RECORDING ARTIST: [Sings “The Star Spangled Banner”]

BLITZER: Diana Nagy, thanks very, very much.

Candidates, please take your podiums. And while you do, I want to tell all of our viewers, everyone here a little bit more about how this debate will work.

I, obviously, will be the moderator. I’ll ask questions and follow-ups, and I’ll work to try my best to make sure that each candidate is getting his or her fair share of the questions and the answer time. And as I mentioned, the tea party activists will be asking questions here in the hall, as well as from our remote sites. And, viewers, you, too, can participate. We’re accepting questions for the candidates on Twitter — make sure to include #cnnteaparty — on Facebook and, of course, on cnnpolitics.com. Each candidate will have about one minute to answer questions and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. I’ll make sure that each candidate gets the time to respond if they are singled out for specific criticism.

It’s important that the American public knows where the candidates agree on the substantive issues and where they disagree. We want everyone watching to emerge from this debate more informed about these eight people, who each want to become the president of the United States.

Now that the candidates are all in place, it’s time for the candidates to introduce themselves to our audience. I’m asking them all to keep it very, very short. Here’s an example of what I have in mind.

I’m Wolf Blitzer, and I’m usually in “The Situation Room,” but tonight I’m thrilled to be at the Tea Party Republican presidential debate.

[applause]

Governor Huntsman, we’ll begin with you.

HUNTSMAN: Wolf, delighted to be here. Yesterday, we were reminded how extraordinary this country is when we pull together during a time of need. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are deeply divided. I believe I have the experience and the leadership necessary to move this country forward.

CAIN: I’m Herman Cain. I am the only non-politician on this stage tonight, and I believe that America has become a nation of crises. That’s why I want to be president of the United States of America.

BACHMANN: My name is Michele Bachmann. I know we can do so much better in this country. That’s why I’m the chief author of the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank, the bill to repeal Obamacare. And that’s why I brought the voice of the Tea Party to the United States Congress as the founder of the Tea Party Caucus.

[applause]

ROMNEY: My name is Mitt Romney. And like you, I recognize that America’s economy is in crisis. Got a lot of people without work, and a lot of people wonder whether the future is going to be brighter for their kids. I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how jobs come to America and why they go. And I want to use that experience to get America growing again, adding jobs, and assuring every citizen that they know that their kid and their grandkid will have a brighter future. Thank you.

[applause]

PERRY: I’m Governor Rick Perry. And I’m proud to be here today with the Tea Party Express. And I simply want to get America working again and make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.

[applause]

PAUL: I’m Congressman Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas. I’ve been in the Congress for 20 years. My goal has always been to promote the cause of liberty and to obey the Constitution. I plan to do that as president, as well.

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich. I think it is totally appropriate that we’re having this particular debate on 9/12. And in the spirit of 9/12, I hope to work with you to fundamentally, profoundly change Washington in what will be a long and difficult struggle against the forces of reaction and special interests.

[applause]

SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum. I’m a former two-term senator from a state that has over a million more registered Democrats than Republicans, and I won two elections there without having to change my policies or my party to win.

[applause]

BLITZER: Ladies and gentlemen, the eight Republican presidential candidates.

[applause]

All right. Let’s — let’s start off here in Tampa. We have a Tea Party activist. Please identify yourself and ask your question.

QUESTION: [off-mike] Tea Party, Jacksonville, Florida. My question: How will you convince senior citizens that Social Security and Medicare need to be changed and get their vote?

BLITZER: Good question. Let me begin with Michele Bachmann. Congresswoman, how do you do that? How do you go ahead and change, reform Social Security, Medicare, while at the same time getting votes?

BACHMANN: Well, one thing that we need to let senior citizens know is, for those who are currently on the Social Security system, the United States government made a promise to senior citizens, and we have to keep that promise to them.

But we also need to know that for those who are not yet on the system, the system simply has to be reformed in order for it to work. The same goes with Medicare. We know that President Obama stole over $500 billion out of Medicare to switch it over to Obamacare. We also know that Medicare hospital trust fund will be bankrupt within nine years. These are programs that need to be saved to serve people, and in their current form, they can’t.

So we need to have someone who understands these programs, who — who understands the solutions to these programs. I’m a person that’s had feet in the private sector and a foot in the federal government. I’ve been there long enough to know the problems, but not long enough to become a part of the system. I know what to do, and I have the core of conviction to be able to make the changes that senior citizens can count on.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, speaking of Social Security, you’ve said in the past it’s a Ponzi scheme, an absolute failure, unconstitutional, but today you wrote an article in USA Today saying it must be saved and reformed, very different tone. Why?

PERRY: Well, first off, the people who are on Social Security today need to understand something. Slam-dunk guaranteed, that program is going to be there in place for those. Those individuals that are moving towards being on Social Security, that program’s going to be there for them when they arrive there.

But the idea that we have not had the courage to stand up and look Americans in the face, young mid-career professionals or kids that are my children’s age and look them in the eye and said, listen, this is a broken system. It has been called a ponzi scheme by many people long before me. But no one’s had the courage to stand up and say, here is how we’re going to reform it.

We’re going to transform it for those in those mid-career ages, but we’re going to fix it so that our young Americans that are going out into the workforce today will know without a doubt that there were some people who came along that didn’t lie to them, that didn’t try to go around the edges and told them the truth.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, you said that Governor Perry’s position on Social Security is, quote, unacceptable and could even obliterate the Republican Party. Are you saying he could not, as Republican nominee, beat Barack Obama?

ROMNEY: No, what I’m saying is that what he just said, I think most people agree with, although the term ponzi scheme I think is over the top and unnecessary and frightful to many people. But the real issue is in writing his book, Governor Perry pointed out that in his view that Social Security is unconstitutional, that this is not something the federal government ought to be involved in, that instead it should be given back to the states.

And I think that view, and the view that somehow Social Security has been forced on us over the past 70 years that by any measure, again quoting book, by any measure Social Security has been a failure, this is after 70 years of tens of millions of people relying on Social Security, that’s a very different matter.

So the financing of Social Security, we’ve all talked about at great length. In the last campaign four years around, John McCain said it was bankrupt. I put in my book a series of proposals on how to get it on sound financial footing so that our kids can count on it not just our current seniors.

But the real question is does Governor Perry continue to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program, that it’s unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states or is he going to retreat from that view?

BLITZER: Let’s let Governor Perry respond. You have 30 seconds.

PERRY: If what you’re trying to say is that back in the ’30s and the ’40s that the federal government made all the right decision, I disagree with you. And it’s time for us to get back to the constitution and a program that’s been there 70 or 80 years, obviously we’re not going to take that program away. But for people to stand up and support what they did in the ’30s or what they’re doing in the 2010s is not appropriate for America.

ROMNEY: But the question is, do you still believe that Social Security should be ended as a federal program as you did six months ago when your book came out and returned to the states or do you want to retreat from taht?

PERRY: I think we ought to have a conversation.

ROMNEY: We’re having that right now, governor. We’re running for president.

PERRY: And I’ll finish this conversation. But the issue is, are there ways to move the states into Social Security for state employees or for retirees? We did in the state of Texas back in the 1980s. I think those types of thoughtful conversations with America, rather than trying to scare seniors like you’re doing and other people, it’s time to have a legitimate conversation in this country about how to fix that program where it’s not bankrupt and our children actually know that there’s going to be a retirement program there for them.

ROMNEY: Governor, the term ponzi scheme is what scared seniors, number one. And number two, suggesting that Social Security should no longer be a federal program and returned to the states and unconstitutional is likewise frightening.

Look, there are a lot of bright people who agree with you. And that’s your view. I happen to have a different one. I think that Social Security is an essential program that we should change the way we’re funding it. You called it a criminal…

PERRY: You said if people did it in the private sector it would be called criminal. That’s in your book.

ROMNEY: Yeah, what I said was…

[applause]

ROMNEY: Governor Perry you’ve got to quote me correctly. You said it’s criminal. What I said was congress taking money out of the Social Security trust fund is like criminal and that is and it’s wrong.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, let me expand this conversation. Do you agree with Governor Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme?

PAUL: Well, I agree that Social Security is broke. We spent all the money and it’s on its last legs unless we do something. One bill that I had in congress never got passed was to prevent the congress from spending any of that money on the wars and all the nonsense that we do around the world.

Now the other thing that I would like to see done is a transition. I think it’s terrible that the Social Security system is in the — the problems it has, but if people wouldn’t have spent the money we would be OK.

Now, what I would like to do is to allow all the young people to get out of Social Security and go on their own. Now, the big question is, is how would the funding occur?

BLITZER: All right. Hold that thought for a minute, because I want Herman Cain to get involved.

Are you with Governor Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme?

CAIN: I don’t care what you call it, it’s broken. And here’s my solution.

[applause]

CAIN: Start with optional personal retirement accounts. In 1981, the Galveston County employees, they opted out because that was a very short window of opportunity. They took it. Today, when people retire in Galveston County, Texas, they retire making at least 50 percent more than they would ever get out of Social Security.

[applause]

Secondly, allow younger workers to have personal retirement accounts as an option.

Now, to answer this gentleman’s question, current seniors will not be affected. It’s to give the option to the younger workers.

The Galveston County model worked, and it also worked in the small country of Chile. Instead of giving it to the states, let’s give it back to the workers. That’s what personal retirement accounts will do.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, when it comes to reforming Social Security, is anything from your perspective off the table?

HUNTSMAN: I don’t think anything should be off the table except maybe some of the drama that’s playing out here on this floor today. I mean, to hear these two go at it over here, it’s almost incredible.

You’ve got Governor Romney, who called it a fraud in his book “No Apology.” I don’t know if that was written by Kurt Cobain or not. And then you’ve got Governor Perry, who is calling this a Ponzi scheme.

All I know, Wolf, is that we’re frightening the American people who just want solutions. And this party isn’t going to win in 2012 unless we get our act together and fix the problem.

We all know that we’ve got entitlement problems, we’ve got Medicare, we’ve got Social — the fixes are there. I mean, the Ryan plan is there, for heaven’s sake.

We’ve got the answers. We don’t have leadership. That’s the problem.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, would you raise the retirement age for Social Security recipients?

GINGRICH: No, not necessarily, but let me start with — I’m not particularly worried about Governor Perry and Governor Romney frightening the American people when President Obama scares them every single day.

[applause]

GINGRICH: This is eating into my time.

Let me just say to all of you —

BLITZER: Let me just pinpoint the question. What would you do to fix Social Security?

GINGRICH: OK. But can I also expand for a second? Because that was not a rhetorical joke.

President Obama twice said recently he couldn’t guarantee delivering the checks to Social Security recipients. Now, why should young people who are 16 to 25 years old have politicians have the power for the rest of their life to threaten to take away their Social Security?

[applause]

GINGRICH: Now, I just want to make two simple points about Social Security and how you save it.

The first is, you get back to a full employment economy, and at four percent unemployment you have such a huge increase in funding, that you change every single out year (ph) of projection in a positive way.

The second is you say precisely as several folks here have said it, if you are younger — everybody who is older and wants to be totally protected, fine, no change. So don’t let anybody lie to you, starting with the president. No change. But if you’re younger and you would like a personal account, you would control instead of the politicians. And you know you’ll have more money at the end of your lifetime if you control it than the politicians.

Why shouldn’t you have the right to choose?

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, when it comes to Social Security, are you with Governor Romney or Governor Perry?

SANTORUM: Well, the question is who is with me? Because I’ve been out here talking about — you want to talk about courage to tell the truth, Governor? I was out in 1994 running against a Democratic incumbent in a campaign managed by James Carville, and I went out and talked about Social Security reform.

Why? Because I knew this day was coming. And I had the courage to go out and say Social Security is in trouble. And I told a group of young people at La Salle University that we needed to do something like raising the retirement age.

They ran that on TV for three weeks prior to the election, in the second oldest per capita state in the country. And I still won the election. Why? Because the people of Pennsylvania wanted someone who had the courage to tell them the truth.

[applause]

SANTORUM: And I had the courage to tell them the truth.

And what I’ve done since I was in the United States Senate is every year I proposed — I went, in fact, with Bill Clinton in 1997 on the first bipartisan Social Security town hall meeting, and I was the spokesperson, a Republican conservative from a blue state out there leading the charge on Social Security.

You folks want someone with courage? I’ve got a track record of courage and a track record of concrete proposals on how to fix this, among some of the things that have been discussed here tonight.

BLITZER: Senator, thank you.

Let’s go to another question. We have a question now from the audience.

Go ahead. Identify yourself.

DR. BRIDGET MELSON, PLEASANTON TEA PARTY: Hi. My name is Dr. Bridget Melson with the Pleasanton Tea Party. Good to be here.

My question for you is, what is your plan to balance the budget and get this spending under control so that my children’s share of the debt is erased without compromising my retired mother’s already tenuous financial future?

BLITZER: Good question. Let me ask Speaker Gingrich to respond, and I’ll sort of paraphrase it.

How do you do that? How do you protected seniors, balance the budget? So much of the budget goes to defense and entitlements like Social Security, Medicare.

GINGRICH: But that’s just a Washington mythology. And anybody who knows anything about the federal government knows that there’s such an enormous volume of waste, that if you simply had a serious all-all effort to modernize the federal government, you would have hundreds of billions of dollars of savings falling off.

Let me say, I helped balance the budget for four straight years. This is not a theory. Rick and I were working together on this. This is not a theory. You voted for it. So we can balance the federal budget.

But let me start with — all of you should go to Strong America Now, which is a group that believes if you modernize the federal government, you save $500 billion a year. Now, check and see whether the super committee of 12 in their august power is willing to sit down with that group and actually learn how to be smart rather than cheap, and actually modernize the federal government.

One example, the federal government is such a bad manager of money, that somewhere between $70 billion and $120 billion a year in Medicare and Medicaid is paid to crooks. We wrote a book several years ago called “Stop Paying the Crooks.” I thought it was pretty obvious even for Washington. So I would start to balance the budget by stop paying the crooks, not by cheating honest Americans.

[applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, staying on the issue of spending, budget deficits, you voted for the prescription drug benefits for seniors when you were in the United States Senate costing about $1 trillion. If you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t vote for that, but if you were president of the United States, would you repeal prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare?

SANTORUM: I think we have to keep a prescription drug component, but we have to pay for it. In other words, we have to have a program that is funded.

Now, the reason that that program has actually worked well is it’s come in 40 percent under budget because it’s a program that uses private sector insurance, not government-run, one-size-fits-all health care. If we do that for the rest of Medicare, which is what the Ryan proposal suggests, and something that I proposed, again, years ago, had the courage to go out and lead on this issue, then we would be able to have a prescription drug program and we’d be able to have Medicare that you choose.

The idea that unless we have a government-run, one-size-fits-all Medicare program, that that’s throwing grandma off a cliff, is Washington think — is people who think in Washington this president, who believes that they know better than you how to run your life and how to purchase your health care. I trust you, I trust the American people. That is the greatness of our country.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Governor Perry, it was President Bush who pushed for prescription drug benefits for senior, not President Obama. It was President Bush who pushed for prescription drug benefits for seniors. The question to you: If you were president — it’s not a difficult question — would you vote to eliminate, to repeal those prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare?

PERRY: No. It’s a $17 trillion hole that we have in our budget we’ve got to deal with. And I think that’s the issue of, how do you find the savings and still deliver the services?

For instance, in the state of Texas, we combined a substantial amount of our health and human services from 10 down to five agencies. We put an Office of Inspector General into place, and we saved over $5.3 billion, Newt, just by finding the waste and the fraud in Texas state government. I’m thinking there might be more waste and fraud in the federal government than even there is in the Texas government.

BLITZER: But, Governor, just to be precise, if you were president, you wouldn’t repeal prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare?

PERRY: That’s what I said when I started the conversation.

BLITZER: OK. Just want to be precise on that, Governor.

Governor Romney, what about you?

ROMNEY: I wouldn’t repeal it. I’d reform Medicare and reform Medicaid and reform Social Security to get them on a sustainable basis, not for current retirees, but for those in their 20s and 30s and early 50s.

But the key to balancing the budget — and we talk about all the waste in government and the inefficiency. And having spent 25 years in business, I know something about taking waste out of enterprises. I’d love to do that to the federal government. And there is massive waste.

But we’re not going to balance the budget just by pretending that all — all we have to do is take out the waste. We’re going to have to cut spending. And I’m in favor of cutting spending, capping federal spending as a percentage of GDP, at 20 percent or less, and having a balanced budget amendment. That’s essential to rein in the scale of the federal government.

And there’s a second part to balancing the budget, and that’s growing the economy again. And that’s why I laid out a plan to restructure the foundation of America’s economy to start creating jobs again so people are paying taxes, businesses are paying taxes, not because we’re raising the rates, but because we’re growing the economy.

The right answer for America is to stop the growth of the federal government and to start the growth of the private sector.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, what about you? Would you repeal it?

PAUL: Well, we shouldn’t have never started it. I voted against it. But that sure wouldn’t be on my high list. I would find a lot of cuts a lot of other places. As a matter of fact, on Social Security, it is already being reformed, because the cost of living increases aren’t there, so the value is going down.

So, no, there’s places we should cut. And we cut — we spend — and I’m not sure I can get anybody to agree with me on here — on this panel, but we spend $1.5 trillion overseas in wars that we don’t need to be in and we need to cut there…

[applause]

… and then put this money back into our economy here. And that is the only way to achieve it. Then it still wouldn’t be enough in order to get some people out. What we need to do is cut the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and all these departments, and get rid of them.

[applause]

Then we can do it.

BLITZER: We’re going to get to national security. Don’t worry.

Congresswoman Bachmann, what about you?

BACHMANN: I think that the principle has to change, because for years, politicians have run on the idea that government is going to buy people more stuff and that the federal government would be taking care of people’s prescription drugs, their retirement, their health care, their housing, their food.

We’re the everybody else that’s paying for the freight for all of these things. That’s the principle that has to change, because we have to now recognize that, going forward…

[applause]

… this isn’t going to work anymore. We have to be an ownership society, where individual responsibility, personal responsibility once again becomes the animating American principle. And we can’t be ashamed of that.

BLITZER: All right, we’ve got a lot more to discuss. We’re only just beginning. I want to take a quick break. I want our viewers out there to know they can weigh in, they can respond. Go to Twitter, Facebook, cnn.com. We want to hear from you if you have questions for these eight Republican presidential candidates. You’ll have an opportunity to get some questions to them. We’re going to talk about jobs, jobs, jobs when we come back.

[applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN Tea Party Republican presidential debate. We’ve got a question from Portsmouth, Virginia. Please identify yourself. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Sandra Jones (ph) from Yorktown, Virginia. My question is, what would you do to get the economy moving forward? Do you have a plan? And, if so, what is it?

BLITZER: All right, good question. Let’s ask Governor Huntsman. The first thing you would do as president of the United States, knowing, of course, that President Obama today formally gave legislation to Congress with his jobs plan?

HUNTSMAN: Let us recognize, first and foremost, that what we’re seeing playing out in America is a human tragedy. We have millions and millions who are unemployed, millions beyond who are so dispirited they’ve completely given up trying to find a job. We’ve got moms and dads and families that have been economically shipwrecked. And it’s a great American tragedy that we’re watching play out.

I have put forward a program that I want all of you to understand is basically patterned after what I did as governor. I think when you look at everybody on the stage here, all you have to do is say, where have they been and what have they done?

First and foremost, I want to reform this tax code. I put forward a program that the Wall Street Journal has come out and endorsed. It basically calls for stripping out the loopholes and the deductions and lowering the rates for individuals, cleaning out corporate welfare and subsidies on the corporate side and lowering the rate, leaving us a whole lot more competitive for the 21st century. That’s the first item of business I’d drop on the doorstep of Congress.

Second is regulatory reform, because we cannot go forward with Obamacare.

[applause]

We cannot go forward with Dodd-Frank, because businesses in this country are saying there’s no predictability, there’s no ability to see around the bend, we don’t know what costs are going to be, we’re not hiring and bringing new people on.

Third, this country needs to wean itself from its heroin-like addiction to foreign oil. We need energy independence desperately in this country.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Perry, the president in his new plan has a lot of tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, middle-class tax cuts, tax credits for hiring veterans, tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed people. Are those things you would support?

PERRY: And he’s going to pay for them all with raising your taxes. That is the issue. He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs, $400-plus billion dollars in this package. And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.

[laughter]

This president does not understand how to free up the small businessmen and women or, for that matter, Wall Street. You give people the opportunity to risk their capital by lowering the tax burden on them, by lowering the regulatory climate, and you will see an American economy that takes off like a rocket ship.

And that’s what we need to be focusing on in this country, freeing up the small businessmen and women to do what they know how to do, which is risk their capital and give them half a chance to have an opportunity to have a return on that investment, and they will go risk their capital. That’s what the president of the United States needs to do: Quit the spending. Give clear regulatory relief and reform the tax code.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, Governor, whenever the president supports tax cuts, that has to be balanced with spending cuts?

PERRY: I would suggest to you that people are tired of spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t want.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, I’m going to bring Mr. Cain in, in a moment, but the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, which went across the board, were not offset with spending cuts, and as a result, potentially, a lot of economists think, the deficit went up and up and up.

BACHMANN: Well, there’s a reason why the deficit went up and up and up. When you have a trillion dollars worth of spending that you don’t pay for, it’s going to go up. And now we’re seeing again that the president wants to do more of the same.

I was the leading voice in the wilderness of Washington all summer. I was one of the only people in Washington that said do not raise the debt ceiling. Don’t give the president of the United States another $2.4 trillion blank check. You’ve got to draw the line in the sand somewhere and say no more out of control spending.

The president wanted to borrow money from countries like China to pay it back for a stimulus. We’ve got $1.2 trillion already that’s been earned by American countries overseas. If we have a 0 percent tax rate, Wolf, we can bring that 1.2 trillion — it’s called repatriation — bring that in. You’d have 1.2 trillion flooded into the system, then pass the free trade agreements so that we can move the economy, permanently lower the tax code. I’m a federal tax lawyer. I know how to do that. Repeal Dodd-Frank, repeal Obamacare.

It really isn’t that tough if you try. It is easy to turn around this economy, just have the backbone to do it.

BLITZER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Yes.

This economy is on life support. I don’t want – we need a bold solution, not one that tinkers around the edges, not one that allows politicians to continue to pick winners and losers. I believe we throw out the entire tax code and put in my nine nine nine plan. nine nine nine. A 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent personal income tax and a 9 national sales tax. Now I’ve been told by some people, well, you can’t get that done. I say why? Well, because you don’t know how Washington works. Yes, I do. It doesn’t.

The American people are ready to do something bold. We need a bold solution in order to get this economy growing at the maximum rate.

I agree with many of the others up here who say, you get the government out of the way. American entrepreneurship, American businesses, they will create the jobs if we provide some certainty.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, you know Governor Perry as governor of Texas created more jobs in Texas than any other state.

ROMNEY: Terrific state, no question about that. Some wonderful things that Texas has going for it that the nation could learn from. zero income tax. That’s a pretty good thing. Right to work state. Republican legislature, Republican supreme court.

By the way, a lot of oil as well.

We’re an energy rich nation. We’re living like an energy poor nation.

I spent my life in the private sector. I’ve competed with companies around the world. I’ve learned something about how it is that economies grow. It’s not just simple wave a wand and everything gets better. No, you have to make some structural changes. The world has changed.

What’s happened over the last 20, 30 years is we’ve gone from a pay phone world to a smartphone world and President Obama keeps jamming quarters into the pay phone thinking things are going to get better. It’s not connected, Mr. President.

And if we’re going to get this economy going, we’ve got seven, one, make our tax code competitive with the world. Two, get regulations to work to encourage enterprise. Three, to make sure we have trade policies that work for us not just for the other guys. Four is to have energy security in this country by developing our energy resources. Five so execute the rule of law, which is to stop the Boeing decision that the NLRB put in place. Six is to make sure that we have institutions that create fantastic human capital. And finally number seven is to balance the budget. People won’t invest here unless they have confidence here. And that’s what I’ll do.

BLITZER: And just to get back to the question. So does Governor Perry deserve any credit for all those jobs that were created in Texas?

ROMNEY: Oh, sure.

BLITZER: Go ahead and tell him how much credit he deserves.

[laughter]

ROMNEY: Well, look, I think Governor Perry would agree with me that if you’re dealt four aces that doesn’t make you necessarily a great poker player. And four aces — and the four aces that are terrific aces are the ones the nation should learn from, the ones I described, zero income tax, low regulation, right to work state, oil in the ground and a Republican legislature. Those things are terrific.

And by the way, there has been great growth in Texas. Under Ann Richards, job growth was under 2.5 percent a year, under George Bush was 3 percent a year, under Rick Perry it’s been 1 percent a year.

Those are all good numbers. Those are all good numbers. But Texas is a great state. And I’ll tell you, if you think that the country is like Texas going swimmingly well, then somebody who has done that is just terrific. But if you think the the country needs a turnaround, that’s what I do.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Perry, you were dealt four aces.

PERRY: Well, I was going to say Mitt you were doing pretty good until you got to talking poker. But the fact is the state of Texas has led the nation. While the current resident of the White House is overseeing the loss of 2.5 million jobs, Texas during my period of governor has created over a million jobs. And we did that during some pretty tough economic period.

[applause]

PERRY: One of the things that’s really important, one of the things that the Fed Reserve chairman said was the most powerful — one of the most powerful things that happened, was tort reform that we passed in that state. And you want to talk about some powerful job creation? Tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state and to quit costing businessmen and women.

[applause]

PERRY: That’s what needs to happen in the states, and it’s also what needs to happen at the federal level, passing federal tort reform at those federal levels.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you’re from Texas. Does your governor deserve all that credit?

PAUL: Not quite.

[laughter]

PAUL: I’m a taxpayer there. My taxes have gone up. Our taxes have doubled since he’s been in office. Our spending has gone up double. Our debt has gone up nearly triple.

So, no. And 170,000 of the jobs were government jobs. So I would put a little damper on this, but I don’t want to offend the governor, because he might raise my taxes or something.

[applause]

PAUL: But I would like to mention something that we said earlier about a tax cut and can you — how do you pay for a tax cut? I think that’s the wrong principle, because when you give people their money back, it’s their money.

You don’t have to pay for it. That means that the government owns all of our money if you look that way.

[applause]

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we have to cut the spending, and a good way to start, there’s a little embassy we built over in Baghdad that cost us a billion dollars. It’s bigger than the Vatican. That’s what’s bankrupting this country, and that’s the easy place to cut. That’s where we should be cutting.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Perry, you have 30 seconds to tell Congressman Paul whether you’re going to raise his taxes.

PERRY: While I’ve been governor, we have cut taxes by $14 billion, 65 different pieces of legislation. You may not have seen them, Representative Paul, but the fact of the matter is, there are people coming to Texas for five years in a row, the number one destination. They’re not coming because we’re overtaxing them.

They’re coming to Texas because they know there’s still a land of freedom in America, freedom from over-taxation, freedom from over- litigation and freedom from over-regulation, and it’s called Texas. We need to do the same thing for America.

[applause]

BLITZER: Let me bring Speaker Gingrich into this conversation.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. All of us who covered you when you were Speaker — and you worked with President Clinton at the time — you compromised, he compromised, you got things done. There was a budget surplus for as far as the eye could see.

If you were president, would you work with the Democrats, assuming they were the majority in the House or the Senate? Would you compromise with them on some of these gut issues?

GINGRICH: Well, you know, after the last debate, when Governor Huntsman and Governor Perry and Governor Romney each explained how their state was the best at job creation, Brady Castis (ph), who works with me, went back and checked. In the four years I was Speaker, we created — the American people, not me — created more jobs in Utah than under Governor Huntsman, more jobs in Massachusetts than under Governor Romney, and more jobs in Texas than in the 11 years of Governor Perry.

Now, I don’t claim credit for that because it was done by investors and done — in fact, Mitt, at that time, as the private sector, was part of the job creation. But I just want to point out, the American people create jobs, not government. OK?

[applause]

GINGRICH: Now, Ronald Reagan — when I was a very young congressman, Ronald Reagan taught me a great lesson if you have Democrat in charge. And that is to go to the American people on principle, have the American people educate their congressmen.

He used to say, “I try to turn up the light for the people so they will turn up the heat on Congress.” When we passed welfare reform, half the Democrats voted yes because they couldn’t go home having voted no. And on a principle basis, I’d be glad to work with Democrats in any office, but I’d do it on principle, not on compromising principle.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[applause]

BLITZER: All right. We have a question via CNNPolitics.com. “All of you profess to be pro-business candidates for president. Can you be pro-worker at the same time?”

Mr. Cain?

CAIN: The answer is absolutely yes, because I was a worker before I was an executive and before I was a business owner. Absolutely.

And when I ran the National Restaurant Association, it is a collection of small businesses. Godfather’s Pizza is the same way, when I ran the region for Burger King. One restaurant is the basic fundamental business unit in this country. And so, yes, I know how to be pro-worker because I came from a pro-worker family. My mother was a domestic worker, my father was a barber, a janitor, and a chauffeur, all at the same time. I understand work because that’s how I came up. So the answer is, absolutely yes.

The two are not mutually exclusive, but what we need is the right leadership, starting with, are we working on the right problems? If we keep tinkering around the edges on the tax code or tinkering around the edges on Social Security, we’re not going to solve the right problem.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Cain.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, you have experience in the business community, in government. Why would you be more effective in creating jobs than any of your rivals on this stage?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say about workers, this country needs more workers. Can we say that?

This country needs more workers, and we’re not going to get more workers until we actually have an economic plan led by someone who has actually done it before, presumably as a governor, to create the environment in which the private sector can then work its magic. That’s how we’re going to get from point A to point B.

But let me just say that we have put forward a plan, Wolf. And I want people to take a serious look at this, because you can come up with a spin on everything — any way to describe your plan, come up with fancy language, but I just want you to take a look at what we have done where we have been in terms of proposing job creation measures under tax reform in our state that is totally applicable to what this country needs: looking at regulatory reform; creating the most business-friendly environment in the entire United States; creating health care reform without a mandate.

I know that everything’s bigger in Texas, and Rick likes to talk that way. And I know all the smart people reside in Massachusetts. But let me just tell you, Utah, the great state of Utah, was number one in job creation at 5.9 percent during my years as governor.

We were the best managed state in America. We were the best place in America for business.

I’m the only person on this stage, Wolf, who can actually lay claim to all of that. And you know why it’s important? It’s because it’s exactly what this country needs at this point in his history.

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to let everybody respond. We’ve got a lot more to talk about, including national security — it’s a critical issue — taxes, Federal Reserve, health care, many more subjects coming up.

Stay with us. Remember, go to Twitter or Facebook, CNNPolitics.com. We want to hear from you as well.

Our special coverage of this historic CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate will continue after this.

[applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN/Tea Party presidential debate. We’re here in Tampa.

Let’s go right to a question from the audience.

Please give us your name.

STEVE ROUTSZONG, GREATER GASTON COUNTY TEA PARTY: Good evening. I’m Steve Routszong with the Tea Party of Greater Gaston County, from Gastonia, North Carolina.

My question tonight is: What is your position on the Federal Reserve? Should it indeed be audited and be held accountable by the American people?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I agree with an audit on the Federal Reserve. I believe that what we should do with the Fed is to make it a single charter instead of a dual charter.

I think the second charter that was instituted that had it be responsible for increasing employment and dealing with that leads to a fundamental distrust among the American people that they are taking their eye off the ball, which is sound money. They should be a sound money Federal Reserve. That should be their single charter, and that is it.

With respect to some of the questions that were asked in the last segment on the economy, I would just say this. Some people say that Barack Obama’s economy is a disaster. My feeling is it would have to make a dramatic improvement just to be a disaster. The…

[laughter]

[applause]

What we need to do is have a pro-growth plan that can pass the Congress with Democratic support and, as Newt mentioned, be able to rally the American people. What the American people want is a policy that’s going to get people the opportunity to rise in society, to fill that great middle of America, and that is manufacturing jobs.

That’s why my plan takes the corporate tax, which is 35 percent, cuts it to zero, and says, if you manufacture in America, you aren’t going to pay any taxes. We want you to come back here. We want you to have “Made in America” stamped on your — your product.

[applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: You were once with the Kansas City Federal Reserve. Should it be audited?

CAIN: Yes, it can — it should be audited. And, secondly, I believe that its focus needs to be narrowed. I don’t believe in ending the Fed; I believe in fixing the Fed.

For many, many decades, the Fed did its job when it was singularly focused on sound money. When we wake up in the morning, we expect 60 minutes to be in an hour. Now when we wake up, because of some of the actions of the current Fed, we don’t know what the value of the dollar is going to be.

In 1988, it took 1.2 dollars in order to be able to convert from Canadian to U.S. It is now totally reversed because of the current policies of the Fed.

BLITZER: Thank you. Congresswoman Bachmann, you know that Governor Perry has suggested that Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, potentially should be tried for treason for what he’s doing.

[applause]

Do you agree?

BACHMANN: Well, as president of the United States, I would not be reappointing Ben Bernanke, but I want to say this. During the bailout, the $700 billion bailout, I worked behind the scenes against the bailout, because one of the things that I saw from the Federal Reserve, the enabling act legislation is written so broadly that, quite literally, Congress has given the Federal Reserve almost unlimited power over the economy.

That has to change. They can no longer have that power. Why? Because what we saw, with all of the $700 billion bailout, is that the Federal Reserve opened its discount window and was making loans to private American businesses. And not only that, they’re making loans to foreign governments.

This cannot be. The Federal Reserve has a lot to answer for. And that’s why it’s important that they’re not only audited, but they have got be shrunk back down to such a tight leash that they’re going to squeak.

BLITZER: It’s one thing to say you wouldn’t reappoint him, Ben Bernanke…

[applause]

… to be head of the Federal Reserve. It’s another thing — do you agree or disagree with Governor Perry that potentially he’s engaged in treason?

BACHMANN: Well, that’s for — that’s for Governor Perry to make that decision. My — my opinion is, I would not reappoint Ben Bernanke.

BLITZER: You stand by those remarks, Governor?

PERRY: I — I said that, if you are allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes, that it would be almost treasonous. I think that is a very clear statement of fact.

[applause]

I am not a fan of the current chairman allowing that Federal Reserve to be used to cover up bad fiscal policy by this administration. And that, I will suggest to you, is what we have seen.

It is a travesty that young people in America are seeing their dollars devalued in what — we don’t know if it was political or not because of the transparency issue. But I stand by this, that we need to have a Fed that is working towards sound monetary policy, that creates a strong dollar in America, and we do not have that today.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney, is there anything you disagree with — with — with Governor Perry on that point?

ROMNEY: Well, my own view is that, quite simply, that the Federal Reserve has a responsibility to preserve the value of our currency, to have a strong American currency, such that investors and people who are thinking about bringing enterprises to this country have confidence in the future of America and in our currency. People will not invest in this country and create jobs in this country for the American people if they don’t have belief in our currency.

Of course we should see what the Fed is doing. There should be some oversight to make sure that it’s — it’s acting properly.

But at the same time, we recognize that we need to have a Fed. Why — why do I say that? Because if we don’t have a Fed, who’s going to run the currency? Congress? I’m not in favor of that. I’d rather have an agency that is being overseen rather than have the United States Congress try and manage our currency.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another question from the hall. Go ahead. And please identify yourself.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Tyler Hensley (ph). I’m from Napa, California. My — well, first of all, thank you guys for coming out tonight. My question is, out of every dollar that I earn, how much do you think that I deserve to keep?

BACHMANN: Oh, I love that question. I love that question.

[applause] [crosstalk]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I’ve come out with a tax program that basically simplifies, lowers, flattens the rate, why? Because I did it as governor in the state of Utah; I believe that that experience means something.

And I look at people who are earning, you in the workplace, trying to make ends meet. You ought to be given a competitive tax code. We need to clear out the cobwebs. We need to clear out the deductions, the loopholes, the corporate welfare, and all the subsidies. And for you, you know, we leave it at 8 percent, 14 percent, 24 percent. Those are the three rates that I think would work on the individual income side. On the corporate side, I think we recognize the reality that a whole lot of companies can afford to have lobbyists and lawyers on Capitol Hill working their magic. Let’s recognize the reality that they’re all paying 35 percent. We need to lower that to 25 percent. So let’s phase out the corporate subsidies and clean out the cobwebs and leave it more competitive for the 21st century.

I can tell you, by doing that with our tax code — and I know, because we did it in a state that took us to the number-one job creator in this country — it will leave you and your generation a whole lot better off.

But the thing that you all need to be worried about is the debt that is coming your way, because we have a cancer that is eating away at the core of this country called debt. And it’s going to eat — eat — eat alive this country until your generation gets active in the 2012 election cycle and finds a leader who can address debt and growth.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Speaker Gingrich, some of the biggest companies in the United States, the oil companies, they got — I guess some would call government handouts in the form of tax breaks, tax exemptions, loopholes. They’re making billions and billions of dollars. Is that fair?

GINGRICH: You know, I thought for a second, you were going to refer to General Electric, which has paid no taxes.

[applause]

You know, I — I was — I was astonished the other night to have the president there in the joint session with the head of G.E. sitting up there and the president talking about taking care of loopholes. And I thought to myself, doesn’t he realize that every green tax credit is a loophole…

[applause]

… that everything he wants — everything General Electric is doing is a loophole? Now, why did we get to breaks for ethanol, breaks for oil and gas, et cetera? We got to them because of this idea, which the young man just represented. If we make you — if we make it possible for you to keep more of your own money, you will do more of it.

We have a simple choice. We can depend on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, or we can encourage development in the United States of manufacturing, as Rick said. We can encourage development of oil and gas. We can do it by saying we’re going to let you keep more of your money if you create more of what we want. I’m for an energy- independent America, and that means I favor people who create energy.

[applause]

BLITZER: But I just want to follow up, Mr. Speaker. If you eliminate some of those loopholes, those exemptions, whether for ExxonMobil or G.E. or some other companies, there are those who argue that is, in effect, a tax increase and it would violate a pledge that so many Republicans have made not to raise taxes.

GINGRICH: Yes, a lot of people argue that. They’re — they’re technically right, which is why I’m — look, I’m cheerfully opposed to raising taxes. This government — we have a problem of overspending. We don’t have a problem of undertaxing.

And I think that it would be good for us to say, we’re not going to raise any — which is why I’m also in favor of keeping the current tax cut for people who are working on Social Security and Medicare. I think trying to raise the tax on working Americans in the middle of the Obama depression is a destructive policy. So I don’t want to have any tax increase at any level for anyone. I want to shrink government to fit income, not raise income to try to catch up with government.

BLITZER: All right, let’s go to Cincinnati.

[applause]

We’ve got a question from Cincinnati. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. My question is, would any of you be willing to support the fair tax?

BLITZER: Governor Romney? A fair tax basically is a national sales tax.

ROMNEY: Yeah. Yeah. The — the idea of a national sales tax or a consumption tax has a lot to go for it. One, it would make us more competitive globally, as we send products around the world, because under the provisions of the World Trade Organization, you can reimburse that to an exporter. We can’t reimburse our taxes right now. It also would level the playing field in the country, making sure everybody is paying some part of their fair share. But the way the fair tax has been structured, it has a real problem and that is it lowers the burden on the very highest income folks and the very lowest and raises it on middle income people. And the people who have been hurt most by the Obama-economy are the middle class.

And so my plan is to take the middle class individuals and dramatically reduce their taxes by the following measure. And that is for middle income Americans, no tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. Let people save their money as the way they think is best for them, for their kids, for their future, for their retirement. We’re taxing too much, we’re spending too much and middle income Americans need a break and I’ll give it to them.

BLITZER: All right. We have another question from Portsmouth, Virginia. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Linda Gunn (ph). I’m from Portsmouth, Virginia. I’m part of the Virginia Taxpayers Alliance. My question has to do with executive orders, under what circumstances should a president sign an executive order? And how frequently should such an order be signed?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul.

PAUL: The executive orders have been grossly abused by all administrations for a lot of years. If you can’t — some executive orders are legal. When the president executes proper function of the presidency like moving troops and other things, yes, it’s done with an executive order. But the executive order should never be used to legislate. That is what is so bad.

So the executive order should be taken under control. And I have made a promise that as president I would never use the executive order to legislate.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, as you well know, you signed an executive order requiring little girls 11 and 12-year-old girls to get a vaccine to deal with a sexually transmitted disease that could lead to cervical cancer. Was that a mistake?

PERRY: It was. And indeed, if I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently. I would have gone to the legislature, worked with them. But what was driving me was, obviously, making a difference about young people’s lives.

Cervical cancer is a horrible way to die. And I happen to think that what we were trying to do was to clearly send a message that we’re going to give moms and dads the opportunity to make that decision with parental opt-out.

Parental rights are very important in state of Texas. We do it on a long list of vaccines that are made, but on that particular issue, I will tell you that I made a mistake by not going to the legislature first. Let me address Ron Paul just a minute by saying I will use an executive order to get rid of as much of Obamacare as I can on day one.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, do you have anything to say about what Governor Perry just said. You’re a mom.

BACHMANN: I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest.

That’s — little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do- over. The parents don’t get a do-over. That’s why I fought so hard in Washington, D.C., against President Obama and Obamacare.

President Obama in a stunning, shocking level of power now just recently told all private insurance companies, you must offer the morning-after abortion pill, because I said so. And it must be free of charge. That same level coming through executive orders and through government dictates is wrong. And that’s why again we have to have someone who is absolutely committed to the repeal of Obamacare and I am. I won’t rest until it’s appealed.

BLITZER: Let’s let Governor Perry respond. Was what you signed into law, that vaccine for 11 and 12-year-old girls, was that,as some of your critics have suggested, a mandate?

PERRY: No, sir it wasn’t. It was very clear. It had an opt- out. And at the end of the day, this was about trying to stop a cancer and giving the parental option to opt out of that. And at the end of the day, you may criticize me about the way that I went about it, but at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life. And that’s what this was really all about for me.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum — go ahead.

BACHMANN: Can i ad to that, Wolf? Can I add to that?

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Hold on a second. First Congresswoman Bachmann, then Senator Santorum.

BACHMANN: I just wanted to add that we cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate. We can’t deny that…

[applause]

BLITZER: What are you suggesting?

BACHMANN: What I’m saying is that it’s wrong for a drug company, because the governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

BLITZER: All right. I’ll let Senator Santorum hold off for a second.

You’ve got to response to that.

PERRY: Yes, sir. The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.

[applause]

BACHMANN: Well, I’m offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn’t have a choice. That’s what I’m offended for.

[applause]

SANTORUM: I think we need to hear what Governor Perry’s saying. He’s saying that his policy was right. He believes that what he did was right. He thinks he went about it the wrong way.

I believe your policy is wrong. Why — ladies and gentlemen, why do we inoculate people with vaccines in public schools? Because we’re afraid of those diseases being communicable between people at school. And therefore, to protect the rest of the people at school, we have vaccinations to protect those children.

Unless Texas has a very progressive way of communicating diseases in their school by way of their curriculum, then there is no government purpose served for having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government. This is big government run amok. It is bad policy, and it should not have been done.

[applause]

BLITZER: I’m going to move on, Governor Perry, unless you want to say anything else.

PERRY: Look, I think we made decisions in Texas. We put a $3 billion effort in to find the cure for cancer. There are a lot of different cancers out there. Texas, I think, day in and day out, is a place that protects life.

I passed parental notification piece of legislation. I’ve been the most pro-life governor in the state of Texas. And what we were all about was trying to save young people’s lives in Texas.

SANTORUM: Then give the parents the opt-in, as opposed to — teach them, let them opt in, but do not force them to have this inoculation.

[applause]

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take a question from the audience.

Give us your name please.

QUESTION: I’m Caroline Taylor. I’m from Orange Park, Florida, with the Peoples Tea Party.

My question is, health insurance is expensive because health care is expensive. What is your plan to reduce the cost of health care so that our insurance premiums and other related costs can also be reduced?

BLITZER: All right.

Mr. Cain?

CAIN: First, repeal Obamacare in its entirety.

[applause]

SANTORUM: Amen.

CAIN: Secondly, pass market-driven, patient-centered reforms such as, under the current code, deductibility of health insurance premiums regardless of who pays for it. But as you know, I want to throw that out and put in my 999 plan. Secondly, the other thing that we can do in order to help bring down the costs is pass loser pay laws. Doctors will tell you that one of their biggest expenses is medical liability insurance because of frivolous lawsuits.

Secondly, restructure Medicare, another big cost that’s passed on to us as consumers related to all the bureaucracy associated with that.

Another market-driven idea, allow association health plans. When I ran the National Restaurant Association, which today has 14 million employees, we wanted to design a system for health insurance that was going to be customized for our industry. We could not do that. We need to be allowed to do that, and so should other organizations and other associations.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Cain.

Governor Romney, a lot of the Tea Party supporters here and around the country have a real serious problem with the health care mandate that you got through in Massachusetts. Is there anything you want to say to them to revise or amend? Do you stand by what you did?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. And let me come back and just mention something that — Herman Cain is right, and let’s get back to getting the cost of health care down. I happen to think that’s an enormous issue. And I agree with almost everything you said, Herman, but the reason health care is so expensive, I think you hit the nail on head. You said it’s not just because of insurance, it’s because of the cost of providing care. And one reason for that is the person who receives care in America generally doesn’t care how much it costs, because once they’ve paid their deductible, it’s free. And the provider, the more they do, the more they get paid.

We have something that’s not working like a market. It’s working like a government utility. And so what we have to do is make sure that individuals have a concern and care about how much something costs. And for that to happen, health savings accounts.

Give people a stake in what the cost of insurance is going to be, what the cost of it is going to be. Co-insurance, where people pay a share of the bill, that makes a difference.

And with regards to Massachusetts care, I’m not running for governor. I’m running for president. And if I’m president, on day one I’ll direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to grant a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states.

It’s a problem that’s bad law, it’s not constitutional. I’ll get rid of it.

[applause]

BLITZER: All right.

Governor Perry, you’re a firm believer in states’ rights. Can a state like Massachusetts go ahead and pass health care reform, including mandates? Is that a good idea, if Massachusetts wants to do it?

PERRY: Well, that’s what Governor Romney wanted to do, so that’s fine. But the fact of the matter is, that was the plan that President Obama has said himself was the model for Obamacare. And I think any of us who know that that piece of legislation will draw a line between the doctor/patient relationship, that will cost untold billions of dollars, is not right for this country. And frankly, I don’t think it was right for Massachusetts when you look at what it’s costing the people of Massachusetts today. But at the end of the day, that was their call.

So, from a just purely states get to decide what they want to do, I agree with that. And in the state of Texas, we don’t think that’s the way we want to go.

BLITZER: All right.

BACHMANN: Wolf, can I —

BLITZER: I’m going to let you respond, but I want Governor Romney to respond first.

ROMNEY: First, I’d be careful about trusting what President Obama says as to what the source was of his plan, number one. But number two, if you think what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did are the same, boy, take a closer look, because, number one, he raised taxes $500 billion, and helped slow down the U.S. economy by doing it. We didn’t raise taxes.

He cut Medicare by $500 billion. This is a Democrat president. The liberal, so to speak, cut Medicare. Not Republicans, the Democrat.

We dealt with the people in our state that were uninsured, some nine percent. His bill deals with 100 percent of the people.

He puts in place a panel that ultimately is going to tell people what kind of care they’re going to have. We didn’t do anything like that.

What the president did was simply wrong. It is the wrong course for America. It is not what we did in Massachusetts.

The people of Massachusetts favored our plan by three to one. And states can make their own choices. I’m happy to stand up for what he did. But I’ll tell you one thing, what he did is wrong for America, and I’ll stop it.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Before I get to Michele Bachmann, I want to just — you’re a physician, Ron Paul, so you’re a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

PAUL: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you want?

PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced —

BLITZER: But he doesn’t have that. He doesn’t have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody —

[applause]

BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

PAUL: No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals.

[applause]

PAUL: And we’ve given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that’s the reason the cost is so high.

The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation. The inflation devalues the dollar, we have lack of competition.

PAUL: There’s no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. And we should actually legalize alternative health care, allow people to practice what they want.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, go ahead and weigh in on this hypothetical 30-year-old who needs six months of intensive care, has no insurance.

BACHMANN: Well, first of all, what I want to say, with all due respect to the governors, I’ve read this health care bill, I’ve been fighting this fight the last couple of years.

BLITZER: Which health care bill?

BACHMANN: President Obama’s Obamacare bill. And waivers and executive orders won’t cut it. If you could solve Obamacare with an executive order, any president could do it and any president could undo it. That’s not — not how it can be done.

Plus, no state has the constitutional right to force a person as a condition of citizenship to buy a product or service against their will. It’s unconstitutional…

[applause]

… whether it’s the state government or whether it’s the federal government. The only way to eradicate Obamacare is to pull it out by the root and branch to fully repeal it. It’s the only way we’re going to get rid of it.

And this is why I’m running for the presidency of the United States, because 2012 is it. This is the election that’s going to decide if we have socialized medicine in this country or not. This is it.

Why? I just have to say this. It’s because President Obama embedded $105,464,000,000 in Obamacare in post-dated checks to implement this bill. We are never going to get rid of it unless we have a president committed to getting rid of it. And if you believe that states can have it and that it’s constitutional, you’re not committed. If you’ve implemented this in your state, you’re not committed. I’m committed to repealing Obamacare.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you.

There is much, much more in this Republican presidential debate, the CNN Tea Party debate. Stand by. We’re taking another quick break. When we come back, national security, immigration, and a lot more. We’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: I’m Wolf Blitzer in Tampa at the CNN Tea Party Republican presidential debate. Thousands of you are watching and commenting online on Twitter, Facebook, and cnn.com. We’ve seen the candidates strongly disagree on several issues already. When we come back, three especially bitter divides: the staggering cost of the war in Afghanistan; how to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon; and illegal immigration. We’ll be right back.

[applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Tea Party Republican presidential debate. We’re here in Tampa. But we’re taking questions from across the country.

Let’s go to Cincinnati. Please identify yourself and ask the question.

QUESTION: Yes, what — what would you do — what would you do to remove the illegal immigrants from our country?

[applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, maybe 11 million, 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. What would you do?

SANTORUM: I’ve said this from the very beginning. What — I’m the son of an Italian immigrant. I believe in immigration. I believe that immigration is an important part of the lifeblood of this country.

But what we have is a problem of an unsecure border. Unlike Governor Perry, I believe we need to build more fence. I need — I believe that we need to secure the border using technology and more personnel. And until we build that border, we should neither have storm troopers come in and throw people out of the country nor should we provide amnesty.

What we should do is enforce the laws in this country with respect to employers, and we should secure the border. And then after the border is secured, then we can deal with the problem that are in this country. But I — I think it’s very important that we understand and we explain to folks that immigration is an important lifeblood of this country, something that I strongly support and something that we have to do legally if we’re going to have — have respect for the law.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, he mentioned you, so go ahead.

PERRY: Yes, sir. There’s not anybody on this stage that’s had to deal with the issue of border security more than I have, with 1,200 miles of — of Texas and Mexico. And our federal government has been an abject failure at securing our border.

[applause]

We’ve had to spend some $400 million of Texas taxpayer dollars to send Texas Ranger recon teams down there. Strategic fencing in the metropolitan areas absolutely has a role to play.

But the idea that you’re going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso and go left for another 800 miles to Tijuana is just not reality. What you have to have is boots on the ground. You’ve got to have 450 Border Patrol agents trained up, 1,500 National Guard troops. You’ve got to have the aviation assets in the air putting real-time information down to the law enforcement.

We understand and know how to secure that border, but we can’t do it alone. And the federal government has to step up and do what their constitutional duty is, and that is to secure the border with Mexico.

[applause]

BLITZER: Let me just take this quick question from Twitter, and then I want to stay on this subject. What are the candidates doing to attract the Latino voters? Go ahead, Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, what Governor Perry’s done is he provided in-state tuition for — for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote — I mean, the Latino voters.

But you track Latino voters by talking about the importance of immigration in this country. You talk about the importance of — as — as Newt has talked about for many years, having English as the — as the official language of this country.

[applause]

And I say that…

[applause]

I say that as, again, my — my father and grandfather came to this country not speaking a word of English, but it was the greatest gift to my father to have to learn English so he could assimilate into this society.

We’re a melting pot, not a salad bowl. And we need to continue that tradition.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, I’m going to move on to Governor Huntsman in a second, but you did sign legislation giving some illegal immigrants in Texas the opportunity to have in-state tuition at universities in Texas, explain what that…

PERRY: In the state of Texas, if you’ve been in the state of Texas for three years, if you’re working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there.

And the bottom line is it doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that’s what we’ve done in the state of Texas. And I’m proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.

BLITZER: You heard some boos there. But go ahead, Congresswoman Bachmann, is that basically the DREAM Act that President Obama wants as well?

BACHMANN: Yes, it’s very similar. And I think that the American way is not to give taxpayer subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws or who are here in the United States illegally. That is not the American way. Because the immigration system in the United States worked very, very well up until the mid-1960s when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws.

What works is to have people come into the United States with a little bit of money in their pocket legally with sponsors so that if anything happens to them, they don’t fall back on the taxpayers to take care of them. And then they also have to agree to learn the speak the English language, learn American history and our constitution. That’s the American way.

BLITZER: I’m going to bring Governor Huntsman here. But go ahead, Governor Perry.

PERRY: I’m not for the DREAM Act that they are talking about in Washington D.C. that is amnesty. What we did in the state of Texas was clearly a states right issue. And the legislature passed with only four dissenting votes in the House and the Senate to allow this to occur.

We were clearly sending a message to young people, regardless of what the sound of their last name is, that we believe in you. That if you want to live in the state of Texas and you want to pursue citizenship, that we’re going to allow you the opportunity to be contributing members in the state of Texas and not be a drag on our state.

BLITZER: Hold on a second, Governor Huntsman, you also signed legislation in Utah that gave driving privileges to illegal immigrants. Was that a good idea?

HUNTSMAN: Well, first of all, let me say for Rick to say that you can’t secure the border I think is pretty much a treasonous comment.

MALE: I didn’t hear that.

HUNTSMAN: Rick, we can secure the border. We can secure the border through means of fences, through technology, through the deployment of our National Guard troops, we can get it done. In fact, when the elected president of the United States, I would work with you and the other three border governors to ensure that through your law enforcement officials you can verify that that border is secure.

But I will tell you before Wolf here directs a question, they were given a driver’s license before and they were using that for identification purposes. And I thought that was wrong. Instead we issued a driver privilege card, which in our state allowed our economy to continue to function. And it said in very bold letters, not to be used for identification purposes. It was a pragmatic local government driven fix and it proved that the tenth amendment works.

We believe in local fixes and solutions.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Romney, do you have a problem with either what Governor Huntsman did in Utah or Governor Perry did in Texas?

ROMNEY: yeah with both, actually. The question began by saying how do we attract Latino voters. And the answer is by telling them what they know in their heart, which is they or their ancestors did not come here for a handout. If they came here for a handout, they’d be voting for Democrats. They came here for opportunity and freedom. And that’s what we represent. And that’s why we’ll win collecting support from Latinos across the country.

With regards to illegal immigration, of course we build a fence and of course we do not give instate tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America’s great beneficence.

And with regards to giving driver’s licenses to people that are here illegally, that creates a patina of legal status. There are sanctuary cities in some parts of the country.

One of the things I did in my state was to say, look, I’m going to get my state police authorized to be able to enforce immigration laws and make sure those people who we arrest are put in jail, to find out they’re here illegally, we’re going to get them out of here.

We have to recognize that this is the party that believes in supporting the law. We’re going to enforce the law. We’re the party of opportunity, we’re also the party of legal law abiding citizens. And that’s something we’re going to attract people of all backgrounds.

PERRY: As I said it earlier, we basically had a decision to make. Are we going to give people an incentive to be contributing members of this society or are we going to tell them no, we’re going to put you on the government dole? In the state of Texas, and this is a states right issue, if in Massachusetts you didn’t want to do that or Utah you didn’t want to do this, that’s fine. But in the state of Texas where Mexico has a clear and a long relationship with this state, we decided it was in the best interest of those young people to give them the opportunity to go on to college and to have the opportunity. They’re pursuing citizenship in this country rather than saying, you know, we’re going to put you over here and put you on the government dole for the rest of your life. We don’t think that was the right thing to do. And it’s working. And it’s working well in the state of Texas.

BLITZER: I know you want to respond, too, because he said that what you did in Utah was a mistake giving driving privileges to illegal immigrants.

HUNTSMAN: I think we can spend all night talking about where Mitt’s been on all the issues of the day. And that would take forever. But let me just say that all the Latino voters, Hispanic voters want is opportunity, can we say that? The greatest thing that we can do for the people in this country is — on illegal immigration is fix homeland security.

I mean, when are we going to have an honest conversation in this country about the root causes. We can’t process people. The H1B visa process is broken. We need to bring in brain power to this country to shore up our economic might. We need to bring in foreign capital to raise real estate prices as well.

We need a fixed Department of Homeland Security.

BLITZER: Thank you, governor.

All right. Let’s take a question from Phoenix. Go ahead, Phoenix. Give us your name.

[applause]

QUESTION: The United States has an abundance of coal, oil, natural gas and uranium. The American people have been told for decades that energy independence is a top priority. What will you do in your first 100 days in office to assure the American people that energy independence will finally become reality.

BLITZER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: The first thing that I would do in order to assure that we get on the road to energy independence, and I do believe that we can because we do have the natural resources to do so, we’ve got to remove some of those barriers out of the way that are being created by the federal government. I would start with an EPA that’s gone wild. That’s where we start.

I would put together a regulatory reduction commission for every agency starting with the EPA. This regulatory reduction commission — one of my guiding principles is if you want to solve a problem go to the source closest to the problem. So the people that I would appoint to that commission will be people who have been abused by the EPA. That would be the commission that would straighten out the regulatory burden.

BLITZER: Let’s take a question from Twitter. Do you plan to decrease defense spending to balance spending? Or do you believe high spending is essential to security? Speaker Gingrinch?

GINGRICH: I think we are at the edge of an enormous crisis in national security. I think that we are greatly underestimating the threat to this country. And I think that the day after we celebrated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we should be reminded exactly what is at stake if a foreign terrorist gets a nuclear weapon into this country.

We have failed for a decade to deal with North Korea. We have failed for a decade to deal with Iran. The developments in Egypt and Turkey are much more dangerous than anybody is looking at in this country. And I think we need, frankly, to ask for a very serious national dialogue.

I’d like to see both the House and Senate right now holding hearings on three levels of security. What do you do in Mexico where there’s a civil war underway next door to us? What do you do in the Middle East where we have totally underestimated the scale of the threat? And what do you do about our national domestic industrial base which is crucial if we’re going to be competitive with China?

All three of those are a major threat to us.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul.

[applause]

PAUL: First thing I would like to do is make sure that you understand there’s a difference between military spending and defense spending. I’m tired of all the militarism that we are involved in. And we’re wasting this money in getting us involved. And I agree, we are still in danger, but most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy.

So I would say there’s a lot of room to cut on the military, but not on the defense. You can slash the military spending. We don’t need to be building airplanes that were used in World War II — we’re always fighting the last war.

But we’re under great threat, because we occupy so many countries.

We’re in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We’re going broke.

The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it. They have more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11, but we’re there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we’re kidding ourselves. 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?

[applause]

PAUL: So I would say a policy — a foreign policy that takes care of our national defense, that we’re willing to get along with people and trade with people, as the founders advised, there’s no authority in the Constitution to be the policeman of the world, and no nation-building. Just remember, George Bush won the presidency on that platform in the year 2000. And I still think it’s a good platform.

BLITZER: All right.

[applause]

BLITZER: Let me let Senator Santorum respond, because I know you strongly disagree.

SANTORUM: On your Web site on 9/11, you had a blog post that basically blamed the United States for 9/11. On your Web site, yesterday, you said that it was our actions that brought about the actions of 9/11.

Now, Congressman Paul, that is irresponsible. The president of the United States — someone who is running for the president of the United States in the Republican Party should not be parroting what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11.

[applause]

SANTORUM: We should have — we are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked, as Newt talked about, because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for. And we stand for American exceptionalism, we stand for freedom and opportunity for everybody around the world, and I am not ashamed to do that.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thirty second, Mr. Paul.

PAUL: As long as this country follows that idea, we’re going to be under a lot of danger. This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this, and they’re attacking us because we’re free and prosperous, that is just not true.

Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit — they have been explicit, and they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing —

[booing]

PAUL: I didn’t say that. I’m trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing, at the same time we had been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years.

Would you be annoyed? If you’re not annoyed, then there’s some problem.

BLITZER: Thank you, Congressman.

All right. We’re going to say on this subject. We have a question from the audience.

Go ahead. Please identify yourself.

SAHAR HEKMATI, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Hi. My name is Sahar Hekmati. I was brought here from Ronald Reagan. I am from Afghanistan. And my question to you is, as the next president of the United States, what will you do to secure safety and protection for the women and the children of Afghanistan from the radicals?

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: We are 10 years into this war, Sahar. America has given its all in Afghanistan.

We have families who have given the ultimate sacrifice. And it’s to them that we offer our heartfelt salute and a deep sense of gratitude. But the time has come for us to get out of Afghanistan.

[applause]

HUNTSMAN: We don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan nation- building at a time when this nation needs to be built. We are of no value to the rest of the world if our core is crumbling, which it is in this country.

I like those days when Ronald Reagan — you talked about — when Ronald Reagan would ensure that the light of this country would shine brightly for liberty, democracy, human rights, and free markets. We’re not shining like we used to shine. We need to shine again.

And I’m here to tell you, Sahar, when we start shining again, it’s going to help the women of Afghanistan, along with any other NGO work that can be done there and the collaborative efforts of great volunteer efforts here in the United States. We can get it done, but we have to make sure that the Afghan people increasingly take responsibility for their security going forward.

[applause]

BLITZER: Very quickly, to Governor Perry, $2 billion a week, is that money well spent by U.S. taxpayers in Afghanistan?

PERRY: Well, I agree with Governor Huntsman when we talk about it’s time to bring our young men and women home and as soon and obviously as safely as we can. But it’s also really important for us to continue to have a presence there. And I think the entire conversation about, how do we deliver our aid to those countries, and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have the target on their back in Afghanistan, I don’t think so at this particular point in time.

I think the best way for us to be able to impact that country is to make a transition to where that country’s military is going to be taking care of their people, bring our young men and women home, and continue to help them build the infrastructure that we need, whether it’s schools for young women like yourself or otherwise.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

All right. We’re going to take another quick break.

When we come back, here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to get to know these candidates a little bit better. When we come back, what would they add to the White House if they were to move in?

We’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Eight Republican presidential candidates on the stage.

You know, Americans are looking at you. They also want to know a little bit more about you.

I’m going to start with Senator Santorum. I want to go down and get your thoughts on something you would bring to the White House if you were the next president of the United States.

An example, President George H. W. Bush put in a horseshoe pit. President Clinton put in a jogging track. President Obama added a vegetable garden.

Senator Santorum, if you’re president, what would you bring to the White House?

SANTORUM: Well, mine is pretty obvious. Karen and I have seven children, so we’d add a bedroom or — and some beds to the White House.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I would reduce the White House by kicking out all the White House czars the first day, creating a lot more space.

[applause]

And then, because of Callista’s interest, we’d have a lot more music, because of my granddaughter, Maggie, we’d have ballet, and because of my grandson, Robert, we’d have a very large chess set. So it’ll all come together.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: I’d bring a bushel basket full of common sense. And I would also bring a course in Austrian economics to teach the people…

[applause]

… the business cycle and why the Fed creates inflation and depressions and all our unemployment problems.

BLITZER: Governor Perry?

PERRY: It’s simple. I’m going to bring the most beautiful, most thoughtful, incredible first lady that this country’s ever seen, Anita.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: You know, one of — one of my heroes was a man who had an extraordinary turn of phrase. He once said about us, he said, you know, you can count on the Americans to get things right after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives. And now and then we’ve made a couple of mistakes. We’re quite a nation. And this man, Winston Churchill, used to have his bust in the Oval Office. And if I’m president of the United States, it’ll be there again.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: I would bring a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, and that’s it.

[applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: I would bring a sense of humor to the White House, because America’s too uptight.

[laughter]

[applause]

BLITZER: And Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: And to play to that theme — my wife’s going to kill me for saying this — but I would bring my — as a 40-year motorcycle rider, I would bring my Harley-Davidson and my motocross bike.

BLITZER: Ladies and gentlemen, the eight Republican presidential candidates.

[applause] And that’s all the time we have. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a hand to our candidates for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

[applause]

We want to thank our partners, the Tea Party Express, and 150 Tea Party groups from around the country. Thanks also to our host, the Florida State Fairgrounds. Our next debate here on CNN, in Las Vegas, October 18th with the Western Republican Leadership Conference. We look forward to seeing the candidates and all of you there. The conversation continues online right now on Twitter, Facebook, and cnnpolitics.com. More coverage of this debate with “Anderson Cooper 360” right now

September 7, 2011: MSNBC / Politico / Reagan Library Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Simi Valley, California September 7, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATORS:
Brian Williams (NBC News);
John Harris (Politico); and
Jose Diaz-Balart (MSNBC);

WILLIAMS: Tonight, from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, in a place dedicated to the memory of this Republican icon, in the 100th year after his birth, we will hear from the eight candidates who would like to claim his legacy. They’re all here tonight ready to explain and defend their positions on job creation, on spending, debt, and taxes, on America’s costly dual wars, and the toxic gridlock that is Washington, D.C.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the Republican candidates debate. Here now are Brian Williams and John Harris.

[applause]

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Good evening, and welcome.

Thank you especially for joining us here in this spectacular space, this spectacular presidential library, where we are all gathered under the wings of Air Force One. We’re going to get right to it tonight because we have a lot of candidates on stage, a lot of issues to talk about.

And for the next hour and 45 minutes, give or take, along with my colleague and friend, John Harris of the website Politico, we will be putting questions to the eight candidates on stage tonight. By agreement, they will have one minute to answer and then 30 seconds for follow-up or rebuttal, as they say, at the moderator’s discretion. There will be no opening or closing statements during this debate tonight. With that out of the way, we’re going to start with jobs and the economy. The numbers from our new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll this week are, candidly, jaw-dropping. The country thinks the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. A majority of people in this country now believe the Republican policies of the first eight years of the past decade are responsible for the economic mess we’re in. And we should quickly add, a majority also don’t believe the current Democratic president has set the right policies to fix the fix we’re in. Question is, really, who can?

Governor Perry, we’re going to begin with you. You’re the newcomer here on stage. You probably saw this coming a mile away. You have touted your state’s low taxes, the lack of regulation, tough tort reform as the recipe for job growth in the Lone Star State, but Texas ranks last among those who have completed high school, there are only eight other states with more living in poverty, no other state has more working at or below the minimum wage. So is that the kind of answer all Americans are looking for?

PERRY: Actually, what Americans are looking for is someone who can get this country working again. And we put the model in place in the state of Texas. When you look at what we have done over the last decade, we created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas. At the same time, America lost 2.5 million.

So I will suggest to you that Americans are focused on the right issue, and that is, who on this stage can get America working? Because we know for a fact the resident of the White House cannot.

WILLIAMS: But you know by now the counterargument to that is the number of low-wage jobs and the fact that unemployment is better in over half the states of the union than it is right now in Texas.

PERRY: Well, the first part of that comment is incorrect, because 95 percent of all the jobs that we’ve created have been above minimum wage.

So I’m proud of what we’ve done in the state of Texas. And for the White House or anyone else to be criticizing creation of jobs now in America, I think is a little bit hypocritical.

You want to create jobs in America? You free the American entrepreneur to do what he or she does, which is risk their capital, and I’ll guarantee you, the entrepreneur in America, the small businessman and woman, they’re looking for a president that will say we’re going to lower the tax burden on you and we’re going to lower the regulation impact on you, and free them to do what they do best: create jobs.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, over to you. You’ve opened the door on this topic, at least where Governor Perry’s concerned. Despite your own private-sector experience, as you know, Massachusetts ranked only 47th in job creation during your tenure as governor. As for your private-sector experience, as Governor Perry’s strategist recently put it, consisted of being, quote, “a buyout specialist.” Your response to that?

ROMNEY: Well, not terribly accurate, at least with regards to the latter. And our state — I’m happy to take a look at the Massachusetts record, because when I came in as governor, we were in a real freefall. We were losing jobs every month. We had a budget that was way out of balance.

So I came into office, we went to work as a team, and we were able to turn around the job losses. And at the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent. That’s a record I think the president would like to see.

As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president has created in the entire country. The policies that will get us working again as a nation are policies I understand having worked in the private sector.

Look, if I had spent my whole life in government, I wouldn’t be running for president right now. My experience, having started enterprises, having helped other enterprises grow and thrive, is what gives me the experience to put together a plan to help restructure the basis of America’s economic foundation so we can create jobs again, good jobs, and compete with anyone in the world.

This country has a bright future. Our president doesn’t understand how the economy works. I do, because I’ve lived in it.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

Let’s get a little more specific. Bain Capital, a company you helped to form, among other things, often buys up companies, strips them down, gets them ready, resells them at a net job loss to American workers.

ROMNEY: You know, that might be how some people would like to characterize what we did, but in fact, we started business at Bain Capital, and when we acquired businesses, in each case we tried to make them bigger, make them more successful and grow. The idea that somehow you can strip things down and it makes them more valuable is not a real effective investment strategy. We tried to make these businesses more successful.

By the way, they didn’t all work. But when it was all said and done, and we looked at the record we had during the years I was there, we added tens of thousands of jobs to he businesses we helped support. That experience, succeeding, failing, competing around the world, is what gives me the capacity to help get this economy going again.

WILLIAMS: Time.

I mentioned one more reference to being a career politician. Is it a disqualification to be in government all your career?

ROMNEY: It’s a fine profession, and if someone were looking to say how can we restructure government, and which agency should report to which other agency, well, maybe that’s the best background. If you’re thinking about what it takes to reshape and update America’s economy, and to allow us to compete with China and other nations around the world, understanding how the economy works fundamentally is a credential I think is critical.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a 30-second rebuttal.

You spent your career in that fine profession of elected office. Your reaction to that?

PERRY: Well, Governor Romney left the private sector, and he did a great job of creating jobs in the private sector all around the world. But the fact is, when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country. So the fact is, while he had a good private sector record, his public sector record did not match that. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.

WILLIAMS: Well, let’s widen this out and let’s bring in Mr. Cain on one side —

ROMNEY: Wait a second.

WILLIAMS: Go ahead. I’ll give you 30 seconds.

ROMNEY: Listen, wait a second.

WILLIAMS: We could do this all evening.

ROMNEY: States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right to work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.

Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn’t believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.

[applause]

ROMNEY: Look, the reality is, there are differences. There are differences between states.

I came into a state that was in real trouble — a huge budget gap, losing jobs every month. We turned it around. Three out of four years, we had unemployment rate below the national average, we ended up with 4.7 percent unemployment rate. I’m proud of what we were able to do in a tough situation.

WILLIAMS: Time.

Governor Perry?

PERRY: I know back and forth — Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.

ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.

[laughter]

PERRY: That’s not correct.

ROMNEY: Yes, that is correct.

WILLIAMS: Nice to see everybody came prepared for tonight’s conversation.

[laughter]

WILLIAMS: As I said, I’d like to bring in both wings here, figuratively, of course, Senator Santorum and Mr. Cain.

Let’s talk about this debate between public sector life’s work and private sector life’s work.

You’ve spent your life’s work, Mr. Cain, in the private sector.

And Senator Santorum, most of yours in the public sector.

Weigh in on what you’re hearing (ph).

SANTORUM: Yes, I think what people are looking for is someone to get something done. And that’s what I have a track record of doing in Washington, D.C., across the board. Not just on economics, but on moral cultural issues, on national security issues, national defense issues.

I’ve done things. We’ve brought Democrat and Republicans together.

SANTORUM: I’ve put forward a plan because I think it’s the best plan. But it’s also the best plan of anybody here that actually can pass the Senate, which is probably going to have to have Democratic votes. And what I focussed on was a sector of the economy that can get Democratic votes.

We cut the corporate tax from 35 percent to zero, because we want to build the great middle of America again, get those jobs that were shipped overseas by companies that were looking too make a profit because they couldn’t any longer do it here.375, and bring those jobs back to America.

We cut that corporate rate to zero. We’ve passed repatriation to get that resources that are seen overseas, $1.2 trillion, and we bring them back here.

We’ll create jobs, and I’ll get Democratic votes to pass it. We’ll bring things together, because those industrial state Democrats — and I know, because I’m from an industrial state — they will vote for this bill. You want to get something going, elect someone who knows how to get things done.

(UNKNOWN): Time, Senator.

Mr. Cain, same question.

CAIN: Let’s cut to the chase, this is what business people do and politicians don’t do. Here’s how I would fix this economy, first, eliminate the current tax code. It is a drain on entrepreneurs, it is the biggest barrier that’s holding this economy back, and what I would do is to propose a bold plan, which I have already released.

I call it my 9-9-9 economic growth plan. Throw out the current tax code, a 9 percent tax on corporate income, our 9 percent tax on personal income and a 9 percent national sales tax. If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent ought to be good enough for the federal government. This will replace all federal income taxes. It’ll replace all federal income taxes.

It will also replace the payroll tax, so everybody gets some skin in the game. And it replaces the capital gains tax.

This economy is on life support. We do not need a solution that just trims around the edges. This is a bold plan and a bold solution. Additionally, with something as simple as 9-9-9, it gives us a easy mechanism to go after — help those cities that are the most blighted in terms of empowerment zones, and we can modify that very easily versus the current code.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Cain, thank you.

Governor Huntsman, as you know, Governor Romney’s new economic plan calls for the U.S. government to officially label China a currency manipulator, But “The Wall Street Journal” editorial page says such a move would cause a trade war, perhaps.

You’re a former ambassador to China. You have served four U.S. presidents. In your view, what does Governor Romney not get about China?

HUNTSMAN: He doesn’t get the part that what will fix the U.S- China relationship, realistically, is fixing our core right here at home, because our core is weak, and it is broken, and we have no leverage at the negotiating table.

And I’d have to say, Mitt, now is not the time in a recession to enter a trade war. Ronald Reagan flew this plane. I was in China during the trip in 1984. He went on TV, he spoke to the Chinese people — I’d love to do that too, in Chinese itself — and he talked in optimistic, glowing terms.

And it reminds me about this, Ryan, we are the most blue sky, optimistic people on earth. We’re going to find solutions, and I have an offer for the two great governors over here.

And I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the number one job creator in this country during my years of service. That was 5.9 percent when you were creating jobs at 4.9 percent.

And to my good friend, Mitt, 47 just ain’t going to cut it, my friend, not when you can be first. We’ve got to remember, that to beat President Obama, we have to have somebody who’s been in the private sector, understands the fragility of the free market system, has been a successful governor as it relates to job creation, and knows something about this world.

I’ve lived overseas four times, I’ve been an ambassador to my country three times, I think I understand that.

(UNKNOWN): Governor Huntsman, time.

Congresswoman Bachmann, over to you. Of all of you on this stage, you’ve been very vocal about wanting less regulation in American life. Which current federal regulations have been prohibitive or damaging in terms of your own small business?

BACHMANN: Well, I think without a doubt, there’s two that you look to. First of all are the new regulations that are just being put into place with ObamaCare. As I go across the country and speak to small business people, men and women, they tell me ObamaCare is leading them to not create jobs. I spent three weekends going to restaurants, and I talked to business owners, said I have 60 people on my payroll, I have to let 10 go. At the same time, a 17-year-old girl came in and said, I’d like a job application for the summer.

He said, I’m sorry, dear, I’m not hiring this summer, I’m actually letting people go. ObamaCare is killing jobs. We know that from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. But I know it first-hand from speaking to people.

We see it this summer. There are 47 percent of African-American youth that are currently without jobs, 36 percent of Hispanic youth. I’m a mom. I’ve raised five biological kids and 23 foster kids in my home. One thing I know is that kids need jobs. And ObamaCare is clearly leading to job-killing regulations, not job-creating regulations.

(UNKNOWN): (Inaudible), thank you.

Over to Congressman Paul, you’re known as the absolutist in the bunch, someone who has consistently opposed federal government from having any role — and I think by your definition — that isn’t explicitly laid out in the Constitution.

So this makes people curious: Is there a line with you? Where do you draw it? Does this include things like making cars safe, making medicine safe, air traffic control controlling the jets above our heads?

PAUL: I think in theory, if you understood the free market in a free society, you don’t need government to do that. We live in a society where we have been adapted to this, and you can’t just drop it all at once, but you can transition away from it.

On regulations, no, I don’t believe in any of these federal regulations, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in regulations. The regulation of the marketplace takes care of it. Just think if we had the regulations on the market that dealt with the bankruptcies? They’d have had to go bankrupt. We wouldn’t have been able to bail out the big banks and the big corporations and dump onto poor people.

So the market would dictate it. You can’t commit fraud. If you need detailed regulations, you can do it at the state level. But the federal government is not authorized to nitpick every little transaction. The way they use the interstate commerce clause is outrageous, as far as I’m concerned.

WILLIAMS: Well, 30 seconds more for devil’s advocate here, because would you then put it on the drug companies to say, “No, we’re bringing this to market, trust us, it’s a fantastic drug”? All the pilots in the sky, to add to their responsibilities, their own air traffic control, in an organic way?

PAUL: What I said is, theoretically, you could — it could be privatized, but who ends up doing the regulations on the drugs? They do as much harm as good. They don’t take good care of us. Who gets — who gets to write the regulations? The bureaucrats write the regulations, but who writes the laws? The lobbyists have control, so lobbyists from the drug industry has control of writing the regulations, so you turn it over to the bureaucracy.

But you would have private institutions that could become credible. And, I mean, do we need the federal government to tell us whether we buy a safe car? I say the consumers of America are smart enough to decide what kind of car they can buy and whether it’s safe or not, and they don’t need the federal government hounding them and putting so much regulations on that our car industry has gone overseas.

WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.

Over to Speaker Gingrich.

[applause]

Mr. Speaker, as you remember, you wrote the foreword to Rick Perry’s most recent book called “Fed Up,” and you called him, quote, “uniquely qualified to explain what’s taking place with the economy.” Does that mean, in terms of job creation credentials, he has your proxy at a gathering like this?

GINGRICH: No, but it means that, if he wants to write another book, I’ll write another foreword.

[laughter]

As he himself — look, he’s said himself, that was an interesting book of ideas by somebody who’s not proposing a manifesto for president. And I think to go back and try to take that apart is silly.

But let me just use my time for a second, if I might, Brian. I served during the Reagan campaign with people like Jack Kemp and Art Laffer. We had an idea for job creation. I served as a freshman — or as a sophomore helping pass the Reagan’s jobs program. At newt.org, I put out last Friday the response to the Obama stagnation.

The fact is, if you took the peak of the Reagan unemployment, which he inherited from Carter, by last Friday, going month by month, under Ronald Reagan, we’d have 3,700,000 more Americans working.

When I was speaker, we added 11 million jobs, in a bipartisan effort, including welfare reform, the largest capital gains tax cut in history. We balanced the budget for four straight years.

The fact that President Obama doesn’t come to the Reagan Library to try to figure out how to create jobs, doesn’t talk to any of these three governors to learn how to create jobs, doesn’t talk to Herman Cain to learn how to create jobs tells you that this is a president so committed to class warfare and so committed to bureaucratic socialism that he can’t possibly be effective in jobs.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, thank you. [applause]

The questioning — the questioning continues with John Harris.

HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you, Brian.

It didn’t take you folks long to mix it up on the question of jobs. I’d like to turn to another subject that’s been dominating this campaign. It’s health care. Governor Romney, four years ago on this same stage, you had this to say about your record in Massachusetts.

[begin video clip]

ROMNEY: … great opportunity for the entire country.

[end video clip]

WILLIAMS: Well, he had a lot more to say than that, didn’t he?

[laughter]

[crosstalk]

HARRIS: I’m sorry. We had a little bit of a glitch right there, but, Governor, you said that what you did in Massachusetts was a great opportunity for the country. I’m going to get to you in just a minute.

What I’d first like to do is ask if anyone else on this stage agrees that the Massachusetts example was a great opportunity for the rest of the country.

(UNKNOWN): No.

(UNKNOWN): No.

PERRY: It was a great opportunity for us as a people to see what will not work, and that is an individual mandate in this country.

HARRIS: Got it. That actually, Governor Romney, leads to my question. I’ve heard you on this many times before. You said some things about the Massachusetts law worked; other things didn’t work as well. Let’s go to what Governor Perry mentioned, the individual mandate, the government saying that people have to buy health insurance. Was that one of the things that worked in Massachusetts?

ROMNEY: Let’s step back and make sure I make something very clear from the very outset. I understand health care pretty darn well, having been through what I went through as a governor. And one thing I’d do on day one if I’m elected president is direct my secretary of health and human services to put out an executive order granting a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. It is bad law, it will not work, and I’ll get that done in day one.

[applause]

Now, number two, what we face in our state is different than what other states face. What we had is a lot of people who found that they could simply stop getting insurance, go to the hospital, and get free care paid for by the people, paid for by taxpayers. We were spending hundreds of millions of dollars in our state giving care to people who in some cases could afford to take care of themselves.

And we said, you know what? You’ve either got to get insurance, if you can afford it, or you’re going to have to help pay the cost of providing that care to your — to you. And that was the approach that we took.

It’s a model that lets other states take a look at it. Some parts of it have been copied by other states; some haven’t. One thing I know, and that is that what President Obama put in place is not going to work. It’s massively expensive. In our state, our plan covered 8 percent of the people, the uninsured.

HARRIS: Governor, time.

ROMNEY: His plan is taking over 100 percent of the people, and the American people don’t like it and should vote it down.

HARRIS: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Perry, you clearly don’t like the Massachusetts plan as an example for other states, but Massachusetts has nearly universal health insurance. It’s first in the country. In Texas, about a quarter of the people don’t have health insurance. That’s 50 out of 50, dead last. Sir, it’s pretty hard to defend dead last.

PERRY: Well, I’ll tell you what the people in the state of Texas don’t want: They don’t want a health care plan like what Governor Romney put in place in Massachusetts. What they would like to see is the federal government get out of their business.

For Medicaid, for instance — as a matter of fact, I bet Mitt and Jon would both agree — and I know Newt would, as well — Medicaid needs to be block-granted back to the states so that we can use the innovation in the states, come up with the best ways to deliver health care.

My wife is a nurse. And I’ll promise you, we understand that if we can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it comes to health care, we’ll come up with ways to deliver more health care to more people cheaper than what the federal government is mandating today with their strings attached, here’s how you do it, one-size-fits-all effort out of Washington, D.C.

That’s got to stop. And I’ll promise you: On day one, as the president of the United States, that executive order will be signed and Obamacare will be wiped out as much as it can be.

HARRIS: Governor, quick follow-up. Why are so many people in Texas uninsured? PERRY: Well, bottom line is that we would not have that many people uninsured in the state of Texas if you didn’t have the federal government. We’ve had requests in for years at the Health and Human Services agencies to have that type of flexibility where we could have menus, where we could have co-pays, and the federal government refuses to give us that flexibility.

We know for a fact that, given that freedom, the states can do a better job of delivering health care. And you’ll see substantially more people not just in Texas, but all across the country have access to better health care.

BACHMANN: John? John?

HARRIS: Thank you. Just one minute. I’d like to go to Governor Huntsman, if I could, because at the heart of this is this argument about the individual mandate. Is it ever appropriate for government at any level — federal or state — to force people to buy health insurance?

HUNTSMAN: Absolutely not. You know, at some point, we’re going to get around to talking about individual and personal responsibility. And I’m raising seven kids. I’ve got a couple of them here. The most important thing we can do in this health care debate — right, Rick — is talk about individual responsibility, personal responsibility.

But I’ve got another solution for you, with these two great governors over there, both of whom I like and admire. And I hate to tell you that the situation in Utah is pretty darn good, but I want to draw you to another example there. We embarked upon health care reform. We did better than Rick, in terms of covering the uninsured, and we don’t have a mandate. It allows the free market to create a marketplace of choices and options for people.

I believe that once Obamacare is repealed — and it will be — the question will then be, what do we do now? And I’m here to tell you that what we did in Utah is going to be a perfect example of what we do now.

We approach cost-cutting, cost overruns, harmonizing medical records, which doctors will tell you is a hugely consequential deal, and expanding the marketplace for choices and options for individuals to choose from, without a heavy-handed and expensive mandate that has caused…

HARRIS: Thank you.

HUNTSMAN: … for the average family in Massachusetts $2,500 bucks to go up.

HARRIS: Thanks. Thanks, Governor.

Congresswoman Bachmann, let’s turn to you. Is Governor Romney’s support of an individual mandate…

HARRIS: OK, Governor. Time.

Congresswoman Bachmann, why don’t we hear from you on that? It’s your plan.

BACHMANN: Energy is one of the greatest opportunities for job creation that we have in the United States. We just learned today that if the federal government would pull back on all of the regulatory restrictions on American energy production, we could see 1.2 million jobs created in the United States.

We could also see created over 50 percent more American energy production. And we could also see $800 billion more revenue coming into the United States government.

Don’t forget the day that President Obama took office, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. It’s entirely possible for us to get back to inexpensive energy.

The problem is, energy is too high. Let’s have a goal of bringing it down, because every time gasoline increases 10 cents a gallon, that’s $14 billion in economic activity that every American has taken out of their pockets. This is a great solution, and this is the place to start with American job creation.

(UNKNOWN): John?

HARRIS: Governor Huntsman, everybody would like $2 gas, but is it realistic for a president to promise that?

HUNTSMAN: Of course not. We live in — we live in the free- market economy. I’m not sure that dictating prices is going to get you anywhere.

But let’s face the reality of where we are. This is a perfect example of where presidential leadership matters. To have a president who would actually walk out from behind the TelePrompTer, get out of the way, speak from your heart and soul, just tell us about…

[applause]

… just tell us about where you want this country to go, in terms of what we have in such great abundance, tell us where we think we can find that which we have and convert it into jobs and expanding our industrial base, and reminding the American people that they’re not paying $4 per gallon for gas. When you add up the cost of troop deployments, when you add up the cost of keeping the sea lanes open for the importation of imported oil, the bulk and distribution and terminaling costs (ph), it’s $13 a gallon, so says the Milken Institute. And I say the American people have had enough. We need a president who’s going to provide a little bit of leadership in getting us some direction and opening up the opportunities.

(UNKNOWN): We don’t…

HARRIS: Thank you. Congressman Paul, another question from a Politico reader. Do you advocate getting rid of the minimum wage? Would that create more jobs?

PAUL: Absolutely. And it would help the poor, the people who need a job. The minimum wage is a mandate. We’re against mandates, so why should we have it? No, it would be very beneficial.

But I was trying to get your attention a little while ago. There’s eight of us up here. I’m a physician, but you sure weren’t going to ask me any medical question. But I would like to address that just a little bit.

First off, you know, the governor of Texas criticized the governor of Massachusetts for Romneycare, but he wrote a really fancy letter supporting Hillarycare. So we probably ought to ask him about that.

But mandates, that’s what the whole society is about. That’s what we do all the time. That’s what government does: mandate, mandate, mandate. And what we — we talk so much about the Obama mandate, which is very important, but what about Medicare? Isn’t that a mandate? Everything we do is a mandate. So this is why you have to look at this at the cause of liberty. We don’t need the government running our lives.

And I — I do want to address the subject of $2 oil or gasoline, because I can do it much better than that. I can get you a gallon of gasoline for a dime.

HARRIS: Time. Time. Thank you, Congressman.

PAUL: Well, I’ve got to finish the sentence. You didn’t give me time before.

[crosstalk]

HARRIS: These are rules that all of you agreed to that Brian…

ROMNEY: Let’s hear that.

[crosstalk]

HARRIS: Finish the sentence, or you’re all done?

PAUL: OK, I’m going to finish the sentence then.

HARRIS: Quickly, please.

PAUL: OK, you can buy a gallon of gasoline today for a silver dime. A silver dime is worth $3.50. It’s all about inflation and too many regulations.

HARRIS: Good. Thank you, sir.

Now, Governor Perry, I saw you nod your head.

[applause]

I saw you nod your head, Governor Perry, at the answer on the minimum wage that would create jobs. Do you agree with that?

PERRY: I actually was nodding my head when he said that I wrote a letter to Hillary and we were hoping…

[crosstalk]

PERRY: … that she would be able to come up with something that would not leave the agriculture men and women — because I was the agriculture commissioner at that particular point in time. We had no idea it was going to be the monstrosity that’s known as Hillarycare.

Speaking of letters, I was more interested in the one that you wrote to Ronald Reagan back and said I’m going to quit the party because of the things you believe in.

PAUL: Oh, I need an answer on that.

[laughter]

[crosstalk]

HARRIS: You’ve got a 30-second rebuttal, Congressman.

[crosstalk]

PAUL: I strongly supported Ronald Reagan. I was one of four in Texas — one of four members of Congress that supported Reagan in ’76. And I supported him all along, and I supported his — his — all his issues and all his programs.

But in the 1980s, we spent too much, we taxed too much, we built up our deficits, and it was a bad scene. Therefore, I support the message of Ronald Reagan. The message was great. But the consequence, we have to be honest with ourselves. It was not all that great. Huge deficits during the 1980s, and that is what my criticism was for, not for Ronald Reagan’s message. His message is a great message.

WILLIAMS: Funny thing about the mail. It kind of tends to live on forever.

To all of you, thank you. We’re going to hold in place, take a quick break. Our coverage of the debate from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, will continue right after this.

[commercial break]

**********

WILLIAMS: And we are back. Our live coverage continues of the GOP debate here tonight, Simi Valley, California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, beneath the huge Air Force One Boeing 707.

I’m with John Harris of the website Politico, and we would be remiss, of course, any gathering in this space would, without a mention, perhaps a short tribute, to one of the most important people here tonight.

[begin video clip]

WILLIAMS (voice-over): The legacy represented here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library is impressive: over 1 million photos, 60 million pages of documents, tens of thousands of audio and videotapes encompassing the life and work of the late president.

R. REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

[applause]

WILLIAMS: But even this great place can’t evoke the full magnitude and spirit of Ronald Reagan’s life like his partner.

N. REAGAN: I was very blessed to find him.

WILLIAMS: Mrs. Reagan has always said her life started when she met Ronald Wilson Reagan. And from that point onward, they tackled everything together.

RONALD WILSON REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear —

WILLIAMS: All along, Mrs. Reagan was his advisor and champion- in-chief. Their love for one another was an enduring image at the White House. That bond would sustain them through the unthinkable.

Though forever shaken, the work of the nation went on. Mrs. Reagan decided to dedicate herself to the Just Say No campaign.

N. REAGAN: If you’re ever offered drugs, please, please, just say no.

WILLIAMS: It was with great dignity and grace that President Reagan announced in 1994 he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

N. REAGAN: Each day brings another reminder of this very long good-bye.

WILLIAMS: Since saying farewell to her companion of over 50 years back in 2004, Mrs. Reagan has stayed active in public life, advocating for stem-cell research, and devoting herself to the celebration of her husband’s life and his lasting legacy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[applause]

WILLIAMS: And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mrs. Nancy Reagan.

**********

The questioning continues — John Harris.

HARRIS: Governor Perry, you said you wrote the book “Fed Up” to start a conversation. Congratulations. It’s certainly done that in recent weeks.

In the book, you call Social Security the best example of a program that “violently tossed aside any respect for states’ rights.” We understand your position that it’s got funding problems now. I’d like you to explain your view that Social Security was wrong right from the beginning.

PERRY: Well, I think any of us that want to go back and change 70 years of what’s been going on in this country is probably going to have a difficult time. And rather than spending a lot of time talking about what those folks were doing back in the ’30s and the ’40s, it’s a nice intellectual conversation, but the fact is we have got to be focussed on how we’re going to change this program.

And people who are on Social Security today, men and women who are receiving those benefits today, are individuals at my age that are in line pretty quick to get them, they don’t need to worry about anything. But I think the Republican candidates are talking about ways to transition this program, and it is a monstrous lie.

It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there. Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it’s not right.

HARRIS: OK. Thank you, sir.

Let me follow on that. You mentioned the phrase “Ponzi scheme.”

Just this morning, your former political adviser, Karl Rove, said that type of language could be “toxic,” as he put it, in a general election. Vice President Cheney gave an interview today to ABC News, when he said it’s not a Ponzi scheme, “It’s a program that a great many people depend on.”

My understanding is you’re standing by every word you’ve written in that book. Is that right?

PERRY: Yes, sir. You know, Karl has been over the top for a long time in some of his remarks. So I’m not responsible for Karl anymore. But the fact is —

HARRIS: Vice President Cheney though said it’s not a Ponzi scheme. You say it is.

PERRY: Absolutely. If Vice President Cheney or anyone else says that the program that we have in place today, and young people who are paying into that, expect that program to be sound, and for them to receive benefits when they research retirement age, that is just a lie. And I don’t care what anyone says. We know that, the American people know that, but more importantly, those 25-and-30-year-olds know that.

HARRIS: Governor, time. Thank you. Governor, time.

[applause]

HARRIS: Governor Romney, let’s be blunt. Let’s be blunt. Democrats are itching to use that kind of provocative language against Republicans, yet you acknowledge yourself that Social Security has funding problems.

How do you have a candid question about Social Security without scaring seniors?

ROMNEY: Well, the issue is not the funding of Social Security. We all agree and have for years that the funding program of Social Security is not working, and Congress has been raiding the dollars from Social Security to pay for annual government expenditures. That’s wrong. The funding, however, is not the issue.

The issue in the book “Fed Up,” Governor, is you say that by any measure, Social Security is a failure. You can’t say that to tens of millions of Americans who live on Social Security and those who have lived on it.

The governor says look, states ought to be able to opt out of Social Security. Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security.

We have always had, at the heart of our party, a recognition that we want to care for those in need, and our seniors have the need of Social Security. I will make sure that we keep the program and we make it financially secure. We save Social Security.

And under no circumstances would I ever say by any measure it’s a failure. It is working for millions of Americans, and I’ll keep it working for millions of Americans. And we’ve got to do that as a party.

[applause]

HARRIS: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Perry, a 30-second rebuttal. Governor Romney said Vice President Cheney is right and you’re wrong about Ponzi schemes.

PERRY: Well, here’s — again, we’re not trying to pick fights here.

HARRIS: Understood.

PERRY: We’re about fixing things. You can either have reasons or you can have results. And the American people expect us to put results in place.

You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme. It is. That is what it is. Americans know that, and regardless of what anyone says, oh, it’s not — and that’s provocative language — maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country and say things like, let’s get America working again and do whatever it takes to make that happen. [applause]

CAIN: John, I think the American people would like to hear a solution.

HARRIS: OK.

CAIN: Do you want to hear some more rhetoric or do you want to hear a solution?

I happen to believe that yes, Social Security, it needs fixing, not continuing to talk about it. I believe in the Chilean model, where you give a personal retirement account option so we can move this society from an entitlement society to an empowerment society.

Chile had a broken system the way we did. Thirty years ago, a worker was paying 28 cents on a dollar into a broken system. They finally awakened and put in a system where the younger workers could have a choice. A novel idea.

Give them a choice with an account with their name on it, and over time we would eliminate the current broken system that we have. That is a solution to the problem. Rather than continuing to talk about how broken it is, let’s just fix it using the Chilean model.

[applause]

HARRIS: Thank you.

Congressman Paul, we’ve been talking just now about Governor Perry’s rhetoric, but let’s talk about his record.

Just this morning, your campaign put out a statement accusing him of pushing for bailout money, supporting welfare for illegal immigrants, and trying to forcibly vaccinate 12-year-old girls against sexually transmitted diseases.

He’s your home state governor. Is he less conservative than meets the eye?

PAUL: Much more so, yes.

Just take the HPV. Forcing 12-year-old girls to take an inoculation to prevent this sexually transmitted disease, this is not good medicine, I do not believe. I think it’s social misfit.

It’s not good social policy. And therefore, I think this is very bad to do this. But one of the worst parts about that was the way it was done.

You know, the governorship in Texas traditionally is supposed to be a weak governorship. I didn’t even know they could pass laws by writing an executive order. He did it with an executive order, passed it.

The state was furious, and the legislature, overwhelmingly, probably 90 percent — I don’t know exactly — overwhelmingly repealed this. But I think it’s the way it was passed, which was so bad.

I think it’s a bad piece of legislation. But I don’t like the idea of executive orders. I, as president, will not use the executive order to write laws.

HARRIS: Time. Thank you, Congressman.

Governor Perry, we’ll get to you.

But, Congresswoman Bachmann, this is an issue you have also talked about, HPV.

BACHMANN: Well, what I’m very concerned about is the issue of parental rights. I think when it comes to dealing with children, it’s the parents who need to make that decision. It is wrong for government, whether it’s state or federal government, to impose on parents what they must do to inoculate their children. This is very serious, and I think that it’s very important, again, that parents have the right.

Educational reform is another area. That’s where I cut my teeth in politics, was being involved in educational reform, because the problem you see is one of framing.

It’s the idea, should the federal government control these areas, or should parents and localities control these areas? We have the best results when we have the private sector and when we have the family involved. We have the worst results when the federal government gets involved, and especially by dictate to impose something like an inoculation on an innocent 12-year-old girl.

I would certainly oppose that.

HARRIS: Thank you.

Governor Perry, we’ve had candidates talking about you. Let’s hear from you.

PERRY: I kind of feel like the pinata here at the party, so…

HARRIS: Welcome.

PERRY: But here’s the facts of that issue. There was an opt-out in that piece of — it wasn’t legislation. It was an executive order.

I hate cancer. We passed a $3 billion cancer initiative that same legislative session of which we’re trying to find over the next 10 years cures to cancers. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV. We wanted to bring that to the attention of these thousands of — of — of — tens of thousands of young people in our state. We allowed for an opt-out.

I don’t know what’s more strong for parental rights than having that opt-out. There’s a long list of diseases that cost our state and cost our country. It was on that list.

Now, did we handle it right? Should we have talked to the legislature first before we did it? Probably so. But at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.

[applause]

HARRIS: Senator Santorum, one final note on this book, “Fed Up.” Governor Perry says in his book that it was, quote, “unprincipled” for Republicans to vote in favor of creating the Department of Homeland Security. You were one of those Republicans who voted yes. Respond.

SANTORUM: We created the Department of Homeland Security because there was a complete mess in the internal — in protecting our country. We had all sorts of agencies that had conflicting authority. We had no information sharing that was going on. This was right after 9/11. We saw the problems created as a result of 9/11. And we put together a plan to try to make sure that there was better coordination.

I want to get back to this Gardasil issue. You know, we have — Governor Perry’s out there and — and claiming about state’s rights and state’s rights. How about parental rights being more important than state’s rights? How about having, instead of an opt-out, an opt- in?

If you really cared, you could make the case, instead of forcing me, as a parent — and I have seven children, too, the wide receivers here have — have — on the ends here have — have — have seven children each — but I am offended that — that the government would tell me — and by an executive order, without even going through the process of letting the people have any kind of input. I would expect this from President Obama; I would not expect this from someone who’s calling himself a conservative governor.

HARRIS: Time.

Governor Romney, you’ve been listening to this exchange. Who’s got the better end of it?

ROMNEY: You know, I believe in parental rights and parental responsibility for our kids. My guess is that Governor Perry would like to do it a different way second time through. We’ve each get — we’ve each taken a mulligan or two. And — and my guess is that that’s something you’d probably do a little differently the second time. He just said he’d rather do it through legislation second time through.

And I recognize he wanted very badly to provide better health care to his kids and to prevent the spread of cancer. I agree with — with those who said he went about it in the wrong way, but I think his heart was in the right place.

Right now, we have people who on this stage care very deeply about this country. We love America. America is in crisis. We have some differences between us, but we agree that this president’s got to go. This president is a nice guy. He doesn’t have a clue how to get this country working again. And — and…

[applause]

GINGRICH: Brian?

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, 30 seconds. I have another line of questioning. Go ahead.

GINGRICH: Yeah, I just want to go back, frankly, to the homeland security question, because it’s important for us to confront this. I helped develop the model for homeland security. It hasn’t been executed well.

The fact is, we have enemies who want to use weapons against us that will lead to disasters on an enormous scale. And the original goal was to have a Homeland Security Department that could help us withstand up to three nuclear events in one morning.

And we need to understand, there are people out there who want to kill us. And if they have an ability to sneak in weapons of mass destruction, they’re going to use them. We need to overhaul and reform the department, but we need some capacity to respond to massive events that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in one morning.

WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul, this same line. You want to demolish the TSA. What would exist in its place?

PAUL: With the airlines that are responsible for carrying their cargo and their passengers. I mean, why — why should we assume that a bureaucracy can do better? And look at the monstrosity we have at the airports. These TSA agents are abusive. Sometimes they’re accused of all kinds of sexual activities on the way they maul people at the airport. So the airlines could do that.

WILLIAMS: I’ll give them your best at LAX tonight.

PAUL: The — you know, I would — I would think the airlines should treat passengers as well as a company that hauls money around, and they — they protect their money. They have private guards. And — and they could do it.

Just remember, 9/11 came about because there was too much government. Government was more or less in charge. They told the pilots they couldn’t have guns, and they were told never to resist. They set up the stage for all this. So, no, private — private markets do a good job in protecting — much better than this bureaucracy called the TSA, let me tell you.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me ask you about something else. It’s related in a way, has to do with Mother Nature. Before the broadcast, Senator Santorum’s got flooding today in Pennsylvania, Governor Perry is just back from the wildfires, out east, a Category 1 laid waste to entire areas. There’s standing water tonight in Paterson, New Jersey, many of the towns around where I live, eight days without power. We had people eating in outdoor and public parks because the supermarkets were closed down.

The question is, federal aid, something like FEMA, if you object to what its become, how it’s run, your position is to — is to remove it, take it away, abolish it. What happens in its absence?

PAUL: Well, what happened before 1979? We didn’t have FEMA. And that — FEMA just conditioned people to build where they shouldn’t be building. We lose the market effect of that.

But, yeah, my position is, we should have never had it. There’s a much better way of doing it. I mean, this whole idea that the federal government can deal with weather and anything in the world, just got to throw a government there — FEMA’s broke. They’re $20 billion in debt.

But I’m not for saying tomorrow close it down. A lot of people pay the insurance. I work real hard to make it work, and I did that in my district, too.

But I’ll tell you how we should do it. We’re spending — believe it or not, this blew my mind when I read this — $20 billion a year for air conditioning in Afghanistan and Iraq in the tents over there and all the air conditioning. Cut that $20 billion out, bring in — take $10 off the debt, and put $10 into FEMA or whoever else needs it, child health care or whatever. But I’ll tell you what, if we did that and took the air conditioning out of the Green Zone, our troops would come home, and that would make me happy.

[applause]

WILLIAMS: Mr. Cain, along these same lines, Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said that federal disaster aid — this has been a big discussion of late — shouldn’t be given out unless there are kind of concurrent spending cuts to offset the cost. Do you join in on that?

CAIN: I believe that there’s enough money to go around. And I believe that, yes, you can find the concurrent spending cuts in order to be able to do that. No, don’t eliminate FEMA. Let’s fix FEMA. Let’s fix Homeland Security.

There’s a responsible way for the federal government to do the things that it should do. Running organizations like the TSA, I would agree with Representative Paul, no. Having the federal government responsible for trying to micromanage Medicare, no, trying to micromanage education, no. The federal government is not good at micromanaging anything. This is why I believe in empowering the states to do more and limit what the federal government does with regard to those kinds of program.

WILLIAMS: Governor Huntsman, you know, the upside to this is, I guess, you could fly with your shoes on. The downside is, who does the job the next day?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say, while this is an important discussion that we’re having, we’ve spent about 15 minutes now on homeland security. The greatest gift we could give this country on the 10th year anniversary, Rick, is a Homeland Security Department that really works, that doesn’t give people a sense when they walk through they’re going to get shaken down, a department that doesn’t make us all feel like there’s a fortress security mentality that is not American. And I’ve got to say there’s something wrong with that.

But I’m guessing there are a whole lot of people tuned in around this country who are saying, why are we spending all this time talking about the smaller issues? We’ve got 14 million people unemployed. We’ve got millions more in this country who are so dispirited they’ve quit looking. This is a human tragedy that we’re talking about, moms and dads and families that completely go without.

And all I would ask the people here and the people tuning in around this country, look at where we stand in terms of how we are going to get this country back on its feet.

And I just want to point out that we have offered — based on where I’ve been and what I have done — as governor of a state where we became number one in job creation, where we fixed the economy, made it the best economy for business in this entire country. We’ve got to get back on our feet.

This is a crisis situation. While all these other issues are important, let’s not lose sight, folks, of the bottom line here. We’ve got to get back in the game as a country. We’ve got to make this economy work.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, you can’t have much of a workforce without a basis of education. As you know, your state ranks among the worst in the country in high school graduation rates, as we established, yet you recently signed a budget cut for millions in education funding. You pushed for greater cuts than were in the budget that the legislature passed. You’ve said that education is a top priority, but explain cutting it the way you did, please.

PERRY: Well, I think the reductions that we made were thoughtful reductions, and the fact of the matter is, Texas has made great progress in the 10 years that I’ve been governor, from the standpoint of our graduation rates now are up to 84 percent, higher than they’ve been during any period of time before that.

We’re seeing the type of commitment. Our 4th and 8th grader African-American and Hispanics on the NACH (ph) test, they were some of the highest in the country. We’re making progress. When you share the border with Mexico, and when you have as many individuals that we have coming into the state of Texas, we have a unique situation in our state.

But the fact is, I stand by a record from what we’ve done with the resources that we’ve had, and I think that the reductions that we put in place were absorbed by our schools, and we will continue to have one of the finest workforces made available. When Caterpillar and Toyota and eBay and Facebook move to your state, it’s not because you’ve got a workforce that’s not capable.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

Speaker Gingrich, this reminds of “Race to the Top,” the Obama administration education program. You supported it, Governor Perry opted out, some people don’t like it. What did you like about it?

GINGRICH: I liked very much the fact that it talked about charter schools. It’s the one place I found to agree with President Obama. If every parent in America had a choice of the school their child went to, if that school had to report its scores, if there was a real opportunity, you’d have a dramatic improvement.

I visited schools where, three years earlier, there were fights, there were dropouts, there was no hope. They were taken over by a charter school in downtown Philadelphia, and all of a sudden the kids didn’t fight anymore, because they were disciplined. They were all asked every day, what college are you going to? Not are you going to go to college, what college are you going. And so I would — I am very much in favor of school choice.

My personal preference would be to have a Pell Grant for K-12 so that every parent could pick, with their child, any school they wanted to send them to, public or private, and enable them to have the choice.

I don’t think you’re ever going to reform the current bureaucracies. And the president, I thought, was showing some courage in taking on the teacher’s union to some extent and offering charter schools, and I wanted, frankly, to encourage more development towards choice.

WILLIAMS: I want to introduce another line of questioning by introducing yet another colleague of ours, Jose Diaz-Balart, from our sister network Telemundo.

Hey, my friend, how are you?

DIAZ-BALART: Good evening. Nice to see you all. Nice to see you all.

I want to talk about a subject that was very dear to the heart of President Reagan, which is immigration reform.

As you know, he was the last U.S. President to sign immigration reform in 1986. All of you, I think, have said that you don’t think immigration reform should be discussed until the border is secure.

And, Governor, I’d like to ask you, border state governor, what specifically, in your mind, would make the border secure?

PERRY: Well, the first thing you need to do is have boots on the ground. We’ve had a request in to this administration since June — or January of 2009 for 1,000 border patrol agents or National Guard troops, and working towards 3,000 border patrol. That’s just on the Texas border.

There’s another 50 percent more for the entire Mexican border. So you can secure the border, but it requires a commitment of the federal government of putting those boots on the ground, the aviation assets in the air.

We think predator drones could be flown, that real-time information coming down to the local and the state and the federal law enforcement. And you can secure the border. And at that particular point in time, then you can have an intellectually appropriate discussion about immigration reform.

For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it’s ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country, or he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that border.

DIAZ-BALART: Governor, specifically, do you agree or disagree with some of the issues that the governor of Texas says, as far as what you would consider enough to be able to declare the border safe?

ROMNEY: Well, first, we ought to have a fence. Secondly…

DIAZ-BALART: The whole fence, 2,600 miles?

ROMNEY: Yes. We got to — we got to have a fence, or the technologically approved system to make sure that we know who’s coming into the country, number one.

Number two, we ought to have enough agents to secure that fence and to make sure that people are coming over are caught.

But the third thing, and I learned this when I was with border patrol agents in San Diego, and they said, look, they can always get a ladder to go over the fence. And people will always run to the country. The reason they come in such great numbers is because we’ve left the magnet on.

And I said, what do you mean, the magnet? And they said, when employers are willing to hire people who are here illegally, that’s a magnet, and it draws them in. And we went in and talked about sanctuary cities, giving tuition breaks to the kids of illegal aliens, employers that, employers that knowingly hire people who are here illegally. Those things also have to be stopped.

If we want to secure the border, we have to make sure we have a fence, technologically, determining where people are, enough agents to oversee it, and turn off that magnet. We can’t talk about amnesty, we cannot give amnesty to those who have come here illegally.

We’ve got 4.7 million people waiting in line legally. Let those people come in first, and those that are here illegally, they shouldn’t have a special deal.

[applause]

HARRIS: Speaker Gingrich, your perception on immigration reform? And you’ve been, I think, in some ways, a little different on your initial positions.

GINGRICH: I think we have to find a way to get to a country in which everybody who’s here is here legally. But you started by referencing President Reagan.

In 1986, I voted for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which in fact did grant some amnesty in return for promises. President Reagan wrote in his diary that year that he signed the act because we were going to control the border and we were going to have an employer program where it was a legal guest worker program. That’s in his diary.

I’m with President Reagan. We ought to control the border, we ought to have a legal guest worker program. We ought to outsource it, frankly, to American Express, Visa, and MasterCard, so there’s no counterfeiting, which there will be with the federal government. We should be very tough on employers once you have that legal program.

We should make English the official language of government. We should insist —

[applause]

GINGRICH: We should insist that first-generation immigrants who come here learn American history in order to become citizens. We should also insist that American children learn American history.

And then find a way to deal with folks who are already here, some of whom, frankly, have been here 25 years, are married with kids, live in our local neighborhood, go to our church. It’s got to be done in a much more humane way than thinking that to automatically deport millions of people.

HARRIS: Senator, your solution?

SANTORUM: Well, my solution is very similar to Newt Gingrich’s.

Look, I’m the son of an Italian immigrant. I think immigration is one of the great things that has made this country the dynamic country that it continues to be, people who are drawn because of the ideals of this country. And so we should not have a debate talking about how we don’t want people to come to this country, but we want them to come here like my grandfather and my father came here.

They made sacrifices. They came in the 1920s. There were no promises. There were no government benefits.

They came because they wanted to be free and they wanted to be good law-abiding citizens. So we have to have a program in place that sets that parameter that says, you’re going to come to this country, come here according to the rules. It’s a very good first step that the first thing you do here is a legal act, not an illegal act.

HARRIS: A quick follow-up, 30 seconds.

So there are 11 million people that — fait accompli. They’re here. What do you do with them if you are able to secure the border?

SANTORUM: Well, I think we can have the discussion, that whether what we do with people, how long they’ve been here, whether they had other types of records. But to have that discussion right now and pull the same trick that was pulled in 1986 — we said, well, we’ll promise to do this if you do that — no more. We are going to secure the border first, and that’s the most important thing to do, then we’ll have the discussion afterwards.

HARRIS: Congresswoman, you said the fence — that you believe the fence is fundamental as an integral part of controlling the border. Let’s say that in 2012 or 2013, there’s a fence, the border is secure, gasoline is $2 a gallon.

What do you do then with 11 million people, as the Speaker says, many of whom have U.S.-born children here? What do you do?

BACHMANN: Well, again, understand the context and the problem that we’re dealing with.

In Mexico right now, we’re dealing with narco terrorists. This is a very serious problem. To not build a border or a fence on every part of that border would be, in effect, to yield United States sovereignty not only to our nation anymore, but to yield it to another nation. That we cannot do.

One thing that the American people have said to me over and over again — and I was just last week down in Miami. I was visiting the Bay of Pigs Museum with Cuban-Americans. I was down at the Versailles Cafe. I met with a number of people, and it’s very interesting. The Hispanic-American community wants us to stop giving taxpayer- subsidized benefits to illegal aliens and benefits, and they want us to stop giving taxpayer-subsidized benefits to their children as well.

HARRIS: A quick 30-second rebuttal on the specific question.

The fence is built, the border is under control. What do you do with 11.5 million people who are here without documents and with U.S.- born children?

BACHMANN: Well, that’s right. And again, it is sequential, and it depends upon where they live, how long they have been here, if they have a criminal record. All of those things have to be taken into place.

But one thing that we do know, our immigration law worked beautifully back in the 1950s, up until the early 1960s, when people had to demonstrate that they had money in their pocket, they had no contagious diseases, they weren’t a felon. They had to agree to learn to speak the English language, they had to learn American history and the Constitution.

And the one thing they had to promise is that they would not become a burden on the American taxpayer. That’s what we have to enforce.

HARRIS: Thank you.

[applause]

HARRIS: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Let’s make sure — let’s solve all of the problems. It’s not one problem.

I do believe we can secure the border with a combination of boots on the ground, technology, and a fence, but we’ve got three other problems. And to get to it, we’ve got to secure the border.

Secondly, let’s promote the path to citizenship that’s already there. We don’t need a new one, we just need to clean up the bureaucracy that’s slowing the process down and discouraging people.

The third thing we need to do, enforce the laws that are there, and the way we do it, empower the states. I believe that the people closest to the problem are the best ones to be able to solve that problem. Empower the states to do what the federal government hasn’t done, can’t do, and won’t do. This is how we solve the entire problem.

HARRIS: Thank you.

Governor?

HUNTSMAN: I would just have to say that I agree with so much of what has been said here today.

President Reagan, when he made his decision back in 1987, he saw this as a human issue. And I hope that all of us, as we deal with this immigration issue, will always see it as an issue that resolves around real human beings.

Yes, they came here in an illegal fashion. And yes, they should be punished in some form or fashion.

I have two daughters that came to this country, one from China, one from India, legally. I see this issue through their eyes.

We can find a solution. If President Reagan were here, he would speak to the American people and he would lay out in hopeful, optimistic terms how we can get there, remembering full well that we’re dealing with human beings here. We have to agree.

But let me just say one thing about legal immigration. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that our legal immigration system is broken. And if we want to do something about attracting brain power to this country, if we want to lift real estate values.

For example, why is it that Vancouver is the fastest-growing real estate market in the world today? They allow immigrants in legally, and it lifts all votes (ph). And we need to focus as much on legal immigration.

HARRIS: Congressman, your thoughts?

PAUL: Obviously, it’s a very big problem. I think we need to remove the incentive — easy road to citizenship. Nobody has mentioned the fact that they qualify for benefits as well, you know, the welfare benefits. We shouldn’t have to give — the state of Texas shouldn’t be forced to provide free health care and free education.

But there is a mess down there, and it’s a big mess. And it’s the drug war that’s going on there. And our drug laws are driving this. So now we’re killing thousands and thousands of people. That makes it much more complicated. But the people who want big fences and guns, sure, we can secure the borders — a barbed-wire fence with machine guns, that would do the trick.

I don’t believe that’s what America is all about. I just really don’t.

We can enforce our law. If we had a healthy economy, this wouldn’t be such a bad deal. People are worrying about jobs. But every time you think about this toughness on the border and I.D. cards and real ideas, think that it’s a penalty against the American people, too.

I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to lead (ph) with their capital. And there’s capital controls and there’s people control. So, every time you think of fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: To my colleague, Jose Diaz-Balart. Thank you. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: This is — we’re going to take our final break now.

When we come back, the final portion of our debate from the Reagan Presidential Library, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: We are back. And as we said, this is the final portion of our debate. The campaigns have told us they wish not to have anything called anything close to a lightning round, but let’s just say we’d like the frequency and velocity of the questions to quicken in this segment. We’ll try to move it along and fit a lot in.

Starting with you, Governor Romney, are you a member of the Tea Party?

ROMNEY: I don’t think you carry cards in the Tea Party. I believe in a lot of what the Tea Party believes in. The Tea Party believes that government’s too big, taxing too much, and that we ought to get — get to the work of getting Americans to work.

So I put together a plan with a whole series of points of how we can get America’s economy going again. Tea Party people like that. So if the Tea Party is for keeping government small and spending down, and helping us create jobs, then, hey, I’m for the Tea Party.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, you missed this at the last debate. At the previous debate, everyone on stage raised their hand to say they would — I want to get this exactly right — not have accepted a debt deal that included $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. We’ve been anxious to get you on the record now that you have jumped into this. Would you take that deal?

PERRY: I join my fellow participants here. What we should have been looking at is a way to get the spending under control and capping it, cutting it, and getting a balanced budget amendment. When you get a balanced budget amendment in Washington, D.C., you will finally start getting the snake’s head cut off. I mean, the fact of the matter is, until you get a balanced budget amendment — I don’t care whether Democrats or Republicans are going to be in control in Washington, D.C. — balanced budget amendment, and then the American people can go to sleep at night with a little more comfort that they’re going to wake up and not be broke in the morning.

WILLIAMS: Did anyone else who had their hand up at that last debate want to amend your comment or vote since then? Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Well, I wanted to say is, there’s someone else who would join us in that agreement, and that would be Ronald Reagan, because Ronald Reagan made a deal where he took $3 in — in spending cuts for $1 in tax increases. And, in fact, what happened is that there ended up being $3 in tax increases and $1 in tax cuts.

That’s the problem with Washington, D.C. I’ve seen it all the time. That’s why I’ve been leading on this issue for the last five years and why we can’t trust the status quo in Washington, D.C.

We have to have a president with a core sense of conviction that’s going to fight on these issues and recognize. And so we would — we would welcome the former president to this club.

WILLIAMS: Governor Huntsman, you’ve said some interesting things about pledges. Everyone up here has taken a pledge not to raise taxes. Dangerous business to you?

HUNTSMAN: I’d love to get everybody to sign a pledge to take no pledges. I — I have a pledge to my wife, and I pledge allegiance to my country, but beyond that, no pledges. I think it diminishes the political discussion. I think it jeopardizes your ability to lead once you get there.

And I started when I approached, when I first ran for governor in 2004, as someone who wanted to pin me down on taxes, I said, no thanks, I’m not going to sign it. I didn’t raise taxes. We had historic tax cuts in our state. So look at somebody’s record. That’s always a pretty good indicator and barometer of where they’re likely to go.

WILLIAMS: I want to go back to your comments on 9/11 to ask kind of an obvious follow-up. Do you think we’re safer today?

HUNTSMAN: I think we’ve lost our confidence as a country. I think we have had our innocence shattered. I think, 10 years later, we look at the situation and we say, we have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is not about nation-building in Afghanistan. This is about nation-building at home.

Our core is broken. We are weak. We have got to strengthen ourselves. I say we’ve got to bring those troops home.

[applause]

In Afghanistan — in Afghanistan, the reality is it is an asymmetrical counterterror effort. We need intelligence. We need special forces. And we need some training on the ground.

But I think one way to commemorate our 10-year anniversary of 9/11, remembering the 3,000-plus people who died in New York and in Pennsylvania and in Washington, is to say it’s time for this country to set a goal for ourselves: We’re going to get our core fixed. We’re going to do some nation-building right here at home.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

Governor Romney, would you agree that there’s a crisis of confidence in the United States right now?

ROMNEY: Oh, absolutely. People are convinced that we’re going to go into another recession. I sure hope we don’t. People are worried about whether they can make their bills at the end of the month. A lot of folks have stopped looking for work. People who have jobs are worried they might lose their jobs.

Look, we have — we have a crisis in confidence in part because we have an absence of leadership. We selected as a president a guy who had never worked in the private sector, a person who’d never been a leader, who’d never been able to get anything moving, and — and we said, let’s let this guy run the country, and he’s — he’s just over his head, and right now, he’s flailing about. We’ll see his plan tomorrow; it will be more like the plans in the past.

We need to have an individual lead this country who not only loves America, but has the experience to get us back on track of being competitive globally. That’s — I put together — I want to make it very clear — I put together an outline of what it takes to get America back on the right track. It’s a whole series of changes that have to occur, from energy policy, to tax policy, regulatory policy, changes in our trade policies.

We’ve got to change the way we’re — we’re structured economically if we want to get people back to work in this country and keep America as we’ve always been, this extraordinary job machine. We can be the best place in the world to be in the middle class again, with jobs plentiful for our kids and for each one of us that are looking for those jobs today. I know how to do that. And that’s why I’m in this race.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

To John Harris.

HARRIS: Governor Perry, as we approach the 9/11 anniversary, I’d like to stick with national security for a moment. You recently said, quote, “I do not believe that America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism.” Looking back, do you think President George W. Bush was too quick to launch military intervention without thinking through the risks?

PERRY: I was making a comment about a philosophy; I don’t think America needs to be in the business of adventurism.

But let me just say something about the president of the United States. And I know he’s — he’s taken lots of slings and arrows here today. But one thing that I want to say that he did do that I agree with is that he maintained the — the chase and — and we took out a very bad man in the form of bin Laden, and I — and I tip my hat to him.

I give more props to those Navy SEALs that did the job, but — and the other thing this president’s done, he has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job. Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done. We’ll never have to have that experiment on America again.

And I might add that he kept Gitmo open against the will of his base, and I’m glad he did that. America’s safer for it.

[applause]

HARRIS: Sir, just if I could quickly follow on that, you said you were making a philosophical comment, but it’s hard to understand philosophy without understanding specifics. Where are some of the places where you think we’ve seen military adventurism?

PERRY: As I said, that is — that was a philosophical statement that Americans don’t want to see their young men and women going into foreign countries without a clear reason that American interests are at stake. And they want to see not only a clear entrance; they want to see a clear exit strategy, as well.

We should never put our young men and women’s lives at risk when American interests are not clearly defined by the president of the United States, and that’s one of the problems this president is doing today.

HARRIS: Congresswoman Bachmann, on the same theme, you opposed the U.S. intervention in Libya. If President Obama had taken the same view, Gadhafi would, in all likelihood, still be in power today.

To be clear, are you advocating a shift away from the George W. Bush freedom agenda with its emphasis on removing dictators from power and promoting human rights?

BACHMANN: Well, I want to say, as devastating as our economy is with the policies of Barack Obama, I think that he has actually weakened us militarily and with the United States presence globally. We have, for many years, maintained global order in the world with our United States military. We have the finest military. But in this last debt ceiling debate, one of the alternatives that came forward that we’re going to be looking at with this new super committee of 12 different members of Congress is to see that our military could be hit with a huge reduction in resources.

The president has not done what he needs to do to keep the United States safe. If you look at the biggest issue in the Middle East, it’s a nuclear Iran, and the president has taken his eyes off that prize.

As a matter of fact, what he’s done is he’s said, in fact, to Israel that, they need to shrink back to their indefensible 1967 borders. I sit on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We deal with the nation’s classified secrets. And I firmly believe that the president of the United States has weakened us militarily and put us more at risk than at any time.

HARRIS: Congresswoman, time. Thank you.

[applause]

HARRIS: I just want to follow up on that. The Arab Spring is a big, big issues in the world. And the question is, what role does the U.S. have, including militarily, to promote democracy and topple dictators? I didn’t hear your answer with respect to Libya.

BACHMANN: Well, I believe that it was wrong for the president to go into Libya. Number one, his own secretary of defense, Gates, said that there was no American vital interest in Libya. If there is no vital interest, that doesn’t even meet the threshold of the first test for military involvement.

The other thing is, we didn’t know who the rebel forces were in Libya. Take a look at where we’re at in Libya today.

Take a look at the oil revenues. We don’t know if they will get in the hands of people who will have designs on radical Islam and the implication of a global caliphate. These are very serious issues, and I think it was wrong for the president of the United States to go into Libya.

[applause]

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, your reaction to Congresswoman Bachmann’s stand on what we’re watching take place in Libya right up until tonight.

SANTORUM: Well, we’re in the Reagan Library, and I’m hearing from at least a couple of people on this panel a very isolationist view of where the Republican Party should be headed about pulling troops out with Governor Huntsman and with Ron Paul.

The bottom line is, Ronald Reagan was committed to America being a force for good around the world. We were a society that believed in ourselves and believed that we can spread our vision to the rest of the world and make this country a safer country as a result of it.

We didn’t have missions where we put exit strategies saying this date is when we’re going to leave. We didn’t say that we are the problem and the cause of the problems that confront us around the world.

We were — we are a source for good. We could have been a source for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning. He only went along with the Libyan mission because the United Nations told him to, which is something that Ronald Reagan would have melted like the old Wicked Witch of the West before he would have allowed that to happen.

WILLIAMS: Senator, time.

SANTORUM: This is a very important issue for our party. Are we going to stand in the Reagan tradition, or are we going to go the isolationist view that some in this party are advocating?

WILLIAMS: Time.

HARRIS: Governor Huntsman, I’d like to get to you. I’ve got a question. Your chief political adviser has been quoted very prominently as describing the Republican Party as “a bunch of cranks,” and said your opponents on the stage “make a buffet of crazy and inane comments.” I’m sure that’s insulting to some of these people up here.

We’re now here face to face. Tell us which one of these people are saying crazy or inane things.

HUNTSMAN: Well, I’m sure you have John Weaver’s telephone number. You can go ahead and give him a call.

HARRIS: OK.

HUNTSMAN: But let me just say —

HARRIS: Well — hand on. Let’s follow up on that, because you speak for yourself.

You yourself have said the party is in danger of becoming anti- science. Who on this stage is anti-science?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I’m saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can’t run from science. We can’t run from mainstream conservative philosophy. We’ve got to win voters.

We’ve got to do what I did as governor, when I was re-elected. We reached out and we brought in independents. I got independents. I got conservative Democrats. If we’re going to win in 2012, we’ve got to make sure that we have somebody who can win based upon numbers of the math that will get us there. And by making comments that basically don’t reflect the reality of the situation, we turn people off.

Number two, we’ve got to have somebody who can lead. This president was successful in getting elected. He can’t lead this country. He can’t even lead his own party.

I’m here to tell you: I can get elected. I can bring the numbers together to make this successful in 2012. And I can lead based upon where I’ve been as governor.

HARRIS: Governor Perry — Governor Perry, Governor Huntsman were not specific about names, but the two of you do have a difference of opinion about climate change. Just recently in New Hampshire, you said that weekly and even daily scientists are coming forward to question the idea that human activity is behind climate change. Which scientists have you found most credible on this subject?

PERRY: Well, I do agree that there is — the science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

But the fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country is not good economics and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science. Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.

HARRIS: Just to follow up quickly. Tell us how you’ve done that.

[applause]

Are there specific — specific scientists or specific theories that you’ve found especially compelling, as you…

[crosstalk]

PERRY: Let me tell you what I find compelling, is what we’ve done in the state of Texas, using our ability to regulate our clean air. We cleaned up our air in the state of Texas, more than any other state in the nation during the decade. Nitrous oxide levels, down by 57 percent. Ozone levels down by 27 percent.

That’s the way you need to do it, not by some scientist somewhere saying, “Here is what we think is happening out there.” The fact of the matter is, the science is not settled on whether or not the climate change is being impacted by man to the point where we’re going to put America’s economics in jeopardy.

WILLIAMS: Governor, time.

Congresswoman Bachmann, a question about energy, back to that subject for a moment. Were you quoted correctly — and do you stand by it — as wanting to drill in the Everglades in Florida?

BACHMANN: The question was asked of me about that. And what I said is we have American energy resources all across this nation. And, of course, we would do it responsibly. That was my response at the time.

And on this issue on human — human activity as being the cause of climate change, I think it’s important to note that the president recognized how devastating the EPA has been in their rulemaking, so much so that the president had to suspend current EPA rules that would have led to the shutting down of potentially 20 percent of all of America’s coal plants.

Coal is the source that brings 45 percent of America’s electricity. What we’re seeing is that a political agenda is being advanced instead of a scientific agenda. And this is leading to the — to massive numbers of jobs being lost.

The president told us he wanted to be like Spain when it came to green job creation, and yet Spain has one of the highest levels of unemployment. The president is bringing that here in the United States. And I think tomorrow night, when the nation tunes in to the president, I’m afraid that we won’t be seeing permanent solution. I’m afraid what we’ll be seeing are temporary gimmicks and more of the same that he’s given before.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, time.

Speaker Gingrich, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will come to the end of his term in 2014. Would you reappoint Ben Bernanke?

GINGRICH: I would fire him tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: Why?

GINGRICH: I think he’s been the most inflationary, dangerous, and power-centered chairman of the Fed in the history of the Fed. I think the Fed should be audited. I think the amount of money that he has shifted around in secret, with no responsibility, no — no — no accountability, no transparency, is absolutely antithetical to a free society. And I think his policies have deepened the depression, lengthened the problems, increased the cost of gasoline, and been a disaster.

I want to take the rest of my time, Brian, to go back to a question you asked that was very important. We were asked the wrong question at the last debate. The question isn’t, would we favor a tax increase? The question is, how would we generate revenue?

There are three good ways. The Ronald Reagan technique put 3,700,000 more people back to work as of last Friday. You reduce government spending. You raise government revenues enormously. The committee of 12 ought to be looking at, how do you create more revenue, not how do you raise taxes.

Second, you go to energy, exactly as Michele Bachmann has said. You open up American energy, $500 billion a year here at home, enormous increase in federal revenue.

Third, we own — with all due respect, Governor — we own 69 percent of Alaska. That’s one-and-a-half Texases. Now, let’s set half of Texas — let’s set a half Texas aside for national parks. We could liberate an area the size of Texas for minerals and other development. That would raise even more revenue, not the normal Washington viewpoint.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, time. Governor Romney…

[applause]

… you — you often here this figure, 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, and — and the promised effort underway soon, at least, in Washington to correct that. Isn’t some of this argument semantics? And won’t the effort to correct that be a de facto tax increase? ROMNEY: You know, I must admit, I have a bit of a hard time with the idea that there are people who don’t feel like they’re supporting our troops by contributing tax revenue through — through the income tax or through other tax vehicles.

I don’t want to raise taxes on the American people, but I think everybody ought to feel that they’re part of this effort and that they’re providing for our military, providing for our roads, providing for our schools. That ought to be part of what — what every American experiences.

But right now, the question is not the people at the — that are not paying taxes at the low end. The question is not the people who are very, very rich. The question is, how about middle-income Americans?

Who are the people most hurt by the Obama economy? And the answer is the middle class. The great majority of Americans are having a very, very difficult time. And our effort has to be to find ways to reduce to burden on those people.

And that’s why I’ve proposed that anybody who’s earning $200,000 a year and less ought to be able to save their money tax-free, no tax on interest, dividends, or capital gains. Let people save their money, invest in America, and not have to give more money to the government. The middle class needs our help.

[applause]

WILLIAMS: Would Ben Bernanke have a job in your administration?

ROMNEY: No, I’d be looking for somebody new. I’m — I think Ben Bernanke has — has over-inflated the amount of currency that he’s created. QE2 did not work. It did not get Americans back to work. It did not get the economy going again. We’re still seeing declining numbers in prior quarter estimates as to what the — the growth would be. We’re growing now at 1 percent to 1.5 percent.

The plan I put forward just two days ago in Nevada will grow our economy at 4 percent per year for four years and add — add — 11.5 million jobs. That’s a very different approach than Ben Bernanke’s taken, and it’s a demonstrably different approach than Barack Obama has taken, and that’s in part because we have very different life experiences.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you…

[applause]

Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?

PERRY: No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that’s required.

But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of…

[applause]

What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?

PERRY: I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of — of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens — and it’s a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.

HARRIS: Mr. Cain, Mr. Cain, I’d like to get you into this tax discussion we’ve had recently.

CAIN: Yes.

HARRIS: The General Electric Corporation last year — this is a prominent case — made $14.2 billion in profits worldwide, but paid no U.S. taxes. Perfectly legal, but does it strike you as fair?

CAIN: This is why I proposed my 9-9-9 plan. The government needs to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. The government needs to get out of the business of trying to figure out who gets a tax break here, who gets a tax break there.

When you go to 9-9-9, it levels the playing field for all businesses. What a novel idea. And the government won’t be in the business of trying to determine who’s going to be able to make more money and pay no taxes and vice versa.

Secondly, this recession is the worst recession since the Great Depression. If the recovery that this administration claims would just tie for last place, we would have another 6 million jobs. If it would tie for the recovery that took place in the ’80s under President Reagan, we’d have 12 million more jobs out there, which would be music to the ears of the 14 million people looking for jobs. The president simply does not understand that the business sector is the engine for economic growth.

WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul, a long time ago…

[applause] A long time ago, a fellow Texan of yours, a young student teacher in Cotulla, Texas, was horrified to see young kids coming into the classroom hungry, some of them with distended bellies because of hunger. He made a vow that if he ever had anything to do about it, the government would provide meals, hot meals at best, in schools. The young student teacher, of course, was — later went on to be President Lyndon Johnson. Do you think that is any more — providing nutrition at schools for children — a role of the federal government?

PAUL: Well, I’m sure, when he did that, he did it with local government, and there’s no rules against that. That’d be fine. So that doesn’t imply that you want to endorse the entire welfare state. You imply (ph) I’d endorse all welfare (ph). Any time I challenge it, you’re going to challenge the whole welfare system.

No. It isn’t authorized in the Constitution for us to run a welfare state. And it doesn’t work. All it’s filled up with is mandates. And the mandates are what we’re objecting to. I want to repeal all the mandates.

But, yes, if there are poor people in Texas, we have a responsibility — I’d like to see it voluntary as possible — but under our Constitution, our states have that right — if they feel the obligation, they have a perfect right to.

So don’t always try to turn around and say that we who believe in liberty, we lack compassion, because we who believe in liberty and understand the market, we’re the only ones that really understand how people are taken care of, how they are fed, and how people have jobs. It’s the market. It’s never the government that does it.

So this whole idea that there’s something wrong with people who don’t lavish out free stuff from the federal government somehow aren’t compassionate enough. I resist those accusations.

[applause]

WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.

Somewhat — somewhat hard to believe. The campaigns have notified us we’re actually a few minutes over the time we were allotted for tonight, and so our questioning will have to come to an end, with hearty thanks to so many people, most notably the candidates here on stage, but to the good folks here at the Reagan Library, the Reagan Foundation, notably, Mrs. Reagan.

To our partners in all of this, Politico, my partner in the questioning, John here, thank you very much. Terrific.

And thank you all for watching. Our coverage will continue. One of the few things you can count on, we’ll be back at this. There will be many more of these discussions. That wraps up our live coverage of this portion of the debate from Southern California.

[applause]