Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 February 25, 2016: 10th Republican debate CNN Telemundo Salem Radio in Houston, Texas transcript

ELECTION 2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Republican Candidates Debate in Houston, Texas

Source: UCSB, The American Presidency Project 
February 25, 2016

Republican debate – CNN/Telemundo/Salem Radio

Time – 8:30 p.m. ET

Location – University of Houston, Houston, Texas

Moderators – Wolf Blitzer, Maria Celeste Arraras, Hugh Hewitt, Dana Bash

Candidates – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ben Carson

PARTICIPANTS:
Ben Carson;
Senator Ted Cruz (TX);
Governor John Kasich (OH);
Senator Marco Rubio (FL);
Donald Trump;

MODERATOR:
Wolf Blitzer (CNN); with
PANELISTS:
Maria Celeste Arrarás (Telemundo);
Dana Bash (CNN); and
Hugh Hewitt (Salem Radio Network)

BLITZER: We’re live here at the University of Houston for the 10th Republican presidential debate. [applause]

An enthusiastic crowd is on hand here in the beautiful opera house at the Moore School of Music. Texas is the biggest prize next Tuesday, Super Tuesday, when 11 states vote, a day that will go a long way towards deciding who wins the Republican nomination.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I’m Wolf Blitzer. This debate is airing on CNN, CNN International, and CNN in Espanol. It’s also being seen on Telemundo and heard on the Salem Radio Network. Telemundo and Salem are our partners in this debate, along with the Republican National Committee.

We’d also like to welcome a very special guest with us here tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush. [applause]

Everyone here is looking forward to a lively debate. I’ll be your moderator tonight. Joining me in the questioning, Telemundo host Maria Celesta Arrasas, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash; and Salem Radio Network’s Hugh Hewitt, who worked in the Reagan administration for six years.

Tonight, there are five Republican candidates and they’re ready to join us right now.

Please welcome Ohio Governor John Kasich. [applause]

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. [applause]

Businessman and real estate developer Donald Trump. [applause]

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. [applause]

And retired neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson. [applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome the Republican candidates for president of the United States. [applause]

BLITZER: Now please rise for our national anthem, performed by country music artist, Deana Carter.

[the national anthem is sung] [applause]

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Deana Carter. A beautiful, beautiful national anthem.

The final debate before Super Tuesday begins right after this quick break.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the University of Houston and the Republican presidential debate.

The candidates, they are now in place. Their positions were selected based on their standing in the delegate race through Nevada, with the top candidate in the center and the others extending outward.

I want to tell you how tonight’s debate will work. As moderator, I will guide the discussion, asking questions and follow-ups, as will Maria Celeste, Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt. Candidates, you’ll have a minute and 15 seconds to answer and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. We have timing lights that are visible to the candidates. Those lights will warn you when your time is up, and as the candidates requested, a bell will sound like this.

[bell ringing]

We know you all want to jump and debate these critically important issues, but please wait until you’re called on. These are the rules all of the candidates have agreed to.

It’s time for the candidates to introduce themselves right now. You’ll each have 30 seconds. Dr. Carson, you’re first.

CARSON: If someone had tried to describe today’s America to you 30 years ago, you would have listened in disbelief. Americans know that our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction, secondary to divisiveness, fiscal irresponsibility, and failure to lead.

Marco, Donald, Ted, John, we will not solve any of these problems by trying to destroy each other. What we need to do is be looking for solutions tonight. It’s not about us, it’s about the American people. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Kasich?

KASICH: Well, you know, on the way over here, even getting ready earlier and sitting in the green room and watching the early coverage, you know, my father carried mail on his back and his father was a coal miner and my mother’s mother was an immigrant, could barely speak English. And I’m standing on this stage. It’s pretty remarkable. But I want to tell you, there’s a lot of young people watching tonight. You can do whatever you want to do in your life. America is an amazing country, where a kid like me can grow up to run for president of the United States and be on this stage tonight. So to all the young people that are out there, your hopes, your dreams, pursue them. Shoot for the stars. America’s great, and you can do it. Thank you, Wolf. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: Well, thank you. This election, we have to decide the identity of America in the 2ist century, but as part of this primary, we have to find out our identity as a party and as a movement.

Thirty-six years ago, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush began the Reagan Revolution. For a generation, they defined conservatism as limited government and free enterprise and a strong national defense. But they also appealed to our hopes and our dreams. Now we have to decide if we are still that kind of party and still that kind of movement, or if we’re simply going to become a party that preys on people’s angers and fears.

I hope we remain that conservative movement that appeals to our hopes and our dreams and the belief that America will always be better in its future than it’s been in its story history. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Welcome to Texas. [applause]

Here, Texas provided my family with hope. Here, my mom became the first in her family ever to go to college. Here, my dad fled Cuba and washed dishes, making 50 cents an hour to pay his way through the University of Texas. I graduated from high school at Second Baptist not too far away from here.

When I ran for Senate, I promised 27 million Texans I would fight for you every day, and not for the Washington bosses.

And, I’ll tell you, as I travel the state, Democrats tell me I didn’t vote for you, but you’re doing what you said you would do. And, as president, I will do the same. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Thank you. My whole theme is make America great again. We don’t win anymore as a country. We don’t win with trade, we don’t win with the military. ISIS, we can’t even knock out ISIS, and we will, believe me. We will.

We don’t win in any capacity with healthcare. We have terrible health care, Obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced. We just don’t win.

You look at our borders, they’re like swiss cheese, everybody pours in.

We’re going to make a great country again. We’re going to start winning again. We’re going to win a lot, it’s going to be a big difference, believe me. It’s going to be a big difference. [applause]

BLITZER: Thank you very much. It’s now time to begin questions. Voters in the first four states have spoken, and Mr. Trump has emerged as the frontrunner, but in five days the candidates will face their biggest test yet, Super Tuesday. When nearly half of the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination will be awarded, and the biggest prize of the night is Texas.

Immigration is a key issue in this state, for all voters nationwide, including the many people watching us on Telemundo. So, that’s where we begin.

Mr. Trump, you’ve called for a deportation force to remove the 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States. You’ve also promised to let what you call, “the good ones”, come back in. Your words, “the good ones”, after they’ve been deported.

Senator Cruz would not allow them to come back in. He says that’s the biggest difference between the two of you. He calls your plan amnesty. Is it?

TRUMP: First of all, he was in charge of amnesty, he was the leader, and you can ask Marco because they’ve been debating this every debate that we’ve had.

As far as coming back in, number one, you wouldn’t even be talking, and you wouldn’t have asked that as the first question if it weren’t for me when my opening when I talked about illegals immigration. It wouldn’t even be a big subject.

But, we either have a country, or we don’t have a country. We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. They will come back — some will come back, the best, through a process. They have to come back legally. They have to come back through a process, and it may not be a very quick process, but I think that’s very fair, and very fine.

They’re going to get in line with other people. The best of them will come back, but they’re going to come back through a process. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Cruz, what’s wrong with letting what Mr. Trump calls, “the good ones” come back to the United States?

CRUZ: You know, the people that get forgotten in this debate over immigration are the hardworking men and women of this country — our millions of Americans who are losing their jobs. Millions of legal immigrants who are losing their jobs are seeing their wages driven down.

You know, in the past couple of weeks the Wall Street Journal had a very interesting article about the state of Arizona. Arizona put in very tough laws on illegal immigration, and the result was illegal immigrants fled the state, and what’s happened there — it was a very interesting article.

Some of the business owners complained that the wages they had to pay workers went up, and from their perspective that was a bad thing. But, what the state of Arizona has seen is the dollars they’re spending on welfare, on prisons, and education, all of those have dropped by hundreds of millions of dollars. And, the Americans, and for that matter, the legal immigrants who are in Arizona, are seeing unemployment drop are seeing wages rise. That’s who we need to be fighting for.

Listen, we have always welcomed legal immigrants, but I think it is a mistake to forgive those who break the law to allow them to become U.S. citizens, and that’s why I’ve led the fight against granting citizenship to those here illegally, and that’s why I will do the same thing as president. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, do you want to respond to that?

TRUMP: Well, I’m very glad that Ted mentioned Arizona because probably the toughest man on borders is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and two days ago he totally endorsed me, so, thank you. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: Senator Cruz has called your immigration plan amnesty, and has an add out there comparing it to President Obama’s. He says both of you support allowing undocumented immigrants legal status here in the United States after a background check, paying a fine, and paying taxes.

Are those claims correct?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, and before we do anything, I’ve been abundantly clear on this. When I’m president of the United States, before we do anything on immigration, we are going to secure the border. And, that’s not just the physical border with Mexico, it’s Visa overstays. That’s 45 percent of the problem right there.

It also has to do — that’s why we need e-verify, and entry-exit tracking system, and so-forth. And, until that happens, we’re not doing anything else. And then we’ll see what the American people are willing to support.

And Donald mentioned, because he mentioned me in his answer, that his position on immigration is what has driven this debate. Well, the truth is, though, that a lot of these positions that he’s now taking are new to him.

In 2011, he talked about the need for a pathway to citizenship. In 2012, Donald criticized Mitt Romney, saying that Mitt lost his election because of self-deportation.

And so even today, we saw a report in one of the newspapers that Donald, you’ve hired a significant number of people from other countries to take jobs that Americans could have filled.

My mom and dad — my mom was a maid at a hotel, and instead of hiring an American like her, you have brought in over a thousand people from all over the world to fill those jobs instead.

So I think this is an important issue. And I think we are realizing increasingly that it’s an important issue for the country that has been debated for 30 years, but finally needs to be solved once and for all.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, self-deportation is people are going to leave as soon as they see others going out. If you look at Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, they started moving people out and the rest of them left.

Self-deportation, as I really define it, and that’s the way I define it, is you’re going to get some to go, and the rest are going to go out.

As far as the people that I’ve hired in various parts of Florida during the absolute prime season, like Palm Beach and other locations, you could not get help. It’s the up season. People didn’t want to have part-time jobs. There were part-time jobs, very seasonal, 90-day jobs, 120-day jobs, and you couldn’t get.

Everybody agrees with me on that. They were part-time jobs. You needed them, or we just might as well close the doors, because you couldn’t get help in those hot, hot sections of Florida.

RUBIO: That — my point that I made was you had criticized Mitt Romney for self-deportation. You said that his strategy of self- deportation is why he lost the election.

And I think people in Florida would be surprised, because, in fact, the article that was today, they interviewed a number of people that would have been willing to do those jobs, if you would have been willing to hire them to do it.

TRUMP: I criticized Mitt Romney for losing the election. He should have won that election. He had a failed president. He ran a terrible campaign. He was a terrible candidate. That’s what I criticize Mitt Romney — I mean, ran…

RUBIO: No, he…

TRUMP: Excuse me. He ran one terrible campaign. That’s an election that should have been won. [applause]

RUBIO: Well, in fact, I agree we should have won and I wished we would have, but, in fact, you did criticize him for using the term “self-deportation.” I mean, that’s on the record and people can look it up right now online.

But, again, I just want to reiterate, I think it’s really important, this point. I think it’s fine, it’s an important point that you raise and we discuss on immigration. This is a big issue for Texas, a huge issue for the country.

But I also think that if you’re going to claim that you’re the only one that lifted this into the campaign, that you acknowledge that, for example, you’re only person on this stage that has ever been fined for hiring people to work on your projects illegally.

You hired some workers from Poland…

TRUMP: No, no, I’m the only one on the stage that’s hired people. You haven’t hired anybody. [applause]

RUBIO: In fact, some of the people…

[crosstalk]

TRUMP: And by the way, I’ve hired — and by the way, I’ve hired tens of thousands of people over at my job. You’ve hired nobody.

RUBIO: Yes, you’ve hired a thousand from another country…

TRUMP: You’ve had nothing but problems with your credit cards, et cetera. So don’t tell me about that.

RUBIO: Let me just say — let me finish the statement. This is important.

TRUMP: You haven’t hired one person, you liar.

RUBIO: He hired workers from Poland. And he had to pay a million dollars or so in a judgment from…

TRUMP: That’s wrong. That’s wrong. Totally wrong.

RUBIO: That’s a fact. People can look it up. I’m sure people are Googling it right now. Look it up. “Trump Polish workers,” you’ll see a million dollars for hiring illegal workers on one of his projects. He did it. [applause] That happened.

TRUMP: I’ve hired tens of thousands of people over my lifetime. Tens of thousands…

RUBIO: Many from other countries instead of hiring Americans.

TRUMP: Be quiet. Just be quiet. [applause] Let me talk. I’ve hired tens of thousands of people. He brings up something from 30 years ago, it worked out very well. Everybody was happy.

RUBIO: You paid a million dollars.

TRUMP: And by the way, the laws were totally different. That was a whole different world.

BLITZER: Thank you.

TRUMP: But I’ve hired people. Nobody up here has hired anybody. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Cruz, you say you want to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but you never want to allow them to come back to the United States. What would happen to the children who are U.S.- born citizens whose parent will be deported under your plan?

CRUZ: Well, existing law provides that those who are deported cannot come back here legally. U.S. citizens can come back. That’s existing law.

But let me say, Wolf, I really find it amazing that Donald believes that he is the one who discovered the issue of illegal immigration. I can tell you, when I ran for Senate here in the state of Texas, I ran promising to lead the fight against amnesty, promising to fight to build a wall. And in 2013, when I was fight against the “gang of eight” amnesty bill, where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on “Celebrity Apprentice.” [laughter]

And indeed, if you look at the “gang of eight,” one individual on this stage broke his promise to the men and women who elected him and wrote the amnesty bill.

If you look at the eight members of the Gang of Eight, Donald gave over $50,000 to three Democrats and two Republicans. And when you’re funding open border politicians, you shouldn’t be surprised when they fight for open borders.

And I think if you want to know who actually will secure the borders and follow through, you ought to ask who has a record before they were a candidate for president of fighting to secure the borders and stop amnesty. And I’m the only one on this stage that has that record. And by the way, Marco is exactly right that a federal court found Donald guilty of being part of a conspiracy to hire people illegally and entered a $1 million judgment against him. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: I can only say this, and I’ve said it loud and clear and I’ve said it for years. And many of these people are sitting right in the audience right now — your lobbyist and your special interest and your donors, because the audience is packed with them, and they’re packed with you.

I’ve had an amazing relationship with politicians — with politicians both Democrat, Republican, because I was a businessman. As one magazine said, he’s a world-class businessman; he was friendly with everybody. I got along with everybody.

You get along with nobody. You don’t have one Republican — you don’t have one Republican senator, and you work with them every day of your life, although you skipped a lot of time. These are minor details. But you don’t have one Republican senator backing you; not one. You don’t have the endorsement of one Republican senator and you work with these people. You should be ashamed of yourself. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: You know, I actually think Donald is right. He is promising if he’s elected he will go and cut deals in Washington. And he’s right. He has supported — he has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats. Anyone who really cared about illegal immigration wouldn’t be hiring illegal immigrants. Anyone who really cared about illegal immigration wouldn’t be funding Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi; wouldn’t be funding the Gang of Eight. And, you know, he is right. When you stand up to Washington, when you honor the promise you made to the men and women who elected you and say enough with the corruption, enough with the cronyism, let’s actually stand for the working men and women of this country, Washington doesn’t like it.

And Donald, if you want to be liked in Washington, that’s not a good attribute for a president. [applause]

[crosstalk]

TRUMP: Here’s a man — Robin Hood. This is Robin Hood over here. He talks about corruption. On his financial disclosure form, he didn’t even put that he’s borrowed money from Citibank and from Goldman Sachs, which is a total violation. He didn’t talk about the fact that he pays almost no interest. He just left it off, and now he’s going to protect the people from the big bad banks.

Give me a break.

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to move on to Governor Kasich.

Governor Kasich…

[crosstalk]

CRUZ: Wolf, can I respond to that attack?

BLITZER: You can respond, but let me get Governor Kasich in. He’s been waiting patiently.

Governor Kasich, the idea — you’ve said this, and I want to quote you now: “The idea that we’re going to deport all these people is ludicrous and everybody knows it.” Those are your words. Should people be allowed to break the law just because it’s not feasible to stop them?

KASICH: Look, we have a great president here, George Bush, the 41st president of the United States. He worked with Ronald Reagan to pass an effort to try to solve this problem — a path to legalization. You see, that was a time when things worked. It was a time when President Reagan and George Bush decided that we needed to make the country work.

Look, I think there is an answer here. The answer is you complete the border. You let people know that once it’s done, you don’t have a right to come in. If you come in, we don’t want any excuse. You’re going to go back. But I favor a guest worker program. I think it’s practical. And I think for the 11 million or 11.5 million Americans — the illegals that are here, if they have not committed a crime since they’ve been here, I’d make them pay a fine, some back taxes, maybe some community service. And at the end, I’d give them a path to legalization, but not a path to citizenship. I don’t think we’re going to tear families apart. I don’t think we’re going to ride around in people’s neighborhoods and grab people out of their homes. I don’t think — first of all, I don’t think it’s practical and I don’t think it reflects America.

You know what happened? The problem with President Reagan is we didn’t get in there and actually finish the border. And I think it was probably business interests that affected it. But at the end of the day, let’s be practical. Let’s start solving problems in this country instead of kicking them upstairs. With President Reagan and George Bush, it was a bipartisan coalition to address the issue, and I think we can and should do it again. And I will have a plan in the first 100 days to get it done and get this issue behind us. [applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. [applause]

Dr. Carson, you’ve been critical of mass deportation. You said back in November you don’t think Mr. Trump’s plan necessarily represents the Republican Party. Given how well Mr. Trump has been doing with the Republican primary voters, do you still believe that?

CARSON: I believe in liberty and justice for all. I think everything that we do should be fair. And I’ve already described — you know, how we can secure the border.

We need to secure all the borders, because it’s not just people coming in from South America and Mexico, but there are terrorists who want to destroy us, who are getting across our borders fairly easily. And we have to stop that.

But in terms of the people who are here already, after we — after we stop the illegal immigration, we need to be reasonable. And I would give them a six-month period in which to get registered as a guest worker, assuming that they have an acceptable record.

They have to pay a back-tax penalty, have to pay taxes going forward, but they don’t have to live underground anymore. And I think they do not become American citizens, they do not vote.

If they want to become an American citizen, they go through exactly the same process that anybody else goes through. I think that’s the kind of situation that is actually fair to people.

And we have other ways of — of utilizing our facilities and our talents as foreign aid: doing things in South America and Central America and Mexico that improve the economy there, so that they don’t feel the need to come over here. That would cost us a lot less than borrowing money from China, paying interest on it.

BLITZER: Thank you, Dr. Carson. [applause]

Mr. Trump, your campaign, as you well remember, began with the idea of building a wall along the southern border.

TRUMP: [inaudible].

BLITZER: It’s about 315 miles southwest of where we are right now. You’ve said the Mexican government will pay for it.

TRUMP: Correct.

BLITZER: The spokesperson for the current president of Mexico says that will never happen. The last two presidents of Mexico say that will never happen. In fact, the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox — he said today, and I’m quoting him — he said, “I’m not going to pay for that,” quote, “effing wall.” [laughter]

So if you don’t get an actual check from the Mexican government for $8 billion or $10 billion or $12 billion, whatever it will cost, how are you going to make them pay for the wall?

TRUMP: I will, and the wall just got 10 feet taller, believe me. [applause]

It just got 10 feet taller. I saw him make that — I saw him make the statement. I saw him use the word that he used. I can only tell you, if I would have used even half of that word, it would have been national scandal.

This guy used a filthy, disgusting word on television, and he should be ashamed of himself, and he should apologize, OK? Number one. Number two, we have a trade deficit with Mexico of $58 billion a year. And that doesn’t include all the drugs that are pouring across and destroying our country.

We’re going to make them pay for that wall. Now, the wall is $10 billion to $12 billion, if I do it. If these guys do it, it’ll end up costing $200 billion. [applause]

But the wall is $10 billion to $12 billion. You need 1,000 — you need 1,000 miles. The Great Wall of China, built 2,000 years ago — 2,000, is 13,000 miles. We need 1,000, because we have a lot of natural barriers.

We can do it for $10 billion to $12 billion, and it’s a real wall. This is a wall that’s a heck of a lot higher than the ceiling you’re looking at. This is a wall that’s going to work.

Mexico will pay for it, because they are not doing us any favors. They could stop all of this illegal trade if they wanted to…[bell ringing]… immediately. Mexico will pay for the wall. It’s a small portion of the kind of money that we lose and the deficits that we have with Mexico. [applause]

BLITZER: If the — if the Mexicans don’t pay for the wall, will you start a trade war with Mexico?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I don’t mind trade wars when we’re losing $58 billion a year, you want to know the truth. We’re losing so much. [applause]

We’re losing so much with Mexico and China — with China, we’re losing $500 billion a year. And then people say, “don’t we want to trade?” I don’t mind trading, but I don’t want to lose $500 billion. I don’t want to lose $58 billion.

Mexico just took Carrier Corporation, maker of air conditioners. They just took Ford. They’re building a $2.5 billion plant. They just took Nabisco out of Chicago.

And I always say I’m not having Oreos anymore, which is true, by the way. But they just took a big plant from Nabisco into Mexico. They’re taking our businesses. I don’t mind.

BLITZER: Thank you. Senator Rubio? [applause]

RUBIO: Yeah, a couple points. If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers, he’ll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it. The second…[applause]

TRUMP: Such a cute sound bite.

RUBIO: But it — no, it’s not a sound bite. It’s a fact. Again, go online and Google it. Donald Trump, Polish workers. You’ll see it.

The second thing, about the trade war — I don’t understand, because your ties and the clothes you make is made in Mexico and in China. So you’re gonna be starting a trade war against your own ties and your own suits.

TRUMP: All right, you know what?

RUBIO: Why don’t you make them in America?

TRUMP: Because they devalue their currency — they devalue their currencies…

RUBIO: Well, then make them in America.

TRUMP: … that makes it — well, you don’t know a thing about business. You lose on everything…

RUBIO: Well, make them in America.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you — they de-value their currency. They de-value their currencies.

RUBIO: Well then, make them in America.

TRUMP: That makes it — well, you don’t know a thing about business. You lose on everything you do.

RUBIO: Well, make them in America.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, they de-value their currencies. China, Mexico, everybody. Japan with the cars. They de-value their currencies to such an extent that our businesses cannot compete with them, our workers lose their jobs…

RUBIO: And so you make them in China and in Russia.

TRUMP: But you wouldn’t know anything about it because you’re a lousy businessman.

RUBIO: Well, I don’t know anything about bankrupting four companies. You’ve bankrupted..

TRUMP: No, I — and you know why? You know why? [applause]

RUBIO: I don’t know anything about…

TRUMP: You know why?

RUBIO: … starting a university, and that was a fake university.

BLITZER: One at a time.

TRUMP: First of all…

BLITZER: One at a time.

TRUMP: … first of all, that’s called a…

RUBIO: There are people who borrowed $36,000…

BLITZER: Hold on. One at a time, Mr. Trump.

RUBIO: … to go to Trump University, and they’re suing now — $36,000 to go to a university…

TRUMP: And by the way — and by the way…

RUBIO: … that’s a fake school.

TRUMP: … and by the way…

RUBIO: And you know what they got? They got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump…

TRUMP: … I’ve won most of the lawsuits.

RUBIO: That’s what they got for $36,000.

BLITZER: All right, I want to move on.

TRUMP: And they actually did a very good job, but I’ve won most of the lawsuits.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, Senator, I want to bring in…

RUBIO: Most of the lawsuits.

BLITZER: … I want to bring in my colleague Maria Celeste.

TRUMP: Excuse me. Hey Wolf, let me ask you. Am I allowed to respond to this?

BLITZER: You’re allowed — you’ve been responding.

TRUMP: OK. Well let — no, I haven’t. I really haven’t. [laughter]

RUBIO: He’s talked through the whole thing. [applause]

TRUMP: Here’s a guy — here’s a guy that buys a house for $179,000, he sells it to a lobbyist who’s probably here for $380,000 and then legislation is passed. You tell me about this guy. This is what we’re going to have as president.

RUBIO: Here’s a guy that inherited $200 million. If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now?

TRUMP: No, no, no.

RUBIO: Selling watches in Manhattan. [applause]

TRUMP: [inaudible] I took…

RUBIO: That’s where he would be.

TRUMP: That is so wrong. We’ll work on that. I took $1 million and I turned into $10 billion.

RUBIO: Oh, OK. One million.

TRUMP: I borrowed $1 million…

RUBIO: Better release your tax returns so we can see how much money he made.

TRUMP: I borrowed $1 million, I turned it into $10 billion…

RUBIO: Oh, he doesn’t make that money.

TRUMP: … more than $10 billion.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you. I want to bring in Maria Celeste Arrarás of Telemundo. Maria?

ARRARÁS: Senator Rubio, last week, you said that on your first day in office, you will get rid of President Obama’s executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA for short.

RUBIO: Correct.

ARRARÁS: It is a program that has protected hundreds of thousands of young people that came here when they were children, brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrants. This is the only home they know, and that is a dramatic change from last April when you said in Spanish, and I’m going to quote you [in Spanish] which translates to DACA is going to have to end at some point, but it wouldn’t be fair to cancel it immediately.

So Senator Rubio, what changed?

RUBIO: It didn’t change.

ARRARÁS: Why is it now fair to cancel it on Day One?

RUBIO: No, it’s the same policy. It will have to end at some moment, and as I said, we will — we will eliminate that executive order. The people that are on it now will not be allowed to renew it, and new applicants will not be allowed to apply to it. And it’s not because we’re not compassionate to the plight of a 2 — someone who came here when they were 2 years old. I understand. I know people that are personally impacted by this.

The problem with the executive order is it is unconstitutional. The president doesn’t have the power to do that. [applause]

And he himself admitted that.

ARRARÁS: Senator, Senator…

RUBIO: I’m sorry, but let me finish my…

ARRARÁS: … but you went — you went from saying that it was deeply disruptive to deport them immediately to deport them on Day One.

RUBIO: No, but this is not about deportation. Everybody always goes immediately to the issue of deportation. This is about DACA. DACA is an executive order that is unconstitutional. I will cancel it on my first day in office, which means people who currently hold those permits will not be allowed to renew them when they expire, and new people will not be allowed to apply for them.

Now, I am sympathetic to the plight of someone who came here when they were 2 or 3 years old through no fault of their own, but you can’t solve it doing something that is unconstitutional. No matter how sympathetic we may be to a cause, we cannot violate the Constitution of the United States the way this president now does on a regular basis. [applause]

ARRARÁS: Senator Rubio, you accused Senator Cruz in a previous debate of lying when he said that you said one thing in Spanish and another one in English. So in what sense did he lie?

RUBIO: Because it is not true that I’m not going to get rid of DACA. I am going to get rid of DACA. In the Spanish interview, you just read out the transcript in Spanish, I said, it will have to end at some point. That point will be when I eliminate the executive order and the people who have those permits when they expire will not be allowed to renew it. And new people will not be able to apply. In fact, I don’t even think we should be taking new enrollees in the program now.

That is how the program ends and how you wind it down is you allow the people who are on it, when the program expires, they cannot renew it, and it goes away. But I will cancel the executive order as soon as I take — as soon as I step foot into the Oval Office.

TRUMP: I have to say, he lied this time. He lied. 100 percent. 100 percent.

RUBIO: You lied about the Polish workers.

TRUMP: Yes, yes, yes. 38 years ago.

RUBIO: You lied to the students at Trump University.

ARRARÁS: Let Senator Cruz jump in.

RUBIO: Oh, he lied 38 years ago. All right, I guess there’s a statute of limitation on lies. [laughter and applause]

CRUZ: Well Maria, I would note you made the exact same point here that I made at the last debate, and you’re right that Senator Rubio called me a liar for saying that.

You know, we’ve both seen at home when Washington politicians say about an illegal, or unconstitutional program. Well, it’ll have to end some day, not immediately, but someday in the future.

That, inevitably, is when a politician doesn’t plan to end it at all.

You know, I’m reminded of that that is the same position that Marco took in Iowa on ethanol subsidies. When I campaigned in Iowa, I took on the lobbyists, took on the corporate welfare and said we should have no ethanol subsidies.

Marco’s position was the same as it is to illegal amnesty. Well, someday it should end, just not now. And, frankly, I think we need a president who knows what he believes in, is willing to say it on day one, not at the end of his term when it’s somebody else’s problem.

RUBIO: That’s not an accurate assessment of what I said about ethanol. What I said is that ethanol will phase out, it is phasing out now. By 2022 that program expires by virtue of the existing law, and at that point it will go away. I don’t agree with the mandate and the program that’s in place, but I think it’s unfair that these people have gone out and invested all this money into this program and we’re just going to yank it away from them.

And, again, you read the statement in Spanish. I said very clearly on Spanish television, DACA will have to end at some point, and that point is — at that time I was not a candidate for president. I said it will end in my first day in office as president, and the people who have it now will not be able to renew it. New applicants will not be able to apply. That is the end of DACA.

I am sympathetic to this cause, but once again, it cannot supersede the Constitution of the United States which this president habitually and routinely every single day ignores and violates. [cheering and applause]

ARRARÁS: Senator Cruz, you and Senator Rubio are the two candidates of hispanic descent on this stage. As a matter of fact, you are the first hispanic candidate ever to win a caucus or primary. [applause]

And yet, there is the perception in the Latino community that instead of trying to prove to Latinos who has the best plan, the best platform to help them, that you two are spending the time arguing with each other. Trying to figure out which one is tougher on immigration in order to appeal to the majority of Republicans.

So, my question to you is are you missing a huge opportunity to expand the Republican base?

CRUZ: Well, Maria, you are right. It is extraordinary that of five people standing on this stage that two of us are the children of Cuban immigrants. It really is the embodiment of the incredible opportunity and promise this nation provides.

You know, I would note that a lot of folks in the media have a definition of hispanics that you can only be hispanic if you’re liberal. That makes sense in the media, but I gotta tell you, one of the things I was most proud of when I ran for Senate here in Texas, I earned 40 percent of the hispanic vote here in Texas.

At the same time, Mitt Romney was getting clobbered with 27 percent of the hispanic vote nationwide. And, the reason is, as you know, you look at the value sin the hispanic community. The values in our community are faith, family, patriotism.

You know, we’ve got the highest rate of military enlistment among hispanics in any demographic in this country. And, when I campaigned, and I campaigned the same here in Houston or Dallas as I did in the Rio Grande Valley, defending conservative principles, defending judeo- Christian principals, telling my father’s story.

Telling my Dad’s story of coming to America with $100 dollars in his underwear, not speaking English, washing dishes, having hopes and dreams for the American dream. And, the truth is the Obama-Clinton economy has done enormous damage to the hispanic community. It is not working in the hispanic community, and I…[bell ringing]…fighting so that everyone who is struggling in the hispanic community and beyond will have a fair and even shake at the American dream.

RUBIO: I’m sorry I was mentioned…

ARRARÁS: … Governor Kasich.

RUBIO: Maria I was mentioned in that. I was mentioned in that statement.

ARRARÁS: Governor Kasich, after the…

RUBIO: … OK. I was mentioned — just because of the hispanic — and I’ll be brief.

A couple points, number one, I do think it’s amazing that on this stage tonight there are two descendants of Cuban origin, and an African American. We are the party of diversity, not the Democratic party. [cheering and applause]

And, the second point I would make is that we have to move past this idea that somehow the hispanic community only cares about immigration.

Yes, it’s an important issue because we know and love people that have been impacted by it. But, I’m going to tell you that the most powerful sentiment in the hispanic community, as it is in every immigrant community, is the burning desire to leave your children better off than yourself…[bell ringing]…and, you can only do that through free enterprise. That’s what we stand for, not socialism like Bernie Sanders, and increasingly Hillary Clinton. [applause]

ARRARÁS: Governor Kasich, after the last presidential election the Republican party realized that in order to win the presidency it needed the support of latinos. Guidelines as to how to accomplish that were spelled out in an autopsy report that concluded, and I’m going to quote it, “if hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States they won’t pay attention to our next sentence.”

So, do you think that your fellow Republican candidates get it?

KASICH: Well, I’m not going to talk about that. I mean, I’ve got to tell you, I was with this little 12-year-old girl, was at a town hall meeting, and she said, you know, I don’t like all this yelling and screaming at the debates. My mother’s thinking I might not be able to watch the thing anymore.

I think we ought to move beyond that, about what they think. I’m going to tell you what I think. My position on this whole immigration issue has been clear from the beginning. I haven’t changed anything with it.

And, look, my view is, we need economic growth. Everything starts with economic growth. And how do you get it? Common sense regulations, lower taxes for both business and individuals, and, of course, a fiscal plan that balances the budget.

That gives you economic growth. I did it when I was in Washington, as the Budget Committee chairman, negotiating actually with Democrats, that gave us surpluses, economic growth, and the same thing in Ohio.

But here’s the thing that I believe. Economic growth is not an end unto itself. We have to make sure that everybody has a sense that they can rise.

Of course, our friends in the Hispanic community, our friends in the African-American community, the promise of America is that our system, when we follow the right formula, is going to give opportunity for everyone.

It’s what Jack Kemp used to say. A rising tide lifts all boats, not just some boats, but all boats. And you know what? With me and the Hispanic community, I think they like me. And I appreciate that, because I want them to have the same opportunity that I and my children and my wife and the people we love have had in this country.

It’s time to solve problems. [applause]

ARRARÁS: Dr. Carson, concerning this recommendation of the report, are you, as a candidate, getting it?

CARSON: I didn’t hear the first part of the question?

ARRARÁS: The first part of the question is, there was a report that recommended that in order to approach Hispanics and bring them to vote for the Republican Party, certain things needed to happen.

And one of them was that they shouldn’t feel like they were going to get kicked out of the United States, otherwise they wouldn’t pay attention to one more sentence from candidates.

CARSON: OK, well, first of all, let me just mention that last year at the NALEO, the National Association for Latino Elected Officials, I was the only one of 17 Republican candidates to go there.

And the reason that I don’t fear going to an organization like that is because the message that I give is the same message to every group. You know, this is America. And we need to have policies that are — that give liberty and justice to all people.

And that’s the way that I have fashioned virtually every policy, looking at that. And I think that’s the way the Republican Party generally thinks. We don’t pick and choose winners and losers. We are compassionate.

But real compassion is providing people with a ladder of opportunity to climb up from a state of dependence and become part of the fabric of America. When we begin to emphasize that, I think we will attract everybody. [applause]

ARRARÁS: Mr. Trump, it is common knowledge that the Hispanic vote is very important in this race. You keep saying that Hispanics love you.

TRUMP: True. [laughter]

ARRARÁS: And, yes, you won the Hispanic vote in Nevada.

TRUMP: True.

ARRARÁS: But a brand new Telemundo poll says that three out of four Hispanics that vote nationwide have a negative opinion of you. They don’t like you. Wouldn’t that make you an unelectable…

TRUMP: No.

ARRARÁS: … candidate in a general election?

TRUMP: First of all, I don’t believe anything Telemundo says.

ARRARÁS: You used to say that you love…[laughter]

TRUMP: Number one. Number two, I currently employ thousands of Hispanics, and over the years, I’ve employed tens of thousands of Hispanics. They’re incredible people. They know, and the reason I won in Nevada, not only won the big one, but I also won subs, like, as an example, I won with women.

I won with every single category. I won with men, I won with high-income, low-income, I won with Hispanics. And I got 46 percent. Nobody else was close. Because they know I’m going to bring jobs back from China, from Japan, from so many other places.

They get it. They’re incredible people. They’re incredible workers. They get it. And I’ve won many of the polls with Hispanics. I didn’t maybe win the Telemundo poll.

But one thing I’m also going to do, I’m going to be getting — bringing a lot of people in who are Democrats, who are independents, and you’re seeing that with the polls, because if you look at anywhere, look at any of the elections, every single election, it has been record-setting.

And the good news is, for the Republican Party, the Democrats are getting very poor numbers in terms of bringing them in. We’re getting record-setting numbers. I think I have something to do with that.

We’re getting record-setting numbers. And I won every one — the three of them that I won, I won with record-setting numbers.

TRUMP: New people are coming into the Republican Party. We are building a new Republican Party, a lot of new people are coming in. [applause]

ARRARÁS: For the record, you have said publicly that you loved Telemundo in the past. But it is not just a Telemundo poll. We have…

TRUMP: I love them. I love them. [applause]

ARRARÁS: All right. Well, it’s not the only poll.

TRUMP: They’re fine. Do you know what? They’re fine.

ARRARÁS: Just last night — let me — let me finish, please.

Just last night, The Washington Post showed that 80 percent of Hispanic voters in their polls have a negative view of you. And concerning the Nevada victory, allow me to explain that the poll in Nevada was based on a tiny sample, statistically insignificant of only about 100 — let me finish please — of 100 Hispanic Republicans in the state of Nevada.

TRUMP: Why did they take the poll? Why did they…[crosstalk]

ARRARÁS: I am making reference — I am making reference to Hispanic voters nationwide in a general election.

TRUMP: I’m just telling you, I’m doing very well with Hispanics. And by the way, I settled my suit, as you know, with Univision. It was settled. We’re good friends now. It was all settled up. [laughter]

Very happy, very happy. Very good people.

I’m just telling you — I’m just telling you that I will do really well with Hispanics. I will do better than anybody on this stage. I have respect for the people on the stage, but I will do very well with Hispanics. But I’m telling you also, I’m bringing people, Democrats over and I’m bringing independents over, and we’re building a much bigger, much stronger Republican Party.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, thank you.

I want to turn our attention now to another critically important issue for the American people, the United States Supreme Court, where filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia has become a major campaign issue. I want to bring in Salem Radio Network host, Hugh Hewitt.

Hugh?

HEWITT: Thank you, Wolf.

To me, it’s the most important issue. I’ll start with you, Senator Cruz. Do you trust Mr. Trump to nominate conservative justices?

CRUZ: Well, Hugh, I agree with you that it — Justice Scalia’s passing underscores the enormous gravity of this election. Justice Scalia was someone I knew personally for 20 years; was privileged to be at his funeral this weekend. And with his passing, the court is now hanging in the balance. We are one liberal justice away from a five-justice radical leftist majority that would undermine our religious liberty; that would undermine the right to life; and that would fundamentally erase the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms from the Constitution.

Now, I think the voters of Texas, the voters across Super Tuesday are assessing everyone standing on this — this stage. In the past, Republican presidents always promise to nominate strict constitutionalists. So I’m certain if you took a survey, everyone would say they would do that.

But the reality is, Democrats bat about 1,000. Just about everyone they put on the court votes exactly as they want. Republicans have batted worse than 500, more than half of the people we put on the court have been a disaster.

I’ve spent my whole life fighting to defend the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. I can tell you, for voters that care about life or marriage or religious liberty or the Second Amendment, they’re asking the question: Who do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who do you know will nominate principled constitutionalists to the court? I give you my word, every justice I nominate will vigorously defend the Bill of Rights for my children and for yours. [applause]

HEWITT: Mr. Trump, Senator Cruz mentioned the issue that keeps me up at night, which is religious liberty. Churches, Catholic and Christian colleges, Catholic adoption agencies — all sorts of religious institutions fear that Hobby Lobby, if it’s repealed, it was a five-four decision, they’re going to have to bend their knee and provide morning-after pills. They fear that if Bob Jones is expanded, they will lose their tax exemption.

Will you commit to voters tonight that religious liberty will be an absolute litmus test for anyone you appoint, not just to the Supreme Court, but to all courts?

TRUMP: Yes, I would. And I’ve been there. And I’ve been there very strongly. I do have to say something, and this is interesting and it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not Ted’s fault. Justice Roberts was strongly recommended and pushed by Ted. Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Roberts-care. Two times of the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts approved something that he should have never raised his hand to approve. And we ended up with Obamacare.

That is a rough thing. And I know Ted feels badly about it. And I think he probably still respects the judge. But that judge has been a disaster in terms of everything we stand for because there is no way — no way that he should have approved Obamacare.

Now, with that being said, these are the things that happen. But Ted very, very strongly pushed Judge Roberts, and Justice Roberts gave us something that we don’t want.

HEWITT: Ted Cruz, Senator, the chief justice got Hobby Lobby right, but what do you make of Mr. Cruz’s criticism?

CRUZ: Well, listen — Donald knows that it was George W. Bush who appointed John Roberts. Yes, it’s true, I supported the Republican nominee once he was made.

But I would not have nominated John Roberts. I would have nominated my former boss, Mike Luttig, who was the strongest proven conservative on the court of appeals. And I’ll tell you, Hugh…[applause]…you know, it’s interesting now that Donald promises that he will appoint justices who — who will defend religious liberty, but this is a man who, for 40 years, has given money to Jimmy Carter, to Joe Biden, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid.

Nobody who supports far-left liberal Democrats who are fighting for judicial activists can possibly care about having principled constitutionalists on the court.

And what Donald has told us is he will go to Washington…[bell ringing]…and cut a deal.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump…

CRUZ: So that means on Supreme Court…

HEWITT: … can I…

CRUZ: … he’s going to look to cut a deal, rather than fight for someone who won’t cut a deal on the Constitution, but will defend it faithfully. [applause]

HEWITT: Can I trust you on religious liberty?

TRUMP: Well, let — let me — let me just say — let me just say this. Look, I watched Ted — and I respected it, but he gets nowhere — stand on the Senate floor for a day or two days, and talk and talk and talk.

I watched the other senators laughing and smiling. And when Ted was totally exhausted, he left the Senate floor, and they went back to work. OK? We have to have somebody that’s going to make deals.

It’s wonderful to stand up for two days and do that. Now, Ted’s been very critical — I have a sister who’s a brilliant…

HEWITT: Mr. Cruz, will you make a deal about religious liberty?

TRUMP: … excuse me. She’s a brilliant judge. He’s been criticizing — he’s been criticizing my sister for signing a certain bill. You know who else signed that bill? Justice Samuel Alito, a very conservative member of the Supreme Court, with my sister, signed that bill.

So I think that maybe we should get a little bit of an apology from Ted. What do you think?

HEWITT: Let me — Senator.

CRUZ: Let me tell you right now, Donald, I will not apologize for a minute for defending the Constitution. I will not apologize for defending the Bill of Rights. [applause]

And I find it amazing that your answer to Hugh and to the American people is, on religious liberty, you can’t have one of the these crazy zealots that actually believes in it. You’ve got to be willing to cut a deal.

And you know, there is a reason why, when Harry Reid was asked, of all the people on this stage, who does he want the most, who does he like the most, Harry Reid said Donald — Donald Trump.

Why? Because Donald has supported him in the past, and he knows he can cut a deal with him. [bell ringing]

You know what, Donald…[crosstalk]

HEWITT: Senator Rubio.

CRUZ: … I don’t want a Supreme Court justice that you cut a deal with Harry Reid to undermine religious liberty, because that same justice will also erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights. [applause]

TRUMP: When you say crazy zealot, are you talking about you? Crazy zealot — give me a break.

HEWITT: Senator Rubio, you’ve heard this exchange on religious liberty. You have said that religious liberty will trump even the ability of people to stay away from same-sex marriages, not provide flowers, not provide baked goods, et cetera. Are you satisfied with this exchange on religious liberty?

RUBIO: Well, I think you ask a very important question, because the issue here — the next president of the United States has to fill this vacancy.

Justice Scalia — in the history of the republic, there has never been anyone better than him at standing for the principle that the Constitution is not a living and breathing document — it is supposed to be applied as originally meant.

And the next president of the United States has to be someone that you can trust and believe in to appoint someone just as good as Scalia — plus there may be at least two other vacancies.

So you ask Mr. Trump to respond and say that he would, and he says that he would. But the bottom line is, if you look at his record over the last 25 or 30 years, on issue after issue, he has not been on our side.

Now, if he’s changed, we’re always looking for converts into the conservative movement. But the bottom line is that, if you don’t have a record there to look at and say, “I feel at peace that when Donald Trump is president of the United States, he’s going to be firmly on our side on these issues.”

In fact, very recently, he was still defending Planned Parenthood. He says he’s not going to take sides in the Palestinians versus Israel. These are concerning things.

And so, yes, I have a doubt about whether Donald Trump, if he becomes president, will replace Justice Scalia with someone just like Justice Scalia.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump? [applause]

TRUMP: Well, let — let me just say — let me just say, first of all, I have great respect for Justice Scalia. I thought he was terrific. And if you talk about evolving, Ronald Reagan was a somewhat liberal Democrat. Ronald Reagan evolved into a somewhat strong conservative — more importantly, he was a great president. A great president.

As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.

So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn’t fund it.

I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood. [applause]

HEWITT: Governor Kasich, back to religious liberty. You’ve been a little bit less emphatic. You’ve said, same-sex couple approaches a cupcake maker, sell them a cupcake. Can we trust you as much on religious liberty as the rest of these people?

KASICH: Well, you know, , of course. I mean, if — look, I was involved in just being a pioneer in a new church. Religious institutions should be able to practice the religion that they believe in. No question and no doubt about it.

Now, in regard to same-sex marriage, I don’t favor it. I’ve always favored traditional marriage, but, look, the court has ruled and I’ve moved on. And what I’ve said, Hugh, is that, look, where does it end?

If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with, OK, today I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced.

I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave and hope they change their behavior.

But when it comes to the religious institutions, they are in inviolate in my mind, and I would fight for those religious institutions. And look, I’ve appointed over a hundred judges as governor. I even appointed adjudge to the Ohio Supreme Court.

And you know what they are? They’re conservatives. Go check it out. They are conservatives. They don’t make the law. They interpret the law. That’s all they do. And they stick by the Constitution. So I will do that.

But let’s just not get so narrow here as to gotcha this or that. I think my position is clear.

HEWITT: Dr. Carson, let me wrap it up with you. Are their positions clear? [applause]

Are the positions you’ve heard clear about the First Amendment and the first freedom?

CARSON: Well, first of all, let me just add my praise to Justice Scalia. I first met him when we got an honorary degree together a long time ago. A tremendous wit and intellect.

As far as religious freedom is concerned, one of the basic tenets of this nation, and I believe that the Constitution protects all of our rights. And it gives people who believe in same-sex marriage the same rights as everybody else.

But what we have to remember is even though everybody has the same rights, nobody get extra rights. So nobody gets to redefine things for everybody else and then have them have to conform to it. That’s unfair.

And this is the responsibility of Congress to come back and correct what the Supreme Court has done. That’s why we have divided government. And we’re going to have to encourage them to act in an appropriate way, or we will lose our religious freedom.

And as president, I would go through and I would look at what a person’s life has been. What have they done in the past? What kind of judgments have they made? What kind of associations do they have? That will tell you a lot more than an interview will tell you.

The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at.

BLITZER: Thank you, Dr. Carson. [applause]

All of you want to repeal and replace Obamacare, so let’s talk about your plans, specific plans to replace it. I want to bring in our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

BASH: Senator Rubio, you said yesterday, right here in Houston, that Mr. Trump thinks part of Obamacare is pretty good. So, he says he is going to repeal Obamacare. Are you saying that you’re worried he won’t?

RUBIO: The individual mandate. He said he likes the individual mandate portion of it, which I don’t believe that should be part of it. That should not remain there. I think here’s what we need to replace it with.

We need to repeal Obamacare completely and replace it with a system that puts Americans in charge of their health care money again. If your employer wants to buy health insurance for you, they can continue to do so from any company in America they want to buy it from.

Otherwise, your employers can provide you health care money, tax- free, not treated as income, and you can use that money only for health care, but you can use it to fund health care any way you want, fully fund a health savings account, the combination of a health savings account or a private plan from any company in any state in the country.

And if you don’t have that, then you will have a refundable tax credit that provides you health care money to buy your own health care coverage. And that, I think, is a much better approach than Obamacare, which, by the way, isn’t just bad for health care, it’s bad for our economy. It is a health care law that is basically forcing companies to lay people off, cut people’s hours, move people to part-time. It is not just a bad health care law, it is a job-killing law. And I will repeal it as president and we will replace it with something substantially better for all Americans. [applause]

BASH: Mr. Trump, Senator Rubio just said that you support the individual mandate. Would you respond?

TRUMP: I just want to say, I agree with that 100 percent, except pre-existing conditions, I would absolutely get rid of Obamacare. We’re going to have something much better, but pre-existing conditions, when I’m referring to that, and I was referring to that very strongly on the show with Anderson Cooper, I want to keep pre- existing conditions.

I think we need it. I think it’s a modern age. And I think we have to have it. [applause]

BASH: OK, so let’s talk about pre-existing conditions. What the insurance companies say is that the only way that they can cover people is to have a mandate requiring everybody purchase health insurance. Are they wrong?

TRUMP: I think they’re wrong 100 percent. What we need — look, the insurance companies take care of the politicians. The insurance companies get what they want. We should have gotten rid of the lines around each state so we can have real competition.

We thought that was gone, we thought those lines were going to be gone, so something happened at the last moment where Obamacare got approved, and all of that was thrown out the window.

The reason is some of the people in the audience are insurance people, and insurance lobbyists, and special interests. They got — I’m not going to point to these gentlemen, of course, they’re part of the problem, other than Ben, in all fairness.

And, actually, the Governor too, let’s just talk about these too, OK? [laughter]

Because I don’t think the Governor had too much to do with this.

But, we should have gotten rid of the borders, we should have gotten rid of the lines around the state so there’s great competition. The insurance companies are making a fortune on every single thing they do.

I’m self-funding my campaign. I’m the only one in either party self-funding my campaign. I’m going to do what’s right. We have to get rid of the lines around the states so that there’s serious, serious competition.

BASH: But, Mr. Trump…

TRUMP: … And, you’re going to see — excuse me. You’re going to see preexisting conditions and everything else be part of it, but the price will be done, and the insurance companies can pay. Right now they’re making a fortune. [applause]

BASH: But, just to be specific here, what you’re saying is getting rid of the barriers between states, that is going to solve the problem…

TRUMP: That’s going to solve the problem. And, the insurance companies aren’t going to say that, they want to keep it. They want to say — they say whatever they have to say to keep it the way it is. I know the insurance companies, they’re friends of mine. The top guys, they’re friends of mine. I shouldn’t tell you guys, you’ll say it’s terrible, I have a conflict of interest. They’re friends of mine, there’s some right in the audience. One of them was just waving to me, he was laughing and smiling. He’s not laughing so much anymore.

Hi. [applause]

Look, the insurance companies are making an absolute fortune. Yes, they will keep preexisting conditions, and that would be a great thing. Get rid of Obamacare, we’ll come up with new plans. But, we should keep preexisting conditions.

RUBIO: Dana, I was mentioned in his response, so if I may about the insurance companies…

BASH: … Go ahead.

RUBIO: You may not be aware of this, Donald, because you don’t follow this stuff very closely, but here’s what happened. When they passed Obamacare they put a bailout fund in Obamacare. All these lobbyists you keep talking about, they put a bailout fund in the law that would allow public money to be used, taxpayer money, to bail out companies when they lost money.

And, we led the effort and wiped out that bailout fund. The insurance companies are not in favor of me, they hate that. They’re suing that now to get that bailout money put back in.

Here’s what you didn’t hear in that answer, and this is important guys, this is an important thing. What is your plan? I understand the lines around the state, whatever that means. This is not a game where you draw maps…

TRUMP: … And, you don’t know what it means…

RUBIO: … What is your plan, Mr. Trump? [applause] What is your plan on healthcare?

TRUMP: You don’t know.

BASH: [inaudible]

TRUMP: … The biggest problem…[crosstalk]

RUBIO: … What’s your plan…

TRUMP: … The biggest problem, I’ll have you know…

RUBIO: … What’s your plan…

TRUMP: … You know, I watched him meltdown two weeks ago with Chris Christie. I got to tell you, the biggest problem he’s got is he really doesn’t know about the lines. The biggest thing we’ve got, and the reason we’ve got no competition, is because we have lines around the state, and you have essentially….

RUBIO: … We already mentioned that [inaudible] plan, I know what that is, but what else is part of your plan…

TRUMP: … You don’t know much…

RUBIO: … So, you’re only thing is to get rid of the lines around the states. What else is part of your healthcare plan…

TRUMP: … The lines around the states…

RUBIO: … That’s your only plan…

TRUMP: … and, it was almost done — not now…

RUBIO: … Alright, [inaudible]…

TRUMP: … Excuse me. Excuse me.

RUBIO: … His plan. That was the plan…

TRUMP: … You get rid of the lines, it brings in competition. So, instead of having one insurance company taking care of New York, or Texas, you’ll have many. They’ll compete, and it’ll be a beautiful thing.

RUBIO: Alright…[applause] So, that’s the only part of the plan? Just the lines?

BASH: [inaudible]

TRUMP: The nice part of the plan — you’ll have many different plans. You’ll have competition, you’ll have so many different plans.

RUBIO: Now he’s repeating himself.

TRUMP: No, no, no. [laughter, applause, and cheering]

TRUMP: [inaudible]

RUBIO: [inaudible]

[cheering]

TRUMP: [inaudible] I watched him repeat himself five times four weeks ago…

RUBIO: … I just watched you repeat yourself five times five seconds ago…[applause]

TRUMP: I watched him meltdown on the stage like that, I’ve never seen it in anybody…

BASH: … Let’s stay focused on the subject…

TRUMP: … I thought he came out of the swimming pool…

RUBIO: … I see him repeat himself every night, he says five things, everyone’s dumb, he’s gonna make America great again…

BASH: … Senator Rubio…

RUBIO: … We’re going to win, win win, he’s winning in the polls…

BASH: … Senator Rubio, please.

RUBIO: … And the lines around the state. [applause]… Every night.

BASH: Senator Rubio.

[cheering]

TRUMP: I tell the truth, I tell the truth.

BASH: Senator Rubio, you will have time to respond if you would just let Mr. Trump respond to what you’ve just posed to him…

RUBIO: … Yeah, he’s going to give us his plan now, right? OK…

BASH: … If you could talk a little bit more about your plan. I know you talked about…

TRUMP: … We’re going to have many different plans because…

BASH: … Can you be a little specific…

TRUMP: … competition…

RUBIO: … He’s done it again. [cheering and applause]

TRUMP: There is going to be competition among all of the states, and the insurance companies. They’re going to have many, many different plans.

BASH: Is there anything else you would like to add to that…

TRUMP: No, there’s nothing to add. [cheering and applause] What is to add?

BASH: Thank you. Thank you both.

RUBIO: Alright.

BASH: Governor Kasich, you’ve said it is, quote, “Un American to deny someone health insurance if they have a preexisting condition.”

Would you leave the individual mandate in place requiring all Americans to purchase insurance?

KASICH: No, I wouldn’t. And — but that doesn’t matter when it comes to the issue of preexisting conditions. You don’t want any American to lose their house, everything they’ve saved, because they get sick. Now, I think it is more complicated than what we’ve heard here tonight. We’re actually running significant health reform in my state.

I would repeal Obamacare for a variety of reasons. I would take some of the federal resources, combine it with the freed-up Medicaid program, which I would send back to the states, and cover the people who are currently the working poor because we don’t want to have tens of millions of Americans losing their health insurance.

And then we’re driving towards total transparency. If any of you here ever get a hospital bill, it’s easier to interpret the Dead Sea scrolls than to understand your hospital bill. The fact is what we need is transparency with hospitals and with the providers.

And I’ll tell you what we will do. We are actually going to make payments to physicians and to hospitals who actually deliver healthcare with great quality at low prices. We actually are going to make the market work.

BASH: Governor, let me just go back to the original question about the individual mandate. In 1994 when you were in Congress, you proposed a plan requiring an individual mandate. So what changed?

KASICH: Well, Dana, the Heritage Foundation had this position as well. And when I look at it, I don’t think it’s tenable. And we don’t need to do that. Again, I’m telling you that we are going to — we have a proposal, a plan that we’re enacting now that says if you are a hospital or a doctor and you’re providing very high quality at lower prices, below the midpoint — some charge high, some charge low. If you are below the midpoint, we are going to give you a financial reward for allowing you to provide services that result in high quality for our people at lower pricess.

That is the way in which we are going to damp down the rising costs of healthcare. Because if you think about your own deductibles today, they’re going higher, higher and higher. And you know what? At some point, people can’t afford it. Our plan will work. It uses the market. It uses transparency. It gets the patient in the middle. And guess what? We’re actually doing it in my state, the seventh-largest state in the country. And if this will go — this will go national, we will get our hands on healthcare where you will know what’s going on. We will pay for quality, lower prices, and we will begin to see healthcare become affordable in America and where people will also be able to have health insurance, even if they have a preexisting condition.

We don’t want to throw millions of people out into the cold and not have the health insurance, Dana. So that’s really what we’re doing. This is not a theory. This is what we are actually doing in our state. We will begin payments next year based on episodes that we have in our lives. If our primary care physicians keep us healthy for a year, with really high quality, guess what? They will get a financial reward.

Our primary care physicians need help. They need support. We’re losing them. This will allow them to get a reward for doing a great job.

BASH: Governor Kasich, thank you.

KASICH: Thank you. [applause]

BASH: Dr. Carson, you have dealt with the sickest of patients. You support covering preexisting conditions. How would you change Obamacare, but maintain that coverage?

CARSON: Well, first of all, healthcare is not a right. But I do believe it is a responsibility for a responsible society, and we are that. We spend almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as many other nations who have actually much better access than we do.

I propose a system in which we use health empowerment accounts, which are like a health savings account with no bureaucrats. And we give it to everybody from birth until death. They can pass it on when they die. We pay for it with the same dollars that we pay for traditional healthcare with. We give people the ability to shift money within their health empowerment account within their family. So dad’s $500 short, mom can give it to him or a cousin or uncle.

And it makes every family their own insurance carrier with no middle man. It gives you enormous flexibility. And also, you know, if Uncle Joe is smoking like a chimney, everybody’s going to hide his cigarettes because they’re all interested in what’s going on there.

Also, the — your catastrophic healthcare is going to cost a lot less money now because the only thing coming out of that is catastrophic healthcare. So, it’s like a homeowners policy with a large deductible, versus a homeowners policy where you want every scratch covered. One costs $1,500 a year; one costs $10,000 a year. You can buy the $1,500 one. That will take care of 75 percent of the people. The people who are indigent, how do we take care of them now? Medicaid. What’s the Medicaid budget? Almost $500 billion; almost 80 million people participate, which is way too many, and that will get a lot better when we fix the economy, which I hope we get a chance to talk about.

But do the math. Over $5,000 for each man, woman and child, and all — they will have a lot more flexibility. What could you buy with that? A concierge practice.

BLITZER: Thank you.

CARSON: And you could still have thousands of dollars left over. And let me just finish, because I don’t get to talk that much. And, you know, let’s…[applause]…you can have the money that’s left over to buy your catastrophic insurance. But most importantly, we give them a menu, just like we do in Medicare Part C, and they have the choices that will allow them not only to have catastrophic health care, but drug care and everything else.

It will be such a good program that nobody will want Obamacare after that, and that’s probably the best way do it, although if anybody still did, I would still de-fund it.

BLITZER: Thank you. [applause]

Thank you, Dr. Carson. Let’s talk about the economy. Let’s talk about…

CRUZ: Wolf, Wolf, Wolf. Does everyone get to address Obamacare but me?

BLITZER: I want to move on, but there’ll be plenty of opportunities for you to address…

CRUZ: It’s kind of an issue I have a long history with.

BLITZER: I know you do. And — all right, go ahead. [laughter]

CRUZ: Thank you, Wolf.

KASICH: How do you — how do you get that extra time, Cruz? You’re very good at…

CRUZ: You know, this is another issue on which Donald and I have sharp disagreements. On Planned Parenthood, he thinks Planned Parenthood is wonderful. I would instruct the Department of Justice to investigate them and prosecute any and all criminal violations. [applause]

On Obamacare, both Donald and I say we want to end it, but for very different reasons. I want to end it because it goes too far, it’s killed millions of jobs, and it’s hurting people’s health care. Donald wants to end it because he says it doesn’t go nearly far enough. And what was amazing in that exchange that was missing is for decades Donald has been advocating socialized medicine.

What he’s said is government should pay for everyone’s health care, and in fact, a couple of debates ago, he said, if you don’t support socialized health care, you’re heartless. Now, liberal Democrats have been saying that for years. Now let me tell you if you’re a small business owner, Donald Trump’s socialized medicine, putting the government in charge of your health care would kill more jobs than Obamacare, and if you’re elderly, the results of socialized medicine in every country on earth where it’s been implemented has been rationing, has been the government saying, no, you don’t get that hip replacement, you don’t get that knee replacement, the government is in charge of your health care.

I’ll tell you this. As president…

BLITZER: Senator…

CRUZ: … I will repeal every word of Obamacare. [applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, thank you. Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: I do not want socialized medicine, just so you understand. He goes around saying oh, he wants it. I do not want socialized medicine. I do agree with him that it’s going to be a disaster, Obamacare, for the economy.

In 2017, it will be impossible for us to pay for it if you look at what’s going on. That’s why it has to be repealed, for a lot of reasons, Number one, it doesn’t work, number two, premium. You look at premiums going up, 25, 35, even 45 percent, and more. We have to get rid of Obamacare. It is going to destroy our economy completely. Our economy is not doing well. It is going to destroy our economy greatly. And on that, I agree.

CRUZ: Donald, true or false, you’ve said the government should pay for everyone’s health care.

TRUMP: That’s false.

CRUZ: You’ve never said that?

TRUMP: No, I said it worked in a couple of countries…

CRUZ: But you’ve never stood on this debate stage and says it works great in Canada and Scotland and we should do it here.

TRUMP: No, I did not. No I did not.

CRUZ: Did you say if you want people to die on the streets, if you don’t support socialized health care, you have no heart.

TRUMP: Correct. I will not let people die on the streets if I’m president.

CRUZ: Have you said you’re a liberal on health care?

TRUMP: Excuse me. Let me talk. If people…

CRUZ: Talk away. Explain your plan, please.

TRUMP: If people — my plan is very simple. I will not — we’re going to have private — we are going to have health care, but I will not allow people to die on the sidewalks and the streets of our country if I’m president. You may let it and you may be fine with it…

CRUZ: So does the government pay for everyone’s health care?

TRUMP: … I’m not fine with it. We are going to take those people…

CRUZ: Yes or no. Just answer the question.

TRUMP: Excuse me. We are going to take those people and those people are going to be serviced by doctors and hospitals. We’re going to make great deals on it, but we’re not going to let them die in the streets.

CRUZ: Who pays for it?

RUBIO: Well, can I just clarify something?

BLITZER: Gentleman, please.

RUBIO: Wolf, no. I want to clarify something.

BLITZER: Gentlemen please. I want to move on.

RUBIO: This is a Republican debate, right? Because that attack about letting people die in the streets…

BLITZER: I want to talk about the economy.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Gentleman, gentleman. All of you have agreed — Senator Cruz…

TRUMP: You know what? Call it what you want.

CRUZ: It’s a yes or no.

TRUMP: Call it what you want, people are not going to be dying on the sidewalk.

BLITZER: All of you have agreed — all of you have agreed to the rules. I want to move on. We’re talking about the economy right now. Mr. Trump, you want to cut taxes more than President Ronald Reagan did, more than President George W. Bush did. The Independent Tax Foundation says the cost to the country of your proposal would be about $10 trillion, and that takes into account the economic growth that would emerge from your proposed tax cuts.

How would you cut $10 trillion over 10 years, but make sure the country isn’t saddled with even more debt?

TRUMP: Because the country will become a dynamic economy. We’ll be dynamic again. If you look at what’s going on, we have the highest taxes anywhere in the world. We pay more business tax, we pay more personal tax. We have the highest taxes in the world.

It’s shutting off our economy. It’s shutting off our country. We have trillions of dollars outside that we can’t get in. Yes, we will do my tax plan, and it will be great. We will have a dynamic economy again.

BLITZER: What specific cuts will you make to pay for that tax cut?

TRUMP: We’re going to make many cuts in business. We’re getting rid of — we’re going to get rid of so many different things. Department of Education — Common Core is out. We’re going local. Have to go local. [applause]

Environmental protection — we waste all of this money. We’re going to bring that back to the states. And we’re going to have other [inaudible] many things. [applause]

We are going to cut many of the agencies, we will balance our budget, and we will be dynamic again.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump — Mr. Trump. If you eliminate completely the Department of Education, as you have proposed, that’s about $68 billion. If you eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, that’s about $8 billion. That’s about $76 billion for those two agencies.

The current deficit this year is $544 billion. Where are you going to come up with the money?

TRUMP: Waste, fraud and abuse all over the place. Waste, fraud and abuse. [applause]

You look at what’s happening with Social Security, you look — look at what’s happening with every agency — waste, fraud and abuse. We will cut so much, your head will spin.

BLITZER: Governor Kasich. [applause]

When you were in Congress, you were chairman of the Budget Committee. You helped craft the last balanced budget the United States had. Can Mr. Trump’s plan work?

KASICH: Well, I think it takes three things, Wolf. And I’ve done it. I mean, I — we got the budget balanced. We cut the capital gains tax. You see, in order to get this economy moving again, you have to grow the economy, and you have to restrain the spending.

And when I was chairman, we cut that capital gains tax and we instituted a significant program to get to balance. We had a balanced budget four years in a row, had to take on every interest group in Washington — every single one of them — and we paid down a half a trillion of the national debt.

And why do you do it? Because you want job growth. If you don’t have regulatory reform, common-sense regulations, reasonable tax cuts, which I have, and a fiscal plan, you won’t get there. You will never be able to do it.

Now, I — I inherited an an $8 billion hole in Ohio, I have common-sense regulations, I have tax cuts — the biggest of any governor in the country — and we have a fiscal plan.

And it’s not all — it’s not always cutting. It’s innovating — it’s producing a better product at, frankly, a lower price. Now we have a $2 billion surplus. Our credit is strong, our pensions are strong.

And, look — I’ve got a plan to take to Washington, and I will have it there in the first hundred days, and it will include shifting welfare, education, transportation, Medicaid and job training back to us, so we can begin, in the states, to be the laboratories of innovation.

I’ve done it — I did it in Washington — four years of balanced budgets. No one could even believe it happened. [bell ringing] I’ve done it in Ohio, we’re growing, the jobs are up and people are having opportunity. And I will go back to Washington and do it again for the American people. I promise you that. [applause]

Within the first hundred days, we will have the plan to get this done.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you, governor. [applause]

Speaking of taxes…

TRUMP: I just want to say — and I’m a big fan of the governor, but they also struck oil, OK, so that helped Iowa a lot.

KASICH: OK, let me — let me — let me just talk about that, because I know that — that Donald believes the energy industry is important. So do I. But of the over 400,000 jobs that we’ve created in the state, we think maybe 15,000 are connected to this industry, because it’s early-stage.

See, what we’ve done in Ohio, and what a president needs to do, is to have a cabinet and a whole operation that’s jobs-friendly. We have diversified our economy.

We — we do have energy, we have medical devices, we have financial services, we have I.T., we just got Amazon — their Cloud computing in the Midwest. You know why it’s happening? [bell ringing]

Because we’re balanced budgets, we’re strong, we’re job-friendly, we don’t raise their taxes, and if we have a president that does that in America, we will get the economic growth, and that is what this country needs. Jobs, jobs and jobs, period. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, yesterday, the last Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, called on you to release your back tax returns, and said, and I’m quoting him now, “there is good reason to believe there is a bombshell in them.”

Romney said either you’re not as wealthy as you say you are, said maybe you haven’t paid the kind of taxes we would expect you to pay, or you haven’t been giving the money to veterans or disabled people. Are any of those accusations that he has leveled true?

TRUMP: All right. First of all, let me just explain. I was the first one to file a financial disclosure form — almost 100 pages. You don’t learn anything about somebody’s wealth with a tax return. You learn it from statements.

I filed — which shows that I’m worth over $10 billion. I built a great company with very little debt. People were shocked, the people in the back, the reporters, they were shocked when they went down. And I filed it on time. I didn’t ask for five 45-day extensions, which I would have been entitled to.

So as far as that’s concerned, I filed it. And that’s where you find out what kind of a company. You don’t learn anything from a tax return.

I will say this. Mitt Romney looked like a fool when he delayed and delayed and delayed. And Harry Reid baited him so beautifully. And Mitt Romney didn’t file his return until a September 21st of 2012, about a month-and-a-half before the election. And it cost him big league.

As far as my return, I want to file it, except for many years, I’ve been audited every year. Twelve years, or something like that. Every year they audit me, audit me, audit me.

Nobody gets audited — I have friends that are very wealthy people. They never get audited. I get audited every year. I will absolutely give my return, but I’m being audited now for two or three years, so I can’t do it until the audit is finished, obviously. And I think people would understand that.

BLITZER: Hugh, go ahead.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump. You told me…

TRUMP: Are you going to ask anybody else that question?

CARSON: Yes, amen, amen. [laughter]

TRUMP: Every single question comes to me?

HEWITT: Mr. Trump…[crosstalk]

TRUMP: I know I’m here for the ratings, but it’s a little bit ridiculous. [laughter]

HEWITT: Mr. Trump, a year ago you told me on my radio show, the audio and the transcript are out there on YouTube, that you would release your tax returns.

TRUMP: True.

HEWITT: Are you going back on your commitment?

TRUMP: No, I’m not. First of all, very few people listen to your radio show. That’s the good news. [laughter]

Let me just tell you, let me just — which happens to be true. Check out the ratings.

Look, let me just tell you something. Let me just tell you something. I want to release my tax returns but I can’t release it while I’m under an audit. We’re under a routine audit. I’ve had it for years, I get audited.

And obviously if I’m being audited, I’m not going to release a return. As soon as the audit is done, I love it.

HEWITT: So, Senator Rubio, Mitt Romney also called upon to you release your tax returns. Your campaign said last spring that you would release your returns that you had not previously released. And you said, coming out any day momentarily. When are we going to see your returns?

RUBIO: Yes, tomorrow or Saturday, in fact, is our plan to release them. And there’s nothing really that interesting in them. So I have no problem releasing them. And luckily I’m not being audited this year, or last year, for that matter.

[crosstalk]

RUBIO: But this is my time. I want to go back to this question you asked about the debt. This is an important issue. It’s a huge issue, OK? In less than five years, 83 percent of our entire budget will be made up of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the interest on the debt.

That means only 17 percent of our budget will be for things like the military or the Department of Education or environmental protection issues.

You cannot balance our budget unless you deal with that 83 percent, which is why I’ve been repeatedly talking about since my time running for the Senate in Florida, where there are a lot of people like my mother that depend on Social Security and Medicare, on the need to save those programs, by reforming the way they work for future generations.

And I think if we — the longer we take to do this, the closer we are going to get to a debt crisis. And, Wolf, you did not get an answer to your question. This debt issue is — the next president of the United States will not be able to serve four to eight years without dealing with the national debt.

It is not a question of if, it is a question of when we have a debt crisis. And we should not leave the stage here tonight without hearing a serious answer from every single one of us about how we are going to deal bring the national debt under control once and for all.

HEWITT: Thank you, Senator Rubio. But I am…[applause]…I’m being fair to all of the candidates.

Senator Cruz, Tuesday is five days away. Why haven’t voters seen your 2012, 2013, and 2014 returns?

CRUZ: So, I’ve released five years of tax returns already. We will have two more years available tomorrow. And I would note that this question really goes — you know, Donald says he’s being audited.

Well, I would think that would underscore the need to release those returns. If he has said something that was false and that an audit is going to find was fraudulent, the voters need to know.

And listen, people across this country, we recognize our country is in crisis. The most important question is how do we win the general election in November, 2016. And roughly 65 percent of Republicans think Donald is not the right candidate to go against Hillary Clinton.

Now, part of the reason in the last 10 polls…

TRUMP: Eighty-five percent say you, big difference.

CRUZ: … RealClearPolitics he has lost to Hillary on eight of them. In the last 10 polls on RealClearPolitics, I either tied or beat Hillary. And this is an example.

You know, the mainstream media is laying off Donald now. They’re going to pick apart his taxes. They’re going to pick apart his business deals.

And let’s take, for example, one of Hillary’s great vulnerabilities, the corruption at the Clinton Foundation, the fact that she had CEOs and foreign companies giving her money while she was secretary of state.

The next Republican nominee needs to be able to make that case against Hillary. And if Donald tried to did it, Hillary would turn to Donald and say, “but gosh, Donald, you gave $100,000 to the Clinton foundation. I even went to your wedding.”

He can’t prosecute the case against Hillary, and we can’t risk another four years of these failed Obama policies by nominating someone who loses to Hillary Clinton in November. [applause]

[crosstalk]

TRUMP: So at the beginning, I said openly to everybody that I contribute to many, many politicians, both Republican and Democrat. And I have, over the years. I’m a businessman. I have, over the years.

And I sort of have to laugh when Ted makes a big deal out of the fact that he’s doing well in the polls. Well, I’m beating him in virtually every poll. I’m tied in Texas, by the way, which I shouldn’t be. But I think I’ll do very well. [applause]

But a poll just came out — a Bloomberg poll — where I am beating him so badly that it’s, like, embarrassing even for me to say I’m beating him that badly. [applause]

And — and here’s the thing — it was sort of funny — 65 percent of the people don’t like you — I just got 36 percent of the vote, right? I just got 46 percent on another one. I got 38 percent…[bell ringing]…on another one. That means — and he got 20 and 22, and he lost in South Carolina so badly — that was going to be his stronghold. He said a year ago, “I can’t lose South Carolina.” I beat him in a landslide.

Last week in Nevada, I beat him in a landslide, and he sank about the polls. One other thing — Hillary Clinton — take a look at USA Today, take a look at the Q poll. I beat her, and I beat her badly. And I — and I haven’t even started at her. I only had one little interchange…[applause]…I only had one little interchange, and that was…[bell ringing]…four weeks ago, when she said I was sexist. And believe me, they had a rough weekend that weekend, between Bill and Hillary. They had a rough weekend. [applause]

BLITZER: Gentlemen. Gentlemen. Gentlemen.

CRUZ: Hold on. He — he attacked me, Wolf. I get a response.

BLITZER: I was about to say — Senator Cruz, respond.

CRUZ: Thank you. Thank — thank — thank you very much.

You know, it’s interesting — Donald went — went on — on an extended tirade about the polls, but he didn’t respond to any of the substance. He has yet to say — he can release past year’s tax returns. He can do it tomorrow.

He doesn’t want to do it, because presumably there’s something in there…

TRUMP: Nothing.

CRUZ: … that is bad. If there’s nothing, release them tomorrow.

[crosstalk]

CRUZ: They’re already prepared. The only reason he’s not releasing them…

TRUMP: You — you don’t…

CRUZ: … is because he’s afraid that he will get hit.

TRUMP: I’m not afraid [inaudible].

CRUZ: You know, Marco made reference earlier to the litigation against Trump University. It’s a fraud case. His lawyers have scheduled the trial for July.

I want you to think about, if this man is the nominee, having the Republican nominee…[bell ringing]…on the stand in court, being cross-examined about whether he committed fraud. You don’t think the mainstream media will go crazy on that?

And on substance, how do we nominate a candidate who has said Hillary Clinton was the best secretary of state of modern times, who agreed with her on foreign policy, who agrees with Bernie Sanders on health care, who agreed with Barack Obama on the Wall Street bailout?

BLITZER: All right…

CRUZ: If — we’ve got to win this election, and we can’t do it with a candidate who agrees with Hillary Clinton and can’t take it to her and beat her on the debate stage and at the polls.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump. Mr, — hold on. Mr. Trump — Mr. Trump…

TRUMP: … first of all, he’s talking about the polls. I’m beating him awfully badly in the polls.

[crosstalk]

CRUZ: But you’re not beating Hillary. You’re not beating Hillary.

TRUMP: Well, then, if I can’t — if — hey, if I can’t beat her, you’re really going to get killed, aren’t you? [applause]

So — so let me ask you this, because you’re really getting beaten badly. I know you’re embarrassed — I know you’re embarrassed, but keep fighting — keep swinging, man. Swing for the fences.

Let me just tell you — let me just tell you, the Trump University case is a civil case. Not a — it’s a civil case. It’s a case where people want to try and get — it’s a case that is nonsense.

It’s something I could have settled many times. I could settle it right now for very little money, but I don’t want to do it out of principle. The people that took the course all signed — most — many — many signed report cards saying it was fantastic, it was wonderful, it was beautiful.

As — and believe me, I’ll win that case. That’s an easy case. Civil case. Number two, as far as the taxes are concerned, I’m being audited. It’s a very routine audit, and it’s very unfair, because I’ve been audited for, I think, over 12 years.

Every year, because of the size of my company, which is very, very large, I’m being audited — which is a very large company.

[bell ringing]

BLITZER: Thank you.

TRUMP: I’m being audited 12 years in a row, at least.

Now, until that audit’s done, and I don’t think anybody would blame me, I’m not giving it…[crosstalk]

CRUZ: … the years you’re not being audited? Will you release those years?

BLITZER: Gentlemen, gentlemen, thank you.

TRUMP: [inaudible] audited for those years.

CRUZ: Which years? Which years are you being audited?

BLITZER: Gentlemen…[crosstalk]…we actually have rules — we’re trying to obey these rules that all of you agreed. We’re going to take a quick break. We have a lot more — many more critically important issues to discuss.

Our coverage of this tenth Republican presidential debate from the University of Houston continues in a moment. [applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the Republican presidential debate here at the University of Houston.

Gentlemen, I want to turn our attention right now to key issues involving foreign policy and national security. And Mr. Trump, I’ll begin with you.

TRUMP: Shocking. [laughter]

BLITZER: You said this about the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians — I’m quoting you now: “Let me be sort of a neutral guy. I don’t want to say whose fault it is, I don’t think it helps.”

TRUMP: Right.

BLITZER: Here’s the question. How do you remain neutral when the U.S. considers Israel to be America’s closest ally in the Middle East?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I don’t think they do under President Obama because I think he’s treated Israel horribly, all right? I think he’s treated Israel horribly. [applause]

I was the grand marshall down 5th Avenue a number of years ago for the Israeli Day Parade, I have very close ties to Israel. I’ve received the Tree of Life Award and many of the greatest awards given by Israel.

As president, however, there’s nothing that I would rather do to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors generally. And I think it serves no purpose to say that you have a good guy and a bad guy.

Now, I may not be successful in doing it. It’s probably the toughest negotiation anywhere in the world of any kind. OK? But it doesn’t help if I start saying, “I am very pro-Israel, very pro, more than anybody on this stage.” But it doesn’t do any good to start demeaning the neighbors, because I would love to do something with regard to negotiating peace, finally, for Israel and for their neighbors.

And I can’t do that as well — as a negotiator, I cannot do that as well if I’m taking big, big sides. With that being said, I am totally pro-Israel.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz? [applause]

CRUZ: Well, this is another area on which Donald agrees with Hillary Clinton and on which I disagree with them both strongly. Both Donald and Hillary Clinton want to be neutral, to use Donald’s word, between Israel and the Palestinians.

Let me be clear. If I’m president, America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel. [applause]

And the notion of neutrality is based upon the left buying into this moral relativism that is often pitched in the media. Listen, it is not equivalent. When you have terrorist strapping dynamite around their chest, exploding and murdering innocent women and children, they are not equivalent to the IDF officers protecting Israel. And I will not pretend that they are.

Just today, Iran announced they’re going to pay $7,000 to each suicide bomber. And I would note, missing from Donald’s answer was anything he has done in his nearly 70 years of living defending Israel. I have over and over again led the fight to defend Israel, to fight for Israel. And this — if you want to know who will stand with Israel, we ought to start with who has stood with Israel when the heat was on. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Well, I can only say — look, I can only say I’ve been a big contributor to Israel over the years. I’ve received many, many awards from Israel, as I’ve said before. I have a great relationship with Israel. And I’m going to keep it that way. And if I could bring peace, that would be a fantastic thing. It would be one of my greatest achievements as president.

BLITZER: Governor Kasich, I want you to weigh in.

KASICH: Well, I mean, well, I was in Congress for 18 years on the Defense Committee. And then, you know, after 9/11, the secretary of defense called me in to help out with some things. And I’ve been a supporter of Israel — a strong supporter of Israel longer than anybody on this stage. I didn’t give as much money as Donald gave, but I’ve been standing with the Israelis for a very long time.

And frankly, I think the problem we have in foreign policy right now, Wolf, is that we are not certain with who we stand with. Our allies are not sure what to make of us, and our enemies are moving. And one — are moving because they’re not sure what we will do.

It’s a very interesting development here within the 24 hours. We said to the South Koreans that we would give them the high altitude defense system. It really rattled the Chinese, and for the first time since we took positive action, the Chinese are beginning to take action against North Korea.

When we stand firm and we let the world know who we’re with, who we stand for, and we bring our allies together, that is the road forward.

[crosstalk] [applause]

BLITZER: We’re going to get to North Korea in a moment. But Senator Rubio, what’s wrong with the U.S. being an honest broker in a negotiation, as Mr. Trump is proposing?

RUBIO: Because — and I don’t know if Donald realizes this. I’m sure it’s not his intent perhaps. But the position you’ve taken is an anti-Israel position. And here’s why. Because you cannot be an honest broker in a dispute between two sides in which one of the sides is constantly acting in bad faith. The Palestinian Authority has walked away from multiple efforts to make peace, very generous offers from the Israels. Instead, here’s what the Palestinians do. They teach their four- year-old children that killing Jews is a glorious thing. Here’s what Hamas does. They launch rockets and terrorist attacks again Israel on an ongoing basis. The bottom line is, a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, given the current makeup of the Palestinians, is not possible.

And so the next president of the United States needs to be someone like me who will stand firmly on the side of Israel. I’m not — I’m not going to sit here and say, “Oh, I’m not on either side.” I will be on a side. I will be on Israel’s side every single day because they are the only pro-American, free enterprise democracy in the entire Middle East. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: I’m a negotiator. I’ve done very well over the years through negotiation. It’s very important that we do that. In all fairness, Marco is not a negotiator. I watched him melt down and I’ll tell you, it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. He’s not going down — excuse me…

RUBIO: He thinks a Palestinian is a real estate deal.

TRUMP: … wait a minute, and these people may even be tougher than Chris Christie. OK?

RUBIO: The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald.

TRUMP: OK, no, no, no — a deal is a deal. Let me tell you that. I learned a long time ago.

RUBIO: A deal is not a deal when you’re dealing with terrorists. Have you ever negotiated with terrorists?

TRUMP: You are not a negotiator. You are not a negotiator. [applause]

And, with your thinking, you will never bring peace. You will never bring peace…

RUBIO: … Donald, might be able to [inaudible] Palestinians and Arabs, but it’s not a real estate deal…

TRUMP: … Excuse me, I want to be able to bring peace…

BLITZER: … Senator.

TRUMP: He will never be able to do it. I think I may be able to do it, although I will say this. Probably the toughest deal of any kind is that particular deal.

BLITZER: Let’s move on to talk about North Korea. You raised it, Governor Kasich. The threat posed by North Korea to the United States and its sallies, the commander of American forces in South Korea said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would use a weapon of mass destruction if he thought his regime was being threatened. You have said the United States should start examining a strategy of regime change in North Korea.

Let’s be clear. Are you talking about getting rid of Kim Jong Un?

KASICH: When you talk about regime change, Wolf, it means regime change. That’s what it means. Even though there’s so much chaos in North Korea right now, there’s a lot of reports of uncertainty, and instability in that government.

But, look, here’s what I think we ought to do — like, immediately. And, we’ve been kicking the can down the road on this for, I don’t know, 15 years. We should be intercepting the ships that are leaving North Korea so they’re not selling this material, or this technology, or giving it to someone else.

Secondly, the same goes with the aircraft.

Thirdly, we need to slap even tougher sanctions on North Korea because we really don’t have the toughest sanctions on North Korea. We ought to talk about arming South Korea with ballistic missile technology. And, of course, also Japan with ballistic missile technology. Because we’re now starting to take a firm position. We have the attention of the Chinese. The Chinese are the best way to calm that regime down and get them in a position of where they back off.

But, when I say regime change, I don’t have to talk exactly what that means. Look, I’ve been involved in national security for a long time. You don’t have to spell everything out, but what I’m telling you is you look for any means you can to be able to solve that problem in North Korea, and in the meantime put the pressure on the Chinese. And, what we’re doing is beginning to work against them.

They are the key to being able to settle this situation.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, Governor Kasich, this is critically important. There are a million North Korean troops North of the DMZ…

KASICH: … I’m very well aware of that.

BLITZER: A million South Korean troops, 28,000 U.S. troops along the DMZ, right in between. Would you risk war for a regime change?

KASICH: Wolf, again, it would depend exactly what, you know, what was happening. What the situation was. But, if there was an opportunity to remove the leader of North Korea and create stability? Because, I’ll tell you, you keep kicking the can down the road we’re going to face this sooner or later.

But, in the meantime, I’m also aware of the fact that there’s 10 million people living in Seoul. So, you don’t just run around making charges. I have put it on the table that I would leave to see regime change in North Korea.

Now, perhaps the Chinese can actually accomplish that with this man who is now currently the leader, but the fact is we have to bring everything to bear. We have to be firm, and we’ve got to unite those people in that part of the world to stand firmly against North Korea, and make sure we have the ballistic…[bell ringing]…ballistic missile technology to defend ourselves.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: One thing I’d like to add to what the Governor’s saying, I think that we are now in a position — are $19 trillion dollars because of the horrible omnibus budget that was approved six weeks ago, it’s going to be $21 trillion dollars. We can no longer defend all of these countries, Japan, Germany, South Korea.

You order televisions, you order almost anything, you’re getting it from these countries. Whether it’s a Mercedes-Benz, or whether it’s an air conditioning unit. They’re coming out of these countries. They are making a fortune. Saudi Arabia, we are defending Saudi Arabia. Before the oil went down, now they’re making less, but they’re making plenty. They were making $1 billion dollars a day. [bell ringing]

We defend all of these countries for peanuts. You talk about budgets. We have to start getting reimbursed for taking care of the military services for all of these countries. [applause]

KASICH: Hey, Wolf, Wolf…

BLITZER: Dr. Carson.

KASICH: Hey, Wolf, let me just say this because he mentioned this. Look, we’re all in agreement that the Japanese need to do more. We’re all in agreement that the Europeans need to do more, but I hate to just tell everybody we are the leader of the world and we should put the pressure on them to do their job. There is no question about it.

But, at the same time, we also have to rebuild the military. Look, I have a balanced budget plan that cuts taxes, reforms regulations, but also builds the military, puts a $100 billion dollars more in defense. We need to rebuild our defenses,

But, I must also tell you, a long time reformer of the Pentagon, we must reform that building. [bell ringing]

We can’t have a weapon system take 22 and a half years. We have 800,000 bureaucrats working for DOD, performing bureaucratic functions when we ought to be putting…

BLITZER: … Thank you…

KASICH: … these resources into strengthening the military. So, we can do it all…

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, how would you deal with North Korea?

CARSON: OK. Well first of all, people say that I whine a lot because I don’t get time. I’m going to whine because I didn’t get asked about taxes, I didn’t get asked about Israel. Hugh, you said you’re going to be fair to everybody, you didn’t ask me about taxes. I had something to say about that.

Now…

BLITZER: Go ahead. This is your moment. [applause]

CARSON: OK. We have a system of taxation in this country that is horribly wrong. You know, I never had an audit until I spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, and then all of a sudden, they came in, they said we just want to look at your real estate dealings. And then they didn’t find anything, so they said let’s look at the whole year. And they didn’t find anything, so they said let’s look at the next year and the next year. They didn’t find anything and they won’t find anything because I’m a very honest person.

But he fact of the matter is the IRS is not honest and we need to get rid of them. [applause]

And as far as Israel is concerned, you know, when I was there several months ago, I talked to a lot of people. I couldn’t find a single one who didn’t think that we had turned our backs on Israel. You know, they are a strategic partner for us but also recognize that we have a Judeo Christian foundation, and the last thing we need to do is to reject Israel. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be fair to other people. We can always be fair to other people, but, you know, it’s like when you have a child, you know, you want to be fair to all the children around but you have a special attention for your own child.

And now, as far as North Korea is concerned, you know, Kim Jung Un is an unstable person, but he does understand strength. And I think we have to present strength to him. We should be encouraging the alliance with Japan and South Korea. We should be encouraging the placement of the THAAD, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, that seems to disturb not only the North Koreans but the Chinese as well.

And we also need to have a much more robust naval presence in that area, and I think we need to be developing strategic defense initiative because this man is going to have long-range missiles, he is going to have nuclear capabilities. We need to be able to defend ourselves. And lastly, we should make sure that he knows that if he ever shoots a missile at us, it will be the last thing he ever does. [applause]

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you. We’re going to continue with national security. Go ahead, Hugh.

HEWITT: Thank you, Wolf. Mr. Trump, we are less than 24 hours away from a ceasefire in Syria that has been brokered between the U.S. and Russia. Do you support this ceasefire?

TRUMP: I really don’t because it not working and the countries aren’t agreeing to it and the rebels aren’t agreeing and Syria is not agreeing. So It’s a meaningless ceasefire.

I love the idea of a ceasefire. I love the idea of — with a total cessation. But it’s not working, as you know very well. It’s not working. If — we can do what we want with Russia but nobody else is adhering to it.

So I certainly support it, I would certainly love it, but all parties have to be part of it.

HEWITT: Senator Cruz, your opinion on the ceasefire.

CRUZ: Well look. We’re certainly hopeful that the violence will cease, but there’s reason to be highly skeptical. Russia has enhanced its position because of Obama’s weakness in the Middle East, weakness in Syria. And you know, as we’re headed to November, we need no nominate a Republican candidate that can lay out a clear difference with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy.

One of the real challenges with both Donald and Senator Rubio is that they have agreed over and over again with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So for example, in Libya, both of them agreed with the Obama/Clinton policy of toppling the government in Libya. That was a disaster. It gave the country over to radical Islamic terrorism and it endangered America.

Another example is John Kerry. John Kerry — Senator Rubio voted to confirm John Kerry as secretary of State. I voted against him. And Donald Trump supported John Kerry against George W. Bush in 2004, gave him a check. And John Kerry has been the most anti-Israel secretary of State this country has ever seen. His diplomacy has been a disaster. And if we nominate someone who agreed with John Kerry, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, we’re not in a strong position to win the general election. [applause]

HEWITT: A response, Mr. Trump, then Mr. Rubio.

TRUMP: Again, I think I gave them both checks to be exactly honest. I think they both liked me very much. But the fact is that …

CRUZ: But you called for Bush to be impeached.

TRUMP: Well, I think Bush did a hell of a bad as far as that’s concerned. You know it and so do I.

CRUZ: But you gave him a check and called for him to be impeached.

TRUMP: Be honest. Be honest. No, this was before. The check came early.

But let me just tell you, Syria, he’s saying that I was in favor of Syria. He said I was in favor of Libya? I never discussed that subject. I was in favor of Libya? We would be so much better off if Gadhafi were in charge right now.

If these politicians went to the beach and didn’t do a thing, and we had Saddam Hussein and if we had Gadhafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, we’d be — at least they killed terrorists, all right?

And I’m not saying they were good because they were bad, they were really bad, but we don’t know what we’re getting. You look at Libya right now, ISIS, as we speak, is taking over their oil. As we speak, it’s a total mess.

We would have been better off if the politicians took a day off instead of going into war. [applause]

HEWITT: Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Yes, a couple of points. Number one, on the Libya situation, we didn’t topple Gadhafi, the Libyan people toppled Gadhafi. The only choice before America that this president had to make is, does it happen quickly or does it take a long time?

And I argued if it takes a long time, you’re going to have rebel forces emerge like these radical Islamists to take advantage of the vacuum. And that’s what happened. That’s where the term “lead from behind” came. And that’s the foreign policy that apparently Senator Cruz appears to agree with.

On John Kerry, yes, you know why, because every day John Kerry wasn’t appointed was another day Hillary Clinton was still in charge of the State Department. And she was absolutely horrible.

I couldn’t imagine that they were going to find somebody even worse than her, but this president never ceases to amaze. [laughter amd applause]

And the last point I would make on South Korea, now this is important, because we’re asking to be commander-in-chief. Donald is asking to be commander-in-chief. And he’s saying these guys need to do more.

South Korea contributes $800 million a year to that effort. And Japan contributes as well. And here’s why our commitment to that regional security is so critical, Donald, because if we walk away from them, both Japan and South Korea will become nuclear weapons powers.

They can do that very quickly. And that’s what they will do if the American defense agreements wither away, which is why we have to rebuild the military, but why we can’t walk away from our Asia-Pacific defense status.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: I never said walk away. I wouldn’t want to walk away. I want them to pay us much more money. We cannot afford to subsidize…

RUBIO: How much?

TRUMP: A lot. I’ll negotiate a lot more money than you’ll ever get.

As far as John Kerry is concerned, there has been no tougher critic of this man, I think he negotiated one of the worst deals in the history of our country, the Iran deal, where they get their $150 billion and all of the other things that take place.

It is a disaster for this country, and speaking of Israel, it’s a disaster for Israel. I’m no fan of John Kerry.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Hold on, hold on, Governor.

Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: You know, it’s interesting, Donald just said that he never came out in favor of toppling Gadhafi in Libya. Well, he stated that in an interview that will be on our Web site, tedcruz.org.

You can see and hear the exact words from Donald’s mouth. And I assume when he sees that interview, maybe he forgot about it, but I assume Donald will apologize where he sees that he said exactly that.

With regard to John Kerry, I will say John Kerry’s foreign policy has been a disaster for decades. That’s why I voted against him when he came up. And the fact that Donald Trump would write him a check and support him against George W. Bush shows exceptionally poor foreign policy judgment.

And I’ll give one more example on Israel. When the Obama administration canceled civilian air flights into the national of Israel, when Hamas was raining rockets down on them, I publicly asked, is this an economic boycott against Israel?

The next day Michael Bloomberg, another New York billionaire, got on a plane, a commercial flight, and flew to Israel from London. Together the heat and light that was put on the State Department was so great that within 36 hours they lifted the ban on air flights into Israel.

During that entire battle, and indeed during every battle on Israel the natural question is, where was Donald? If this is something he cares about, why has he supported anti-Israel politicians from Jimmy Carter to Hillary Clinton to John Kerry for four decades?

If you care about Israel, you don’t write checks to politicians who are undermining Israel. Instead you stand and support the national security of America and the alliance with Israel.

[crosstalk]

KASICH: There’s a critical point that needs to be made here. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor, Governor, Governor, he attacked Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump has a right to respond.

TRUMP: Well, look, my response is very simple. There is nobody on this stage that has done more for Israel than I have. Nobody. You might say, you might talk, you’re politicians, all talk, no action. [applause]

I’ve been watching it all my life. You are all talk and no action.

CRUZ: Then name one specific thing you’ve done.

TRUMP: What I’ve seen up here — I mean, first of all, this guy is a choke artist, and this guy is a liar. You have a combination…

RUBIO: This guy always goes for…

TRUMP: You have a combination of factors. He can’t do it…

RUBIO: This is so typical.

TRUMP: … for the obvious reason, and he can’t do it because he doesn’t know how to tell the truth. Other than that, I rest my case.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: One at a time, gentlemen.

Governor Kasich, you have the floor. Governor…[crosstalk]

BLITZER: You will have a response. But I promised Governor Kasich he could respond.

CARSON: Can somebody attack me, please? [laughter and applause]

KASICH: There’s something — I want to — I want to point out something here today that is — it’s so critically important — about how the Obama administration has really done such a ridiculous, feckless job here in foreign policy.

First of all, we should have been supporting the rebels long ago. They could have taken Assad out, and because we did nothing, the Russians are in, and they’re sitting in the catbird seat.

We should have been helping them. I’m thankful that the aid trucks are finally getting into Syria. But the fact is, had we had acted, we would have solved that problem.

Now, let’s talk about Libya. Libya didn’t go down because there was some people revolution. Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and all these other people convinced the president to undermine Gadhafi. They undermined him, and now they have created a cesspool in Libya.

And let me just say to you — we have ISIS beginning get — get a foothold in Libya. We’re gonna have to deal with it. There are not many major cities in Libya. They’re on the coast, which — mostly, it’s desert, but it’s a problem.

Then we have ISIS in — in Syria, and we have ISIS in Iraq. Because this administration has not had a strong and firm foreign policy, we are going to inherit — one of us here is going to inherit a total mess…

BLITZER: All right…

KASICH: … and we’re going to have to work our way out of it, including…

BLITZER: Let’s continue.

KASICH: … the need to arm the Ukrainians. They have been ignored, and we need to help them as well…

BLITZER: Let us continue.

KASICH: … and assert ourselves as America.

BLITZER: Let’s continue the questioning on ISIS. Maria.

CRUZ: Hold on, Wolf. You said I got a response.

BLITZER: You’ll have a chance. Maria will pick up…[crosstalk]

CRUZ: Hold on. He called me a liar. You’re saying I can’t respond to being called a liar? [crosstalk]

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond.

CRUZ: You know, what we’re seeing with Donald is actually the pattern of Washington — the pattern of Washington deal makers, which is they make promises, they break their words, and then when anyone calls them on it, they call you a liar.

And so that’s Donald’s pattern over and over again. He said, for example, seven months ago — this is Donald speaking, quote — “I, Donald Trump, was a member of the establishment.”

There’s a reason Harry Reid thinks he’s the best Republican up here. There’s a reason Jimmy Carter said he would support Donald Trump over me, because he said Donald Trump is malleable, he has no fixed set of beliefs…[bell ringing]…whereas Ted Cruz is not malleable. And every time anyone points at Donald’s actual record…

BLITZER: Thank you.

CRUZ: … what he said on national television, Donald yells “liar.” Let me tell you something — falsely accusing someone of lying is itself a lie…

BLITZER: Go ahead, Mr. Trump.

CRUZ: … and it’s something Donald does daily.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: I watched — I watched…[applause]…the lobbyists. I watched what this man did to Dr. Ben Carson, who I respect, in Iowa, where he said that Ben Carson is out of the race — he has left Iowa and he’s out of the race. And I thought it was disgraceful.

And got a lot of votes because of that — a lot of votes. Took them away from Ben Carson. I watched that. Probably took them away from me, too. But I watched it.

I also watched where he did a forum that looked like it came right out of a government agency, and it said on top, “Voter Violation,” and then it graded you…[bell ringing]…and it scared the hell out of people, and it said the only way you clear up the violation, essentially, is to go and vote for Ted Cruz. I watched that fraudulent document, and I said it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in politics. [bell ringing]

To me, that was even worse than what he did to Ben.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz…[crosstalk]

TRUMP: I know politicians — I know politicians, believe it or not, better than you do. And it’s not good.

CRUZ: I believe it. No, no. I believe you know politicians much better than I do, because for 40 years, you’ve been funding liberal Democratic politicians. And by the way…

TRUMP: I funded you. I funded him. Can you believe it? [applause]

CRUZ: … the reason is — you’re welcome to have the check back.

TRUMP: I funded this guy. I gave him a check.

CRUZ: Yeah, you gave me $5,000.

TRUMP: I gave him a check. He never funded me.

CRUZ: And — and by the way, let’s be clear. [applause]

Donald claims — Donald claims to care about…

TRUMP: You know why? I didn’t want to, but he sent me his book with his autograph…[crosstalk]

CRUZ: Donald. Donald. Donald. I understand rules are very hard for you. They’re very confusing.

TRUMP: Mr. Trump, you’re doing a great job. I have his book.

[crosstalk]

TRUMP: Thank you — thank you for the book. Go ahead.

CRUZ: Donald, you can get back on your meds now.

TRUMP: This is a lot of fun up here tonight, I have to tell you. [applause]

Thank — thank you for the book. I really appreciate it.

CRUZ: Donald — Donald, relax.

TRUMP: Go ahead. I’m relaxed. You’re the basket case. [crosstalk] Go ahead.

CRUZ: Donald…

TRUMP: Go ahead. Don’t get nervous.

CRUZ: [inaudible]…

TRUMP: Go ahead. [crosstalk]

CRUZ: I promise you, Donald, there’s nothing about you…

TRUMP: I’ve seen you.

CRUZ: … that makes anyone nervous.

TRUMP: You’re losing so badly you — I want to…

CRUZ: You know, people are actually watching this at home.

TRUMP: … I — you don’t know what’s happening. [crosstalk]

BLITZER: Gentlemen, gentlemen.

CRUZ: Wolf, I’m going to ask my time not be deducted when he’s yelling at me.

BLITZER: You’ve gotta stop this. [crosstalk] The latest debate — gentlemen, please.

CRUZ: Hold on, I’m going to get my answer. He doesn’t get to yell the whole time.

BLITZER: I want to move — I want to move on. These are the rules. [crosstalk]

CRUZ: Excuse me, he called me a liar, then interrupted the whole time. Am I allowed to…[crosstalk] [applause]

Wolf, do I not get a response? Do I not get a response without being interrupted?

BLITZER: You’ll get — you’ll get plenty of response, so stand by.

CARSON: My name was mentioned.

BLITZER: I want to talk — I want to talk about ISIS right now, and the federal government — how much best to keep Americans safe from ISIS.

There’s a huge battle underway right now between the tech giant Apple and the federal government. The federal government wants Apple to unlock the phone used by that San Bernardino terrorist to prevent future attacks. Apple has refused, saying it would compromise the security of all of its customers. And just this afternoon, they went to court to block the judge’s order.

Dana Bash, pick up the questioning.

BASH: Senator Rubio, you say it’s complicated, and that, quote, “Apple isn’t necessarily wrong to refuse the court order.” Why shouldn’t investigators have everything at their disposal?

RUBIO: No, in fact what I have said is the only thing — the FBI made this very clear 48 hours ago — the only thing they are asking of Apple is that Apple allow them to use their own systems in the FBI to try to guess the password of the San Bernardino killer. Apple initially came out saying, “We’re being ordered to create a back door to an encryption device.” That is not accurate.

The only thing they’re being asked to do, and the FBI made this very clear about 48 hours ago, is allow us to disable the self- destruct mode that’s in the Apple phone so that we can try to guess using our own systems what the password of this killer was.

And I think they should comply with that. If that’s all they’re asking for, they are not asking for Apple to create a back door to encryption.

BASH: So just to be clear, you did say on CNN a couple of weeks ago this is a complicated issue; Apple is not necessarily wrong here.

RUBIO: Because at the time, Apple was portraying that the court order was to create a back door to an encryption device.

BASH: But just to be clear — just to be clear, if you are president, would you instruct your Justice Department to force Apple to comply or not?

RUBIO: To comply with an order that says that they have to allow the FBI the opportunity to try to guess the password?

BASH: Correct.

RUBIO: Absolutely. That Apple phone didn’t even belong to the killer. It belonged to the killer’s employer who have agreed to allow him to try to do this. That is all they’re asking them to do is to disable the self-destruct mode or the auto-erase mode on one phone in the entire world. But Apple doesn’t want to do it because they think it hurts their brand.

Well, let me tell you, their brand is not superior to the national security of the United States of America. [applause]

BASH: Senator Cruz, Apple CEO Tim Cook says this would be bad for America. Where do you stand: national security or personal privacy?

CRUZ: Well, as you know, at that same CNN forum, both Marco and I were asked this question. His answer, he was on both sides of the fence. He’s now agreeing with me. And so I’m glad.

What I said is yes, Apple should be forced to comply with this court order. Why? Because under the Fourth Amendment, a search and seizure is reasonable if it has judicial authorization and probable cause. In this instance, the order is not put a back door in everyone’s cell phone. If that was the order, that order would be problematic because it would compromise security and safety for everyone.

I would agree with Apple on that broad policy question. But on the question of unlocking this cell phone of a terrorist, we should enforce the court order and find out everyone that terrorist at San Bernardino talked to on the phone, texted with, e-mailed. And absolutely, Apple doesn’t have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation. [applause]

BASH: Dr. Carson, Tim Cook, again, the CEO of Apple, says that this would be bad for America. What do you think?

CARSON: I think allowing terrorist to get away with things is bad for America. [applause]

You know, we have the — we have a Constitution. We have a Fourth Amendment. It guards us against illegal and unreasonable search and seizure. But we have mechanisms in place with the judicial system that will allow us to gain material that is necessary to benefit the nation as a whole or the community as a whole. And that’s why we have FISA courts and things of that nature.

So absolutely, I would — I would expect Apple to comply with the court order. If they don’t comply with that, you’re encouraging chaos in our system.

BASH: Mr. Trump…[applause]

KASICH: I want to weigh in on this please. I want to just tell you that the problem is not right now between the administration and Apple. You know what the problem is? Where’s the president been? You sit down in a back room and you sit down with the parties and you get this worked out. You don’t litigate this on the front page of the New York Times, where everybody in the world is reading about their dirty laundry out here.

The president of the United States should be convening a meeting, should have convened a meeting with Apple and our security forces. And then you know what you do when you’re the president? You lock the door and you say you’re not coming out until you reach an agreement that both gives the security people what they need and protects the rights of Americans. This is a failure of his leadership to get this done as an executive should be doing it.

And I’ll tell you, that’s why you want a governor. I do this all the time. And we reach agreements all the time. Because as an executive, you’ve got to solve problems instead of fighting on the front page of the newspaper.

ARRARÁS: Thank you, Governor. [applause]

KASICH: Thank you.

ARRARÁS: Mr. Trump, you have been very vocal about securing the Mexican border, but ISIS has called upon its supporters to conduct attacks on our neighbor to the North, Canada.

As a matter of fact, U.S. officials have warned that it is the Canadian border which is the most significant threat. You have said that you will not build a wall in Canada. When it comes to national security, and the threat of terrorism, why does Mexico need a wall, and Canada doesn’t? Isn’t that, like, closing the front door, and leaving the back door open?

TRUMP: First of all, you’re talking about a border that’s many, many times longer. You’re talking about a massive border.

We have far less problem with that border than we do with our Southern border, and tremendous amounts — you know, I won, I had the privilege of winning by a landslide, by the way, New Hampshire.

You go to New Hampshire, the first thing they talk about is heroin and drugs pouring in. And, you wouldn’t think this beautiful place — it’s beautiful. With the trees and the roads, and the countryside. Their biggest problem is heroin, and it’s such a shame to see it.

They’re pouring in from the Southern border, so I’m talking about great security. I’m talking about a wall that can absolutely be built, and I’ll build it on time, on budget. It’ll be a very high wall, a great wall. It’s going to be built, it’s going to be built. It’s going to be paid for by Canada, by the way — maybe I’ll get Canada to pay? Got to be paid for by Mexico.

The problem with Canada, you’re talking about a massively long piece. You’re talking about a border that would be about four times longer. It would be very, very hard to do, and we — it is not our biggest problem. I don’t care what anyone says. It is not our big problem. Our big problem is not only people coming in, and in many cases the wrong people, it’s the tremendous amount of drugs that are coming in. [applause]

ARRARÁS: I want to talk to you, Senator Rubio, about Puerto Rico. As you know, Puerto Rico’s in the midst of financial collapse, unable to pay it’s debt of $72 billion dollars. Puerto Rico is asking for bankruptcy protection which would give Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans, which are U.S. citizens, you know that — the tools to restructure the debt. That is the same debt the other 50 states have.

You oppose granting Puerto Rico that bankruptcy protection. You say that it is only a last resort measure, but the government of Puerto Rico has said that bankruptcy is it’s last resort. That that’s where they are now. How do you explain this very strong stance to the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans that vote across the U.S. , and particularly in your state of Florida?

RUBIO: Sure, because bankruptcy doesn’t work unless you change the way you’re operating, or you’re going to be bankrupt again. And, the problem with Puerto Rico is it’s economy is not growing. It has a massive exodus of professionals and others that are leaving to my home state of Florida, and all over the country.

They’re coming to the mainland from Puerto Rico because the economy there is not growing, it’s too expensive to do business there. The tax rate is too high. The government regulations are too extensive.

This year alone, with all the problems they’re having, they barely cut their budget from one year to the next. So, I think the leadership on the island has to show their willingness to get their house in order and put in place measures allow the economy there to grow again. If the economy of Puerto Rico does not grow they will never generate the revenue to pay this debt, or the billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities that they have on their books of promises they’ve made to future generations to make payments.

So, yes, if they do all of those things then we can explore the use of bankruptcy protection, but not as the first resort, which is what they’re asking for, because it will not solve the problems on the island and you’re going to continue to see hundreds of thousands of people leave that beautiful place, and coming to the mainland.

They’re United States citizens, they’re obviously entitled to do so, and we welcome them, but we would also prefer to see a Puerto Rico that once again is growing economically, and is robust. And, the leaders in charge there now are doing a terrible job.

Their previous governor, Louis Fortuno was doing a great job until he barely lost that election to…[bell ringing]…to someone who has taken a big government stance once again…

BLITZER: … Senator, thank you very much. [applause]

I want our viewers to stay with us right now, including the last pitch in the final debate before Super Tuesday. [applause and cheering]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the University of Houston. It’s time now for closing statements. All of you will have 30 seconds. Dr. Carson, we’ll start with you.

CARSON: Well first of all, I want people to think about what kind of leader do you want and what kind of person do you want your kids to emulate. Think about that.

Secondly, several years ago, a movie was made about these hands. These hands by the grace of God have saved many lives and healed many families. And I’m asking you tonight, America, to join hands with me to heal, inspire and revive America. If not us, who? And if not now, when? [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Kasich.

KASICH: Well, the last USA Today poll had me beating Hillary Clinton by 11 points, more than anybody on this stage. Secondly, I hope you saw tonight that executive experience really matters. It matters in terms of growing our economy, balancing budgets, cutting taxes, reforming regulations. I’ve done it in Washington, I’ve done it in Ohio, and I can go back to Washington and do it again.

But I hope you also noticed tonight that I do have the foreign policy experience, not just a few years, but a lot of years in working with some of the great, great minds in this country to develop the expertise, the confidence, the firmness, the toughness and the ability to bring people together.

I hope you all think about giving me your vote. I would appreciate it very much. And I tell you, we won’t have to spend time figuring what we’re going to do. I will hit the ground running and we will get America moving again. Thank you all very much. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Well, thank you for having us tonight. You know, this campaign has come a long way. It was just a few months ago there were 15 or 11 us on the stage and now it’s narrowed and the votes are starting to count. And we have an incredible decision to make, not just about the direction of America, but the identity of our party and of the conservative movement.

The time for games is over.

I know you’ve had a lot of choices to make, but now it’s time to narrow it down. And I’m asking you to get behind me, go on our Web site and join you our effort, marcorubio.com, so we can bring an end to this silliness, this looniness, and once again re-embrace all the things that made America and the Republican Party the bearer of the conservative movement in this country. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: Washington deals are bankrupting this country. There are several deal-makers on this stage but there is only one person who has consistently stood up to both parties, fighting for the American people against the Washington deals.

If I’m elected president, on the first day in office I will rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive action. I will instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and prosecute any criminal violations.

I will instruct every federal agency that the persecution of religious liberty ends today. I will rip to shreds the Iranian — catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal. And I will begin the process of moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

We will repeal Obamacare, abolish of IRS, secure the border, and bring back jobs. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Thank you.

Nobody knows politicians better than I do. They’re all talk, they’re no action, nothing gets done. I’ve watched it for years. Take a look at what’s happening to our country.

All of the things that I’ve been talking about, whether it’s trade, whether it’s building up our depleted military, whether it’s taking care of our vets, whether it’s getting rid of Common Core, which is a disaster, or knocking out Obamacare and coming up with something so much better, I will get it done. Politicians will never, ever get it done. And we will make America great again. Thank you. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, thank you.

And thanks to each of the candidates, on behalf of everyone here at CNN and Telemundo. We also want to thank the Republican National Committee and the University of Houston. My thanks also to Hugh Hewitt, Maria Celeste, and Dana Bash.

Super Tuesday is only five days away.



Citation: Presidential Candidates Debates: “Republican Candidates Debate in Houston, Texas,” February 25, 2016. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=111634.

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 October 13, 2015: First Democratic Candidates Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada Transcript

ELECTION 2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Democratic Candidates Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada
October 13, 2015

Source: UCSB, The American Presidency Project 

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Governor Lincoln Chafee (RI);
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton;
Former Governor Martin O’Malley (MD);
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT);
Former Senator Jim Webb (VA);

MODERATORS:
Anderson Cooper (CNN);
Dana Bash (CNN);
Don Lemon (CNN); and
Juan Carlos Lopez (CNN en Espanol)

COOPER: I’m Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining us. We’ve already welcomed the candidates on stage. They are in place at their podiums. Before we dive into the issues, I want to quickly explain some of the groundrules tonight.

As the moderator, I’ll ask questions, followups and guide the discussion. I’ll be joined in the questioning by CNN’s Juan Carlos Lopez and Dana Bash, a well as Don Lemon who will share questions from Democrats around the country. Each candidate will get one minute to answer questions, and 30 seconds for followups and rebuttals. I’ll give candidates time to respond if they have been singled out for criticism.

Our viewers should know that we have lights that are visible to the candidates to warn them when their time is up.

I want the candidates to be able to introduce themselves to our audience. Each candidate will have two minutes to introduce themselves.

Let’s begin with Governor Chafee.

Governor?

CHAFEE: Thank you, Anderson.

Thank you, CNN, and thank you Facebook for organizing this debate.

Not only will Americans be electing a new president next year, we also will be electing a world leader. Voters should assess the candidate’s experience, character and vision for the future as they make this important decision.

I’m the only one running for president that has been a mayor, a United States senator, and a governor. As mayor, I brought labor peace to my city and kept taxes down. I was reelected three times. As a senator, I earned a reputation for courageous votes against the Bush-Cheney tax cuts the favored the wealthy, against the tragedy of the Iraq war, for environmental stewardship, for protection of our civil liberties. I served on the Foreign Relations Committee and I chaired the Middle East Subcommittee for four years.

As governor, I came in at the depths of the recession and we turned my state around. Rhode Island had the biggest drop of the unemployment rate over my four budgets of all but one state. It happens to be Nevada, where we’re having this debate. I’m very proud that over my almost 30 years of public service, I have had no scandals. I’ve always been honest. I have the courage to take the long-term view, and I’ve shown good judgment. I have high ethical standards.

As we look to the future, I want to address the income inequality, close the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I want to address climate change, a real threat to our planet. And I believe in prosperity through peace. I want to end these wars.

I look forward to the discussion ahead.

Thank you [applause]

COOPER: Thank you very much, Governor. [applause]

Senator Webb, you have two minutes.

WEBB: Thank you.

You know, people are disgusted with the way that money has corrupted our political process, intimidating incumbents and empowering Wall Street every day, the turnstile government that we see, and also the power of the financial sector in both parties.

They’re looking for a leader who understands how the system works, who has not been coopted by it, and also has a proven record of accomplishing different things. I have a record of working across the political aisle. I’ve also spent more than half of my professional life away from politics in the independent world of being an author, a journalist, and a sole proprietor.

In government service, I’ve fought and bled for our country in Vietnam as a Marine. I spent years as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy — in the Reagan administration.

In the senate, I spoke about economic fairness and social justice from day one. I also wrote and passed the best piece of veterans education legislation in history, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. I brought criminal justice reform out of the political shadows and into the national discussion. I led what later became called the Strategic Pivot to Asia two years before President Obama was elected.

I know where my loyalties are.

My mother grew up in the poverty of east Arkansas chopping cotton, picking strawberries. Three of her seven siblings died in childhood. My wife, Hong, came to this country as a refugee from war torn Vietnam — learned English, a language that was not spoken at home, and earned her way into Cornell Law School. I have five daughters. Amy works with disabled veterans, Sarah is an emergency room nurse, Julia is a massage therapist, Emily and Georgia are still in school. My son Jim fought as an infantry Marine on the bloody streets of Ramadi.

You may be sure that in a Webb administration, the highest priority will be the working people who every day go out and make this country stronger at home, and who give us the right reputation and security overseas under a common sense foreign policy. [cheering and applause]

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, you have two minutes.

O’MALLEY: My name is Martin O’Malley, former Mayor of Baltimore, former governor of Maryland, a life long democrat, and most importantly, a husband, and a father.

My wife Katie and I have four great kids, Grace, and Tara, and William and Jack. And, like you, there is nothing we wouldn’t do to give them healthier and better lives. There are some things that I have learned to do better in life than others. And, after 15 years of executive experience, I have learned how to be an effective leader.

Whether it was raising the minimum wage, making our public schools the best in America, passing marriage equality, the DREAM Act, and comprehensive gun safety legislation, I have learned how to get things done because I am very clear about my principals.

Thanks to President Obama, our country has come a long way since the Wall Street crash of 2008. Our country’s doing better, we are creating jobs again. But we elected a president, not a magician, and there is urgent work that needs to be done right now. For there is a — deep injustice, an economic injustice that threatens to tear our country apart, and it will not solve itself. Injustice does not solve itself.

What I’m talking about is this, our middle class is shrinking. Our poor families are becoming poorer, and 70 percent of us are earning the same, or less than we were 12 years ago. We need new leadership, and we need action. The sort of action that will actually make wages go up again for all American families.

Our economy isn’t money, it’s people. It’s all of our people, and so we must invest in our country, and the potential of our kids to make college a debt free option for all of our families, instead of settling our kids with a lifetime of crushing debt.

And, we must square our shoulders to the great challenge of climate change and make this threat our opportunity. The future is what we make of it. We are all in this together. And, the question in this election is whether you and I still have the ability to give our kids a better future. I believe we do, that is why I am running for president, and I need your help.

Thank you. [applause]

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, thank you very much. Senator Sanders.

SANDERS: Anderson, thank you very much. I think most Americans understand that our country today faces a series of unprecedented crises. The middle class of this country for the last 40 years has been disappearing. Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, and yet almost all of the new income and wealth being created is going to the top one percent.

As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people.

Today, the scientific community is virtually unanimous: climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and we have a moral responsibility to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and our grandchildren.

Today in America, we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. African-American youth unemployment is 51 percent. Hispanic youth unemployment is 36 percent. It seems to me that instead of building more jails and providing more incarceration, maybe — just maybe — we should be putting money into education and jobs for our kids. [applause]

What this campaign is about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant democracy we know we can and should have. Thank you. [applause]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, thank you, and thanks to everyone for hosting this first of the Democratic debates.

I’m Hillary Clinton. I have been proud and privileged to serve as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state. I’m the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of a wonderful one-year-old child. And every day, I think about what we need to do to make sure that opportunity is available not just for her, but for all of our children. I have spent a very long time — my entire adult life — looking for ways to even the odds to help people have a chance to get ahead, and, in particular, to find the ways for each child to live up to his or her God-given potential.

I’ve traveled across our country over the last months listening and learning, and I’ve put forward specific plans about how we’re going to create more good-paying jobs: by investing in infrastructure and clean energy, by making it possible once again to invest in science and research, and taking the opportunity posed by climate change to grow our economy.

At the center of my campaign is how we’re going to raise wages. Yes, of course, raise the minimum wage, but we have to do so much more, including finding ways so that companies share profits with the workers who helped to make them.

And then we have to figure out how we’re going to make the tax system a fairer one. Right now, the wealthy pay too little and the middle class pays too much. So I have specific recommendations about how we’re going to close those loopholes, make it clear that the wealthy will have to pay their fair share, and have a series of tax cuts for middle-class families.

And I want to do more to help us balance family and work. I believe in equal pay for equal work for women, but I also believe it’s about time we had paid family leave for American families and join the rest of the world. [applause]

During the course of the evening tonight, I’ll have a chance to lay out all of my plans and the work that I’ve done behind them. But for me, this is about bringing our country together again. And I will do everything I can to heal the divides — the divides economically, because there’s too much inequality; the racial divides; the continuing discrimination against the LGBT community — so that we work together and, yes, finally, fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be president. [applause]

COOPER: Thank you, all. It is time to start the debate.

Are you all ready? [applause]

All right. Let’s begin. We’re going to be discussing a lot of the issues, many of the issues, important issues that you have brought up. But I want to begin with concerns that voters have about each of the candidates here on this stage that they have about each of you.

Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.

You were against same-sex marriage. Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the “gold standard”. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it.

Will you say anything to get elected?

CLINTON: Well, actually, I have been very consistent. Over the course of my entire life, I have always fought for the same values and principles, but, like most human beings — including those of us who run for office — I do absorb new information. I do look at what’s happening in the world.

You know, take the trade deal. I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans.

And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, “this will help raise your wages.” And I concluded I could not.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, though, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd you’d, quote, “take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values.”

Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to, quote, “being kind of moderate and center.” Do you change your political identity based on who you’re talking to?

CLINTON: No. I think that, like most people that I know, I have a range of views, but they are rooted in my values and my experience. And I don’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment.

You know, when I left law school, my first job was with the Children’s Defense Fund, and for all the years since, I have been focused on how we’re going to un-stack the deck, and how we’re gonna make it possible for more people to have the experience I had.

You know, to be able to come from a grandfather who was a factory worker, a father who was a small business person, and now asking the people of America to elect me president.

COOPER: Just for the record, are you a progressive, or are you a moderate?

CLINTON: I’m a progressive. But I’m a progressive who likes to get things done. And I know… [applause] …how to find common ground, and I know how to stand my ground, and I have proved that in every position that I’ve had, even dealing with Republicans who never had a good word to say about me, honestly. But we found ways to work together on everything from…

COOPER: Secretary…

CLINTON: …reforming foster care and adoption to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures…

COOPER: …thank you…

CLINTON: …8 million kids. So I have a long history of getting things done, rooted in the same values…

COOPER: …Senator…

CLINTON: …I’ve always had.

COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

SANDERS: Well, we’re gonna win because first, we’re gonna explain what democratic socialism is.

And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent — almost — own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. [applause]

COOPER: Denmark is a country that has a population — Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at.

You — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist.

Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let’s look at the facts. The facts that are very simple. Republicans win when there is a low voter turnout, and that is what happened last November.

Sixty-three percent of the American people didn’t vote, Anderson. Eighty percent of young people didn’t vote. We are bringing out huge turnouts, and creating excitement all over this country.

Democrats at the White House on down will win, when there is excitement and a large voter turnout, and that is what this campaign is doing.

COOPER: You don’t consider yourself a capitalist, though?

SANDERS: Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don’t.

I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires. [applause]

COOPER: Just let me just be clear. Is there anybody else on the stage who is not a capitalist?

CLINTON: Well, let me just follow-up on that, Anderson, because when I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.

And I don’t think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself. And I think what Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have.

But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we’re seeing in our economic system.

But we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history…

COOPER: Senator Sanders?

CLINTON: … of the world. [applause]

SANDERS: I think everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course, we have to support small and medium-sized businesses.

But you can have all of the growth that you want and it doesn’t mean anything if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. So what we need to do is support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake…

COOPER: We’re going to get…

SANDERS: … not just for billionaires.

COOPER: We’re going to have a lot more on these issues. But I do want to just quickly get everybody in on the question of electability.

Governor Chafee, you’ve been everything but a socialist. When you were senator from Rhode Island, you were a Republican. When you were elected governor, you were an independent. You’ve only been a Democrat for little more than two years. Why should Democratic voters trust you won’t change again?

CHAFEE: Anderson, you’re looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues. Whether it’s…

[crosstalk]

COOPER: It seems like pretty soft granite. I mean, you’ve been a Republican, you’ve been an independent.

CHAFEE: Did you hear what I said? On the issues. I have not changed on the issues. I was a liberal Republican, then I was an independent, and now I’m a proud Democrat. But I have not changed on the issues.

And I open my record to scrutiny. Whether it’s on the environment, a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, fiscal responsibility, aversion to foreign entanglements, using the tools of government to help the less fortunate.

Time and time again, I have never changed. You’re looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues. So I have not changed.

COOPER: Then why change labels?

CHAFEE: The party left me. There’s no doubt about that. There was no room for a liberal moderate Republican in that party. I even had a primary for my reelection in 2006. I won it. But the money poured in to defeat me in Rhode Island as a Republican. That’s what we were up against.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, the concern of voters about you is that you tout our record as Baltimore’s mayor. As we all know, we all saw it. That city exploded in riots and violence in April.

The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest. Why should Americans trust you with the country when they see what’s going on in the city that you ran for more than seven years?

O’MALLEY: Yes, actually, I believe what she said was that there’s a lot of policies that have led to this unrest.

But, Anderson, when I ran for mayor of Baltimore in 1999…

COOPER: She actually — just for the record, when she was asked which policies, to name two, she said zero tolerance. I mean, there’s a number of old policies that we’re seeing the results of. That distress of communities, where communities don’t want to step forward and say who killed a 3-year-old, it’s a direct result of these failed policies.

O’MALLEY: Well, let’s talk about this a little bit. One of the things that was not reported during that heartbreaking night of unrest in Baltimore was that arrests had actually fallen to a 38-year low in the year prior to the Freddie Gray’s tragic death.

Anderson, when I ran for mayor of Baltimore back in 1999, it was not because our city was doing well. It was because we allowed ourselves to become the most violent, addicted, and abandoned city in America.

And I ran and promised people that together we could turn that around. And we put our city on a path to reduce violent crime, or part one (ph) crime by more than any other major city in America over the next 10 years.

I did not make our city immune to setbacks. But I attended a lot of funerals, including one for a family of seven who were firebombed in their sleep for picking up the phone in a poor African-American neighborhood and calling the police because of drug dealers on their corner.

We’ve saved over a thousand lives in Baltimore in the last 15 years of people working together. And the vast majority of them were young and poor and black. It wasn’t easy on any day. But we saved lives and we gave our city a better future, improving police and community relations every single day that I was in office.

COOPER: In one year alone, though, 100,000 arrests were made in your city, a city of 640,000 people. The ACLU, the NAACP sued you, sued the city, and the city actually settled, saying a lot of those arrests were without probable cause.

O’MALLEY: Well, I think the key word in your followup there was the word “settle.” That’s true. It was settled. Arrests peaked in 2003, Anderson, but they declined every year after that as we restored peace in our poorer neighborhoods so that people could actually walk and not have to worry about their kids or their loved ones of being victims of violent crime.

Look, none of this is easy. None of us has all the answers. But together as a city, we saved a lot of lives. It was about leadership. It was about principle. And it was about bringing people together.

COOPER: Thank you, Governor.

O’MALLEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Senator Webb, in 2006, you called affirmative action “state-sponsored racism.” In 2010, you wrote an op/ed saying it discriminates against whites. Given that nearly half the Democratic Party is non-white, aren’t you out of step with where the Democratic Party is now?

WEBB: No, actually I believe that I am where the Democratic Party traditionally has been. The Democratic Party, and the reason I’ve decided to run as a Democrat, has been the party that gives people who otherwise have no voice in the corridors of power a voice. And that is not determined by race.

And as a clarification, I have always supported affirmative action for African Americans. That’s the way the program was originally designed because of their unique history in this country, with slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed. What I have discussed a number of times is the idea that when we create diversity programs that include everyone, quote, “of color,” other than whites, struggling whites like the families in the Appalachian mountains, we’re not being true to the Democratic Party principle of elevating the level of consciousness among our people about the hardships that a lot of people who happen to be have — by culture, by the way.

COOPER: Senator Webb, thank you very much.

Let’s move on to some of the most pressing issues facing our country right now, some of the biggest issues right now in the headlines today. We’re going to start with guns. The shooting in Oregon earlier this month, once again it brought the issue of guns into the national conversation. Over the last week, guns have been the most discussed political topic on Facebook by two to one.

Senator Sanders, you voted against the Brady bill that mandated background checks and a waiting period. You also supported allowing riders to bring guns in checked bags on Amtrak trains. For a decade, you said that holding gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings is a bad idea. Now, you say you’re reconsidering that. Which is it: shield the gun companies from lawsuits or not?

SANDERS: Let’s begin, Anderson, by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting rating (ph) from the NRA. Let’s also understand that back in 1988 when I first ran for the United States Congress, way back then, I told the gun owners of the state of Vermont and I told the people of the state of Vermont, a state which has virtually no gun control, that I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly avoided instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole. And I think we’ve got to move aggressively at the federal level in dealing with the straw man purchasers.

Also I believe, and I’ve fought for, to understand that there are thousands of people in this country today who are suicidal, who are homicidal, but can’t get the healthcare that they need, the mental healthcare, because they don’t have insurance or they’re too poor. I believe that everybody in this country who has a mental crisis has got to get mental health counseling immediately.

COOPER: Do you want to shield gun companies from lawsuits?

SANDERS: Of course not. This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think made sense. For example, do I think that a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don’t.

On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting that, of course we should take action.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns?

CLINTON: No, not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it’s time the entire country stood up against the NRA. The majority of our country… [applause] … supports background checks, and even the majority of gun owners do.

Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady bill. Since it was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented. He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn’t that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say: Enough of that. We’re not going to let it continue. [applause]

COOPER: We’re going to bring you all in on this. But, Senator Sanders, you have to give a response.

SANDERS: As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton, that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want, and that is keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns and end this horrible violence that we are seeing.

I believe that there is a consensus in this country. A consensus has said we need to strengthen and expand instant background checks, do away with this gun show loophole, that we have to address the issue of mental health, that we have to deal with the strawman purchasing issue, and that when we develop that consensus, we can finally, finally do something to address this issue.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, you passed gun legislation as governor of Maryland, but you had a Democratic-controlled legislature. President Obama couldn’t convince Congress to pass gun legislation after the massacres in Aurora, in Newtown, and Charleston. How can you?

O’MALLEY: And, Anderson, I also had to overcome a lot of opposition in the leadership of my own party to get this done. Look, it’s fine to talk about all of these things — and I’m glad we’re talking about these things — but I’ve actually done them.

We passed comprehensive gun safety legislation, not by looking at the pollings or looking at what the polls said. We actually did it. And, Anderson, here tonight in our audience are two people that make this issue very, very real. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips are here from Colorado. And their daughter, Jessie, was one of those who lost their lives in that awful mass shooting in Aurora.

Now, to try to transform their grief, they went to court, where sometimes progress does happen when you file in court, but in this case, you want to talk about a — a rigged game, Senator? The game was rigged. A man had sold 4,000 rounds of military ammunition to this — this person that killed their daughter, riddled her body with five bullets, and he didn’t even ask where it was going.

And not only did their case get thrown out of court, they were slapped with $200,000 in court fees because of the way that the NRA gets its way in our Congress and we take a backseat. It’s time to stand up and pass comprehensive gun safety legislation as a nation. [applause]

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I want you to be able to respond, 30 seconds.

SANDERS: I think the governor gave a very good example about the weaknesses in that law and I think we have to take another look at it. But here is the point, Governor. We can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.

Our job is to bring people together around strong, commonsense gun legislation. I think there is a vast majority in this country who want to do the right thing, and I intend to lead the country in bringing our people together.

O’MALLEY: Senator — Senator, excuse me.

[crosstalk]

O’MALLEY: Senator, it is not about rural — Senator, it was not about rural and urban.

SANDERS: It’s exactly about rural.

O’MALLEY: Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore? Have you ever been to Western Maryland? We were able to pass this and still respect the hunting traditions of people who live in our rural areas.

SANDERS: Governor…

O’MALLEY: And we did it by leading with principle, not by pandering to the NRA and backing down to the NRA.

SANDERS: Well, as somebody who has a D-minus voting record…

[crosstalk]

O’MALLEY: And I have an F from the NRA, Senator.

SANDERS: I don’t think I am pandering. But you have not been in the United States Congress.

O’MALLEY: Well, maybe that’s a healthy thing. [laughter]

SANDERS: And when you want to, check it out. And if you think — if you think that we can simply go forward and pass something tomorrow without bringing people together, you are sorely mistaken.

COOPER: Let me bring in somebody who has a different viewpoint. Senator Webb, your rating from the NRA, you once had an A rating from the NRA. You’ve said gun violence goes down when more people are allowed to carry guns. Would encouraging more people to be armed be part of your response to a mass shooting?

WEBB: Look, there are two fundamental issues that are involved in this discussion. We need to pay respect to both of them. The first is the issue of who should be kept from having guns and using firearms. And we have done not a good job on that.

A lot of them are criminals. And a lot of the people are getting killed are members of gangs inside our urban areas. And a lot of them are mentally incapacitated. And the shooting in Virginia Tech in ’07, this individual had received medical care for mental illness from three different professionals who were not allowed to share the information.

So we do need background checks. We need to keep the people who should not have guns away from them. But we have to respect the tradition in this country of people who want to defend themselves and their family from violence.

COOPER: Senator…

WEBB: May I? People are going back and forth here for 10 minutes here. There are people at high levels in this government who have bodyguards 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The average American does not have that, and deserves the right to be able to protect their family.

COOPER: Senator — Governor Chafee, you have an F rating from the NRA, what do you think about what Senator Webb just said?

CHAFEE: Yes, I have a good record of voting for gun commonsense safety legislation, but the reality is, despite these tragedies that happen time and time again, when legislators step up to pass commonsense gun safety legislation, the gun lobby moves in and tells the people they’re coming to take away your guns.

And, they’re successful at it, in Colorado and others states, the legislators that vote for commonsense gun safety measures then get defeated. I even saw in Rhode Island. So, I would bring the gun lobby in and say we’ve got to change this. Where can we find common ground? Wayne Lapierre from the NRA, whoever it is, the leaders. Come one, we’ve go to change this. We’re not coming to take away your guns, we believe in the Second Amendment, but let’s find common ground here.

COOPER: I want to…

O’MALLEY: …Anderson, when the NRA wrote to everyone in our state — when the NRA wrote to members in our state and told people with hunting traditions lies about what our comprehensive gun safety legislation is, I wrote right back to them and laid out what it actually did. And that’s why, not only did we pass it, but the NRA didn’t…

SANDERS: …Excuse me…

O’MALLEY: …dare to petition a referendum…

SANDERS: …I want to make…

O’MALLEY: …Because we built a public consensus…

COOPER: …I want to move on to another issue, which is in the headlines right now, another crisis making headlines.

Secretary Clinton, Russia, they’re challenging the U.S. in Syria. According to U.S. intelligence, they’ve lied about who they’re bombing. You spearheaded the reset with Russia. Did you underestimate the Russians, and as president, what would your response to Vladimir Putin be right now in Syria?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, we got a lot of business done with the Russians when Medvedev was the president, and not Putin. We got a nuclear arms deal, we got the Iranian sanctions, we got an ability to bring important material and equipment to our soldiers in Afghanistan.

There’s no doubt that when Putin came back in and said he was going to be President, that did change the relationship. We have to stand up to his bullying, and specifically in Syria, it is important — and I applaud the administration because they are engaged in talks right now with the Russians to make it clear that they’ve got to be part of the solution to try to end that bloody conflict.

And, to — provide safe zones so that people are not going to have to be flooding out of Syria at the rate they are. And, I think it’s important too that the United States make it very clear to Putin that it’s not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos, bombing people on behalf of Assad, and we can’t do that if we don’t take more of a leadership position, which is what I’m advocating.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, what would you do differently.

SANDERS: Well, let’s understand that when we talk about Syria, you’re talking about a quagmire in a quagmire. You’re talking about groups of people trying to overthrow Assad, other groups of people fighting ISIS. You’re talking about people who are fighting ISIS using their guns to overthrow Assad, and vice versa.

I’m the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and in that capacity I learned a very powerful lesson about the cost of war, and I will do everything that I can to make sure that the United States does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country. We should be putting together a coalition of Arab countries who should be leading the effort. We should be supportive, but I do not support American ground troops in Syria.

COOPER: On this issue of foreign policy, I want to go to…

CLINTON: …Well, nobody does. Nobody does, Senator Sanders.

COOPER: I want to go to Dana Bash. Dana?

BASH: Governor Chafee, you were the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the Iraq war. You say Secretary Clinton should be disqualified from the presidency because she voted in favor of using force in Iraq. She has since said that her vote was a mistake. Why isn’t that good enough?

CHAFEE: Well, we just heard Senator Sanders say that it’s the worst decision in American history. That’s very significant, the worst decision in American history, I just heard from Senator Sanders.

So, as we look ahead, if you’re going to make those poor judgment calls, a critical time in our history, we just finished with the Vietnam era, getting back into another quagmire — if you’re looking ahead, and you’re looking at someone who made that poor decision in 2002 to go into Iraq when there was no real evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — I know because I did my homework, and, so, that’s an indication of how someone will perform in the future. And that’s what’s important. [applause]

BASH: Secretary Clinton, he’s questioning your judgment.

CLINTON: Well, I recall very well being on a debate stage, I think, about 25 times with then Senator Obama, debating this very issue. After the election, he asked me to become Secretary of State.

He valued my judgment, and I spent a lot of time with him… [applause] …in the Situation Room, going over some very difficult issues.

You know, I — I agree completely. We don’t want American troops on the ground in Syria. I never said that. What I said was we had to put together a coalition — in fact, something that I worked on before I left the State Department — to do, and yes, that it should include Arabs, people in the region.

Because what I worry about is what will happen with ISIS gaining more territory, having more reach, and, frankly, posing a threat to our friends and neighbors in the region and far beyond.

So I think while you’re talking about the tough decision that President Obama had to make about Osama bin Laden, where I was one of his few advisers, or putting together that coalition to impose sanctions on Iran — I think I have a lot of evidence…

[crosstalk]

BASH: Senator Sanders — Senator Sanders, I want to bring you in here. My question for you is, as a congressman, you voted against the Iraq War. You voted against the Gulf War. You’re just talking about Syria, but under what circumstances would a President Sanders actually use force?

SANDERS: Let me just respond to something the secretary said. First of all, she is talking about, as I understand it, a no-fly zone in Syria, which I think is a very dangerous situation. Could lead to real problems.

Second of all, I heard the same evidence from President Bush and Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld about why we should overthrow Saddam Hussein and get involved in the — I would urge people to go to berniesanders.com, hear what I said in 2002. And I say, without any joy in my heart, that much of what I thought would happen about the destabilization, in fact, did happen.

So I think…

BASH: All right. [applause]

SANDERS: I think the president is trying very hard to thread a tough needle here, and that is to support those people who are against Assad, against ISIS, without getting us on the ground there, and that’s the direction I believe we should have (inaudible).

COOPER: But, Senator Sanders, you didn’t answer the question. Under what — under what circumstances would you actually use force?

SANDERS: Well, obviously, I voted, when President Clinton said, “let’s stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo,” I voted for that. I voted to make sure that Osama bin Laden was held accountable in Afghanistan.

When our country is threatened, or when our allies are threatened, I believe that we need coalitions to come together to address the major crises of this country. I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action.

(UNKNOWN): You’re at work with our allies.

[crosstalk]

COOPER: I’m gonna bring you all in on this. Governor — Governor O’Malley, Secretary Clinton…

SANDERS: I don’t believe that any…

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton voted to authorize military force in Iraq, supported more troops in Afghanistan. As Secretary of State, she wanted to arm Syrian rebels and push for the bombing of Libya. Is she too quick to use military force?

O’MALLEY: Anderson, no president — no commander in chief — should take the military option off the table, even if most of us would agree that it should be the last option.

What disturbed people so much about — and I would agree with Senator Sanders on this — leading us into Iraq under false pretenses and telling us, as a people, that there were weapons of mass destruction there was — was one of the worst blunders in modern American history.

But the reason why people remain angry about it is because people feel like a lot of our legislators got railroaded in a war fever and by polls. And I remember being at a dinner shortly before that invasion. People were talking at — and saying, “it’ll take us just a couple years to rebuild democracy,” and I thought, “has this world gone mad?”

Whenever we go — and contrary to John Quincy Adams’ advice — “searching the world for monsters to destroy,” and when we use political might to take a — at the expense of democratic principle, we hurt ourselves, and we hurt our [inaudible].

COOPER: Does she — does she want to use military force too rapidly?

O’MALLEY: I believe that, as president, I would not be so quick to pull for a military tool. I believe that a no-fly zone in Syria, at this time, actually, Secretary, would be a mistake.

You have to enforce no-fly zones, and I believe, especially with the Russian air force in the air, it could lead to an escalation because of an accident that we would deeply regret.

I support President Obama. I think we have to play a long game, and I think, ultimately — you want to talk about blunders? I think Assad’s invasion of Syria will be seen as a blunder.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, just for the record, on the campaign trail, you’ve been saying that Secretary Clinton is always quick for the — for the military intervention. Senator — Secretary Clinton, you can respond.

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I…

WEBB: Anderson, can I come into this discussion at some point?

COOPER: Well — yes, you’ll be coming in next, but she was directly quoted, Senator.

WEBB: Thank you. I’ve been standing over here for about ten minutes, trying.

COOPER: OK.

WEBB: It’s just — it’s gone back and forth over there.

COOPER: Secretary?

CLINTON: Well, I am in the middle, here, and… [laughter]

Lots of things coming from all directions.

WEBB: You got the lucky [inaudible].

CLINTON: You know, I have to say, I was very pleased when Governor O’Malley endorsed me for president in 2008, and I enjoyed his strong support in that campaign. And I consider him, obviously, a friend.

Let me say — because there’s a lot of loose talk going on here — we are already flying in Syria just as we are flying in Iraq. The president has made a very tough decision. What I believe and why I have advocated that the no-fly zone — which of course would be in a coalition — be put on the table is because I’m trying to figure out what leverage we have to get Russia to the table. You know, diplomacy is not about getting to the perfect solution. It’s about how you balance the risks.

COOPER: Thank you.

CLINTON: And I think we have an opportunity here — and I know that inside the administration this is being hotly debated — to get that leverage to try to get the Russians to have to deal with everybody in the region and begin to move toward a political, diplomatic solution in Syria.

COOPER: Thank you, Secretary.

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Senator Webb, you said as president you would never have used military force in Libya and that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was, in your words, “inevitable.” Should Secretary Clinton have seen that attack coming?

WEBB: Look, let’s start — I’ve been trying to get in this conversation for about 10 minutes — let’s start with why Russia is in Syria right now. There are three strategic failings that have allowed this to occur. The first was the invasion of Iraq, which destabilized ethnic elements in Iraq and empowered Iran. The second was the Arab Spring, which created huge vacuums in Libya and in Syria that allowed terrorist movements to move in there. And the third was the recent deal allowing Iran to move forward and eventually acquire a nuclear weapon, which sent bad signals, bad body language into the region about whether we are acquiescing in Iran becoming a stronger piece of the formula in that part of the world.

Now, I say this as someone who spent five years in the Pentagon and who opposed the war in Iraq, whose son fought in Iraq, I’ve fought in Vietnam. But if you want a place where we need to be in terms of our national strategy, a focus, the greatest strategic threat that we have right now is resolving our relationship with China. And we need to do this because of their aggression in the region. We need to do it because of the way they treat their own people.

COOPER: Senator…

WEBB: And I would say this. I’ve been waiting for 10 minutes. I will say this.

COOPER: You’re over your time as of now.

WEBB: I will — well, you’ve let a lot of people go over their time. I would say this…

COOPER: You agreed to these debate rules.

WEBB: … to the unelected, authoritarian government of China: You do not own the South China Sea. You do not have the right to conduct cyber warfare against tens of millions of American citizens. And in a Webb administration, we will do something about that.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I want you to be able to respond.

SANDERS: Pardon me?

COOPER: I’d like you to be able to respond and get in on this.

SANDERS: Well, I think Mr. Putin is going to regret what he is doing. I think that when he gets into that…

COOPER: He doesn’t seem to be the type of guy to regret a lot.

SANDERS: Well, I think he’s already regretting what he did in Crimea and what he is doing in the Ukraine. I think he is really regretting the decline of his economy. And I think what he is trying to do now is save some face. But I think when Russians get killed in Syria and when he gets bogged down, I think the Russian people are going to give him a message that maybe they should come home, maybe they should start working with the United States to rectify the situation now.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, on the campaign trail, Governor Webb has said that he would never have used military force in Libya and that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was inevitable. Should you have seen that attack coming?

CLINTON: Well, let’s remember what was going on. We had a murderous dictator, Gadhafi, who had American blood on his hands, as I’m sure you remember, threatening to massacre large numbers of the Libyan people. We had our closest allies in Europe burning up the phone lines begging us to help them try to prevent what they saw as a mass genocide, in their words. And we had the Arabs standing by our side saying, “We want you to help us deal with Gadhafi.”

Our response, which I think was smart power at its best, is that the United States will not lead this. We will provide essential, unique capabilities that we have, but the Europeans and the Arabs had to be first over the line. We did not put one single American soldier on the ground in Libya. And I’ll say this for the Libyan people…

COOPER: But American citizens did lose their lives in Benghazi.

CLINTON: But let — I’ll get to that. But I think it’s important, since I understand Senator Webb’s very strong feelings about this, to explain where we were then and to point out that I think President Obama made the right decision at the time.

And the Libyan people had a free election the first time since 1951. And you know what, they voted for moderates, they voted with the hope of democracy. Because of the Arab Spring, because of a lot of other things, there was turmoil to be followed.

But unless you believe the United States should not send diplomats to any place that is dangerous, which I do not, then when we send them forth, there is always the potential for danger and risk.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley?

WEBB: Can I…

[crosstalk]

O’MALLEY: Anderson, I think we are learning…

[crosstalk]

O’MALLEY: Anderson, I think there’s lessons to be learned from Benghazi. And those lessons are that we need to do a much better job as a nation of having human intelligence on the ground so that we know who the emerging next generation leaders are that are coming up to replace a dictator when his time on this planet ends.

And I believe that’s what Chris Stevens was trying to do. But he did not have the tools. We have failed as a country to invest in the human intelligence that would allow us to make not only better decisions in Libya, but better decisions in Syria today.

And it’s a huge national security failing.

COOPER: Senator Webb, I want you to be able to respond.

WEBB: Thank you.

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Senator Webb?

WEBB: This is not about Benghazi per se. To me it is the inevitability of something like Benghazi occurring in the way that we intervened in Libya. We had no treaties at risk. We had no Americans at risk. There was no threat of attack or imminent attack.

There is plenty of time for a president to come to the Congress and request authority to use military force in that situation. I called for it on the Senate floor again and again. I called for it in Senate hearings.

It is not a wise thing to do. And if people think it was a wise thing to do, try to get to the Tripoli airport today. You can’t do it.

COOPER: Secretary (sic) Webb, you served in Vietnam. You’re a marine. Once a marine, always a marine. You served as a marine in Vietnam. You’re a decorated war hero. You eventually became secretary of the navy.

During the Vietnam War, the man standing next to you, Senator Sanders, applied for status as a conscientious objector. Given his history, can he serve as a credible commander-in-chief?

WEBB: Everybody makes their decisions when the time there is conscription. And as long as they go through the legal process that our country requires, I respect that. And it would be for the voters to decide whether Senator Sanders or anyone else should be president.

I will say this, coming from the position that I’ve come from, from a military family, with my brother a marine, my son was a marine in Iraq, I served as a marine, spending five years in the Pentagon, I am comfortable that I am the most qualified person standing up here today to be your commander-in-chief.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, tell an American soldier who is watching right now tonight in Afghanistan why you can be commander-in- chief given that you applied for conscientious objector status.

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let me applaud my good friend Jim Webb for his service to this country in so many ways. [applause]

Jim and I, under Jim’s leadership, as he indicated, passed the most significant veterans education bill in recent history. We followed suit with a few years later passing, under my leadership, the most significant veterans’ health care legislation in the modern history of this country. [applause]

When I was a young man — I’m not a young man today. When I was a young man, I strongly opposed the war in Vietnam. Not the brave men like Jim who fought in that war, but the policy which got us involved in that war. That was my view then. [cheering and applause]

I am not a pacifist, Anderson. I supported the war in Afghanistan. I supported President Clinton’s effort to deal with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I support air strikes in Syria and what the president is trying to do.

Yes, I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort that we have got to exercise diplomacy. But yes, I am prepared to take this country into war if that is necessary.

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Very quickly, 30 seconds for each of you. Governor Chafee, who or what is the greatest national security threat to the United States? I want to go down the line.

CHAFEE: OK. I just have to answer one thing that Senator Webb said about the Iran deal, because I’m a strong proponent of what President Obama — and he said that because of that the Iran deal that enabled Russia to come in.

No, that’s not true, Senator Webb. I respect your foreign policy chops. But Russia is aligned with Iran and with Assad and the Alawite Shias in Syria. So that Iran deal did not allow Russia to come in.

COOPER: OK. Senator, I can give you 30 seconds to respond.

WEBB: I believe that the signal that we sent to the region when the Iran nuclear deal was concluded was that we are accepting Iran’s greater position on this very important balance of power, among our greatest ally Israel, and the Sunnis represented by the Saudi regime, and Iran. It was a position of weakness and I think it encouraged the acts that we’ve seen in the past several weeks.

COOPER: Thirty seconds for each of you. Governor Chafee, what is the greatest national security threat to the United States?

CHAFEE: It’s certainly the chaos in the Middle East. There’s no doubt about it.

COOPER: OK.

CHAFEE: And it all started with the Iraq invasion.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley?

O’MALLEY: I believe that nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat, along with the threat of ISIL; climate change, of course, makes cascading threats even more (inaudible).

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, the greatest national security threat?

CLINTON: I — I think it has to be continued threat from the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear material that can fall into the wrong hands. I know the terrorists are constantly seeking it, and that’s why we have to stay vigilant, but also united around the world to prevent that.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, greatest national security threat?

SANDERS: The scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we’re going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable. That is a major crisis.

COOPER: Senator Webb?

WEBB: Our greatest long-term strategic challenge is our relation with China. Our greatest day-to-day threat is cyber warfare against this country. Our greatest military-operational threat is resolving the situations in the Middle East.

COOPER: All right. We’re going to take a short break. Do these candidates see eye to eye on an issue that is driving a big wedge between Republicans? That is next.

We’ll be right back. [applause]

[commercial break]

COOPER: And welcome back. We are live in Nevada, in Las Vegas, at the Wynn Resort for the first Democratic presidential debate. The questions continue.

We begin with Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton, you are going to be testifying before Congress next week about your e-mails. For the last eight months, you haven’t been able to put this issue behind you. You dismissed it; you joked about it; you called it a mistake. What does that say about your ability to handle far more challenging crises as president?

CLINTON: Well, I’ve taken responsibility for it. I did say it was a mistake. What I did was allowed by the State Department, but it wasn’t the best choice.

And I have been as transparent as I know to be, turning over 55,000 pages of my e-mails, asking that they be made public. And you’re right. I am going to be testifying. I’ve been asking to testify for some time and to do it in public, which was not originally agreed to.

But let’s just take a minute here and point out that this committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee. [applause]

It is a partisan vehicle, as admitted by the House Republican majority leader, Mr. McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers. Big surprise. And that’s what they have attempted to do.

I am still standing. I am happy to be part of this debate. [applause]

And I intend to keep talking about the issues that matter to the American people. You know, I believe strongly that we need to be talking about what people talk to me about, like how are we going to make college affordable? How are we going to pay down student debt?

COOPER: Secretary…

CLINTON: How are we going to get health care for everybody…

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, Secretary Clinton, with all due respect, it’s a little hard — I mean, isn’t it a little bit hard to call this just a partisan issue? There’s an FBI investigation, and President Obama himself just two days ago said this is a legitimate issue.

CLINTON: Well, I never said it wasn’t legitimate. I said that I have answered all the questions and I will certainly be doing so again before this committee.

But I think it would be really unfair not to look at the entire picture. This committee has spent $4.5 million of taxpayer money, and they said that they were trying to figure out what we could do better to protect our diplomats so that something like Benghazi wouldn’t happen again. There were already seven committee reports about what to do. So I think it’s pretty clear what their obvious goal is.

COOPER: Thank you.

CLINTON: But I’ll be there. I’ll answer their questions. But tonight, I want to talk not about my e-mails, but about what the American people want from the next president of the United States. [applause]

COOPER: Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: Let me say this. [applause]

Let me say — let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails. [applause]

CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too. Me, too.

SANDERS: You know? The middle class — Anderson, and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens Union. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America. [applause]

CLINTON: Thank you, Bernie. Thank you. [applause]

COOPER: It’s obviously very popular in this crowd, and it’s — hold on. [applause]

I know that plays well in this room. But I got to be honest, Governor Chafee, for the record, on the campaign trail, you’ve said a different thing. You said this is a huge issue. Standing here in front of Secretary Clinton, are you willing to say that to her face?

CHAFEE: Absolutely. We have to repair American credibility after we told the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which he didn’t. So there’s an issue of American credibility out there. So any time someone is running to be our leader, and a world leader, which the American president is, credibility is an issue out there with the world. And we have repair work to be done. I think we need someone that has the best in ethical standards as our next president. That’s how I feel.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, do you want to respond?

CLINTON: No.

COOPER: Governor — Governor… [applause]

Governor O’Malley… [applause]

Governor, it’s popular in the room, but a lot of people do want to know these answers.

Governor O’Malley, you expressed concern on the campaign trail that the Democratic Party is, and I quote, “being defined by Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.”

You heard her answer, do you still feel that way tonight?

O’MALLEY: I believe that now that we’re finally having debates, Anderson, that we don’t have to be defined by the email scandal, and how long — what the FBI’s asking about. Instead, we can talk about affordable college, making college debt free, and all the issues. Which is why — and I see the chair of the DNC here, look how glad we are actually to be talking about the issues that matter the most to people around the kitchen table.

We need to get wages to go up, college more affordable…

COOPER: …Thank you, governor.

O’MALLEY: …we need to make American 100 percent clean electric by 2050.

COOPER: I want to talk about issues of race in America, for that I want to start of with Don Lemon.

LEMON: Alright, Anderson, thank you very much. I’m not sure how to follow that, but this question is about something that has tripped some of the candidates up out on the campaign trail. Can you hear me?

Can’t hear me in the room. OK, here we go again, as I said…

WILKINS: …law school. My question for the candidates is, do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?

COOPER: The question from Arthur…

LEMON: …There we go…

COOPER: …Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter? Let’s put that question to Senator Sanders.

SANDERS: Black lives matter. [cheering] And the reason — the reason those words matter is the African American community knows that on any given day some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail, or their kids… [applause] …are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system… [applause] …In which we have more people in jail than China. And, I intended to tackle that issue. To make sure that our people have education and jobs rather than jail cells. [applause]

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, the question from Arthur was do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?

O’MALLEY: Anderson, the point that the Black Lives Matter movement is making is a very, very legitimate and serious point, and that is that as a nation we have undervalued the lives of black lives, people of color.

When I ran for Mayor of Baltimore — and we we burying over 350 young men ever single year, mostly young, and poor, and black, and I said to our legislature, at the time when I appeared in front of them as a mayor, that if we were burying white, young, poor men in these number we would be marching in the streets and there would be a different reaction.

Black lives matter, and we have a lot of work to do to reform our criminal justice system, and to address race relations in our country. [applause]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, what would you do for African Americans in this country that President Obama couldn’t?

CLINTON: Well, I think that President Obama has been a great moral leader on these issues, and has laid out an agenda that has been obstructed by the Republicans at every turn, so… [applause] …So, what we need to be doing is not only reforming criminal justice — I have talked about that at some length, including things like body cameras, but we also need to be following the recommendations of the commissioner that President Obama empanelled on policing. There is an agenda there that we need to be following up on.

Similarly, we need to tackle mass incarceration, and this may be the only bi-partisan issue in the congress this year. We actually have people on both sides of the aisle who have reached the same conclusion, that we can not keep imprisoning more people than anybody else in the world.

But, I believe that the debate, and the discussion has to go further, Anderson, because we’ve got to do more about the lives of these children. That’s why I started off by saying we need to be committed to making it possible for every child to live up to his or her god given potential. That is…

COOPER: …Thank you, Senator…

CLINTON: …really hard to do if you don’t have early childhood education…

COOPER: Senator…

CLINTON: …if you don’t have schools that are able to meet the needs of the people, or good housing, there’s a long list… [applause] …We need a new New Deal for communities of color…

COOPER: Senator Webb?

WEBB: I hope I can get that kind of time here. As a President of the United States, every life in this country matters. At the same time, I believe I can say to you, I have had a long history of working with the situation of African Americans.

We’re talking about criminal justice reform, I risked my political life raising the issue of criminal justice reform when I ran for the Senate in Virginia in 2006. I had democratic party political consultants telling me I was committing political suicide.

We led that issue in the congress. We started a national debate on it. And it wasn’t until then that the Republican Party started joining in.

I also represented a so-called war criminal, an African American Marine who was wounded — who was convicted of murder in Vietnam, for six years. He took his life three years into this. I cleared his name after — after three years.

COOPER: Thanks, sir.

WEBB: And I put the African American soldier on the Mall. I made that recommendation and fought for it. So, if you want someone who is — can stand up in front of you right now and say I have done the hard job, I have taken the risks, I am your person.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, let’s talk about income inequality. Wages and incomes are flat. You’ve argued that the gap between rich and poor is wider than at any time since the 1920s. We’ve had a Democratic president for seven years. What are you going to be able to do that President Obama didn’t?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let’s remember where we were when Bush left office. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month. And I know my Republican friends seem to have some amnesia on this issue, but the world’s financial crisis was on — the world’s financial markets system was on the verge of collapse. That’s where we were.

Are we better off today than we were then? Absolutely. But the truth is that for the 40 years, the great middle class of this country has been disappearing. And in my view what we need to do is create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; pay equity for women workers; and our disastrous trade policies, which have cost us millions of jobs; and make every public college and university in this country tuition free. [applause]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton…

[crosstalk]

COOPER: I’ll let you jump in a moment. Everybody will get in on this in a moment.

Secretary Clinton, how would you address this issue? In all candor, you and your husband are part of the one percent. How can you credibly represent the views of the middle class?

CLINTON: Well, you know, both Bill and I have been very blessed. Neither of us came from wealthy families and we’ve worked really hard our entire lives. And I want to make sure every single person in this country has the same opportunities that he and I have had, to make the most of their God-given potential and to have the chances that they should have in America for a good education, good job training, and then good jobs.

I have a five point economic plan, because this inequality challenge we face, we have faced it at other points. It’s absolutely right. It hasn’t been this bad since the 1920s. But if you look at the Republicans versus the Democrats when it comes to economic policy, there is no comparison. The economy does better when you have a Democrat in the White House and that’s why we need to have a Democrat in the White House in January 2017.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, (inaudible).

O’MALLEY: Yes. Anderson, I want to associate myself with many of the items that the senator from Vermont mentioned, and I actually did them in our state. We raised the minimum wage, passed the living wage, invested more in infrastructure, went four years in a row without a penny’s increase in college tuition.

But there’s another piece that Senator Sanders left out tonight, but he’s been excellent about underscoring that. And that is that we need to separate the casino, speculative, mega-bank gambling that we have to insure with our money, from the commercial banking — namely, reinstating Glass-Steagall.

Secretary Clinton mentioned my support eight years ago. And Secretary, I was proud to support you eight years ago, but something happened in between, and that is, Anderson, a Wall Street crash that wiped out millions of jobs and millions of savings for families. And we are still just as vulnerable Paul Volcker says today.

We need to reinstate Glass-Steagall and that’s a huge difference on this stage among us as candidates.

COOPER: Just for viewers at home who may not be reading up on this, Glass-Steagall is the Depression-era banking law repealed in 1999 that prevented commercial banks from engaging in investment banking and insurance activities.

Secretary Clinton, he raises a fundamental difference on this stage. Senator Sanders wants to break up the big Wall Street banks. You don’t. You say charge the banks more, continue to monitor them. Why is your plan better?

CLINTON: Well, my plan is more comprehensive. And frankly, it’s tougher because of course we have to deal with the problem that the banks are still too big to fail. We can never let the American taxpayer and middle class families ever have to bail out the kind of speculative behavior that we saw.

But we also have to worry about some of the other players — AIG, a big insurance company; Lehman Brothers, an investment bank. There’s this whole area called “shadow banking.” That’s where the experts tell me the next potential problem could come from.

CLINTON: So I’m with both Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley in putting a lot of attention onto the banks. And the plan that I have put forward would actually empower regulators to break up big banks if we thought they posed a risk. But I want to make sure we’re going to cover everybody, not what caused the problem last time, but what could cause it next time.

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Senator Sanders, Secretary Clinton just said that her policy is tougher than yours.

SANDERS: Well, that’s not true.

[laughter]

COOPER: Why?

SANDERS: Let us be clear that the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street, where fraud is a business model, helped to destroy this economy and the lives of millions of people. [applause]

Check the record. In the 1990s — and all due respect — in the 1990s, when I had the Republican leadership and Wall Street spending billions of dollars in lobbying, when the Clinton administration, when Alan Greenspan said, “what a great idea it would be to allow these huge banks to merge,” Bernie Sanders fought them, and helped lead the opposition to deregulation. [applause]

Today, it is my view that when you have the three…

COOPER: Senator…

SANDERS: …largest banks in America — are much bigger than they were when we bailed them out for being too big to fail, we have got to break them up. [applause]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you have to be able to respond. He brought you up.

CLINTON: Yeah.

You know, I — I respect the passion an intensity. I represented Wall Street, as a senator from New York, and I went to Wall Street in December of 2007 — before the big crash that we had — and I basically said, “cut it out! Quit foreclosing on homes! Quit engaging in these kinds of speculative behaviors.”

I took on the Bush administration for the same thing. So I have thought deeply and long about what we’re gonna do to do exactly what I think both the senator and the governor want, which is to rein in and stop this risk.

And my plan would have the potential of actually sending the executives to jail. Nobody went to jail after $100 billion in fines were paid… [applause]

COOPER: [inaudible]

CLINTON: …and would give regulators the authority to go after the big banks.

COOPER: Thank you. Thank you. Senator Sanders…

CLINTON: But I’m telling you — I will say it tonight. If only you look at the big banks, you may be missing the forest for the trees.

[crosstalk]

WEBB: Bernie, say my name so I can get into this.

SANDERS: I will, just a second.

WEBB: OK. Thank you. [laughter]

SANDERS: I’ll tell him.

In my view, Secretary Clinton, you do not — Congress does not regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress. [applause]

And we have gotta break off these banks. Going to them…

CLINTON: So…

SANDERS: …and saying, “please, do the right thing”…

CLINTON: …no, that’s not what…

SANDERS: …is kind of naive.

CLINTON: …that — I think Dodd-Frank was a very…

WEBB: Anderson, I need to jump in (inaudible).

CLINTON: …good start, and I think that we have to implement it. We have to prevent the Republicans from ripping it apart. We have to save the Consumer Financial Protection board, which is finally beginning to act to protect consumers. [applause]

We have work to do. You’ve got no argument from me. But I know, if we don’t come in with a very tough and comprehensive approach, like the plan I’m recommending, we’re gonna be behind instead of ahead…

COOPER: Governor O’Malley? Where do you stand?

CLINTON: …on what the next crisis could be.

O’MALLEY: Anderson, look, this is — the big banks — I mean, once we repealed Glass-Steagall back in the late 1999s (ph), the big banks, the six of them, went from controlling, what, the equivalent of 15 percent of our GDP to now 65 percent of our GDP.

And — (inaudible) right before this debate, Secretary Clinton’s campaign put out a lot of reversals on positions on Keystone and many other things. But one of them that we still have a great difference on, Madam Secretary, is that you are not for Glass-Steagall.

You are not for putting a firewall between this speculative, risky shadow banking behavior. I am, and the people of our country need a president who’s on their side, willing to protect the Main Street economy from recklessness on Wall Street.

We have to fulfill…

COOPER: Secretary Clinton…

O’MALLEY: …our promise.

COOPER: I have to let you respond. [applause]

CLINTON: Well, you know, everybody on this stage has changed a position or two. We’ve been around a cumulative quite some period of time. [laughter]

You know, we know that if you are learning, you’re gonna change your position. I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone.

But I have been on the forefront of dealing with climate change, starting in 2009, when President Obama and I crashed (ph) a meeting with the Chinese and got them to sign up to the first international agreement to combat climate change that they’d ever joined.

So I’m…

COOPER: Thank you.

CLINTON: …not taking a back seat to anybody on my values…

COOPER: Thank…

CLINTON: …my principles and the results that I get.

COOPER: Senator Sanders… [applause]

Senator Sanders, in 2008, congressional leaders were told, without the 2008 bailout, the U.S. was possibly days away from a complete meltdown. Despite that, you still voted against it.

As president, would you stand by your principles if it risked the country’s financial stability?

SANDERS: Well, I remember that meeting very well. I remember it like it was yesterday. Hank Paulson, Bernanke came in, and they say, “guys, the economy is going to collapse because Wall Street is going under. It’s gonna take the economy with them.”

And you know what I said to Hank Paulson? I said, “Hank, your guys — you come from Goldman Sachs. Your millionaire and billionaire friends caused this problem. How about your millionaire and billionaire friends paying for the bailout, not working families in this country?”

So to answer your question, no, I would not have let the economy collapse. But it was wrong to ask the middle class to bail out Wall Street. And by the way, I want Wall Street now to help kids in this country go to college, public colleges and universities, free with a Wall Street speculation tax. [applause]

COOPER: We’re going to talk about that in a minute.

But, Senator Webb, I want to get you in. You have said neither party has the guts to take on Wall Street. Is the system rigged?

WEBB: There is a reality that I think we all need to recognize with respect to the power of the financial sector.

And let me just go back a minute and say that on this TARP program, I introduced a piece of legislation calling for a windfall profits tax on the executives of any of these companies that got more than $5 billion, that it was time for them, once they got their compensation and their bonus, to split the rest of the money they made with the nurses and the truck drivers and the soldiers who bailed them out. With respect to the financial sector, I mean, I know that my time has run out but in speaking of changing positions and the position on how this debate has occurred is kind of frustrating because unless somebody mentions my name I can’t get into the discussion.

COOPER: You agreed to these rules and you’re wasting time. So if you would finish your answer, we’ll move on.

WEBB: All right. Well, I’m trying to set a mark here so maybe we can get into a little more later on. This hasn’t been equal time.

But if you want to look at what has happened, if we look at the facts in terms of how we’re going to deal with this, since that crash, in the last 10 years, the amount of the world’s capital economy that Wall Street manages has gone from 44 percent to 55 percent.

That means the Wall Street money managers are not risking themselves as the same way the American people are when they’re going to get their compensation. They’re managing money from all over the world.

We have to take that into consideration when we’re looking at ways to regulate it.

COOPER: Governor Chafee, you have attacked Secretary Clinton for being too close to Wall Street banks. In 1999 you voted for the very bill that made banks bigger.

CHAFEE: The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote, I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office, it was my very first vote.

COOPER: Are you saying you didn’t know what you were voting for?

CHAFEE: I’d just arrived at the Senate. I think we’d get some takeovers, and that was one. It was my very first vote, and it was 92-5. It was the…

COOPER: Well, with all due respect, Governor…

CHAFEE: But let me just say…

COOPER: … what does that say about you that you’re casting a vote for something you weren’t really sure about?

CHAFEE: I think you’re being a little rough. I’d just arrived at the United States Senate. I’d been mayor of my city. My dad had died. I’d been appointed by the governor. It was the first vote and it was 90-5, because it was a conference report.

But let me just say about income inequality. We’ve had a lot of talk over the last few minutes, hours, or tens of minutes, but no one is saying how we’re going to fix it. And it all started with the Bush tax cuts that favored the wealthy.

So let’s go back to the tax code. And 0.6 percent of Americans are at the top echelon, over 464,000, 0.6 Americans. That’s less than 1 percent. But they generate 30 percent of the revenue. And they’re doing fine.

COOPER: Thank you, Governor.

CHAFEE: So there’s still a lot more money to be had from this top echelon. I’m saying let’s have another tier and put that back into the tax bracket. And that will generate $42 billion.

COOPER: I want to bring in Dana Bash.

CHAFEE: And then we can help the middle class and hard-earning Americans — hard-working Americans.

COOPER: Dana?

BASH: Thank you.

CNN visited college campuses, along with Facebook. And not surprisingly college affordability was among the most pressing issue.

Senator Sanders, you’ve mentioned a couple of times you do have a plan to make public colleges free for everyone. Secretary Clinton has criticized that in saying she’s not in favor of making a college free for Donald Trump’s kids.

Do you think taxpayers should pick up the tab for wealthy children?

SANDERS: Well, let me tell you, Donald Trump and his billionaire friends under my policies are going to pay a hell of a lot more in taxes today — taxes in the future than they’re paying today. [applause]

But in terms of education, this is what I think. This is the year 2015. A college degree today, Dana, is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago.

And what we said 50 years ago and a hundred years ago is that every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of the income of their family. I think we have to say that is true for everybody going to college.

I think we don’t need a complicated system, which the secretary is talking about, the income goes down, the income goes down, if you’re poor you have to work, and so forth and so on.

I pay for my program, by the way, through a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, it will substantially lower interest rates on college debt, a major crisis in this country. [applause]

BASH: And, Secretary Clinton, it’s not just college tuition that Senator Sanders is talking about, expanding Social Security and giving all Americans Medicare. What’s wrong with that?

CLINTON: Well, let me address college affordability, because I have a plan that I think will really zero in on what the problems are. First, all the 40 million Americans who currently have student debt will be able to refinance their debt to a low interest rate. That will save thousands of dollars for people who are now struggling under this cumbersome, burdensome college debt.

As a young student in Nevada said to me, the hardest thing about going to college should not be paying for it. So then we have to make it more affordable. How do we make it more affordable? My plan would enable anyone to go to a public college or university tuition free. You would not have to borrow money for tuition.

But I do believe — and maybe it’s because I worked when I went through college; I worked when I went through law school — I think it’s important for everybody to have some part of getting this accomplished. That’s why I call it a compact.

BASH: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: But, yes, I would like students to work 10 hours a week…

BASH: Can you answer the…

SANDERS: … in order to make it possible for them to afford their education. And I want colleges to get their costs down. They are outrageously high in what they’re charging.

BASH: Secretary Clinton, the question was not just about tuition, though. It was about Senator Sanders’ plan to expand Social Security, to make Medicare available to all Americans. Is that something that you would support? And if not, why not?

CLINTON: Well, I fully support Social Security. And the most important fight we’re going to have is defending it against continuing Republican efforts to privatize it.

BASH: Do you want to expand it?

CLINTON: I want to enhance the benefits for the poorest recipients of Social Security. We have a lot of women on Social Security, particularly widowed and single women who didn’t make a lot of money during their careers, and they are impoverished, and they need more help from the Social Security system.

And I will focus — I will focus on helping those people who need it the most. And of course I’m going to defend Social Security. I’m going to look for ways to try to make sure it’s solvent into the future. And we also need to talk about health care at some time, because we agree on the goals, we just disagree on the means.

SANDERS: When the Republicans — when the Republicans in the Congress and some Democrats were talking about cutting Social Security and benefits for disabled veterans, for the so-called chained CPI, I founded a caucus called the Defending Social Security Caucus.

My view is that when you have millions of seniors in this country trying to get by — and I don’t know how they do on $11,000, $12,000, $13,000 a year — you don’t cut Social Security, you expand it. And the way you expand it is by lifting the cap on taxable incomes so that you do away with the absurdity of a millionaire paying the same amount into the system as somebody making $118,000. You do that, Social Security is solvent until 2061 and you can expand benefits.

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I want to bring it over to Juan Carlos Lopez from CNN en Espanol. We’re obviously in Nevada. It’s had the highest percentage of undocumented immigrants of any state in the country as of last year. Juan Carlos?

LOPEZ: Gracias, Anderson. Senator Sanders, in 2013, you voted for immigration reform. But in 2007, when Democrats controlled Congress and the Bush White House was onboard, you voted against it. Why should Latino voters trust you now when you left them at the altar at the moment when reform was very close?

SANDERS: I didn’t leave anybody at the altar. I voted against that piece of legislation because it had guest-worker provisions in it which the Southern Poverty Law Center talked about being semi-slavery. Guest workers are coming in, they’re working under terrible conditions, but if they stand up for their rights, they’re thrown out of the country. I was not the only progressive to vote against that legislation for that reason. Tom Harkin, a very good friend of Hillary Clinton’s and mine, one of the leading labor advocates, also voted against that.

LOPEZ: Tom Harkin isn’t running for president. You are.

SANDERS: I know that. But point being is that progressives did vote against that for that reason. My view right now — and always has been — is that when you have 11 million undocumented people in this country, we need comprehensive immigration reform, we need a path toward citizenship, we need to take people out of the shadows.

O’MALLEY: And Juan Carlos — Juan Carlos…

LOPEZ: Secretary Clinton — Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley wants to open up Obamacare to millions of undocumented immigrants and their children, including almost 90,000 people right here in Nevada. Do you?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I want to make sure every child gets health care. That’s why I helped to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and I want to support states that are expanding health care and including undocumented children and others.

I want to open up the opportunity for immigrants to be able to buy in to the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. I think to go beyond that, as I understand what Governor O’Malley has recommended, so that they would get the same subsidies.

I think that is — it raises so many issues. It would be very difficult to administer, it needs to be part of a comprehensive immigration reform, when we finally do get to it.

LOPEZ: Governor O’Malley?

O’MALLEY: Juan Carlos, I think what you’ve heard up here is some of the old thinking on immigration reform, and that’s why it’s gridlocked. We need to understand that our country is stronger in every generation by the arrival of new American immigrants. That is why I have put out a policy for comprehensive immigration reform, that is why I would go further than President Obama has on DACA, and DAPA.

I mean, we are a nation of immigrants, we are made stronger by immigrants. Do you think for a second that simply because somebody’s standing in a broken que on naturalization they’re not going to go to the hospital, and that care isn’t going to fall on to our insurance rates? I am for a generous, compassionate America that says we’re all in this together. We need comprehensive

COOPER: Senator Webb…

O’MALLEY: …immigration reform. It’ll make wages go up in America $250 for every year…

LOPEZ: Senator Webb, do you support the undocumented immigrants getting Obamacare?

WEBB: I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Let me start by saying my wife is an immigrant. She was a refugee, her family escaped from Vietnam on a boat– her entire extended family, after the communists took over, when hundreds of thousands of people were out there and thousands of them were dying. Went to two refugee camps, she never spoke English in her home, and she ended, as I said, graduating from Cornell Law School. That’s not only American dream, that’s a value that we have with a good immigration system in place. No country has — is a country without defining its borders. We need to resolve this issue. I actually introduced an amendment in the 2007 immigration bill…

LOPEZ: …Thank you, Senator.

WEBB: …Giving a pathway to citizenship to those people who had come here, and put down their roots, and met as a series of standards…

COOPER: …Thank you, Senator.

WEBB: …lost (ph) — I introduced that in 2007 — We need a comprehensive reform, and we need to be able to define our borders.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: I want to follow up because I think underneath Juan Carlos’ important questions, there is such a difference between everything you’re hearing here on this stage, and what we hear from the Republicans. [applause]

O’MALLEY: Here. Here.

(CHEERING) (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Demonize hard-working immigrants who have insulted them. You know, I came to Las Vegas in, I think, May. Early may. Met with a group of DREAMers, I wish everybody in America could meet with this young people, to hear their stories, to know their incredible talent, their determination, and that’s why I would go further…

COOPER: …Secretary…

CLINTON: …than even the executive orders that President Obama has signed when I’m president.

(CROSS TALK)

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, let me ask you. Two of your rivals from your left, Governor O’Malley, and Senator Sanders, want to provide instate college tuition to undocumented immigrants. Where do you stand on that?

CLINTON: My plan would support any state that takes that position, and would work with those states and encourage more states to do the same thing.

COOPER: So, on the record, you believe that undocumented immigrants should get instate college tuition.

CLINTON: If their states agree, then we want more states to do the same thing.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley?

O’MALLEY: Anderson, we actually did this in my state of Maryland. We passed… [applause]

O’MALLEY: We passed a state version of the DREAM Act…

(CHEERING)

O’MALLEY: …And a lot of the xenophobes, the immigrant haters like some that we’ve heard like, Donald Trump, that carnival barker in the Republican party…

(CHEERING) (APPLAUSE)

O’MALLEY: Tried to mischaracterize it as free tuition for illegal immigrants. But, we took our case to the people when it was petitioned to referendum, and we won with 58 percent of the vote. The more our children learn, the more they will earn, and that’s true of children who have yet to be naturalized…

COOPER: …Senator…

O’MALLEY: …but will become American citizens…

COOPER: Senator Sanders, you talked about your record on the Veteran affairs committee. You served on that committee for the last eight years, including two years as its chairman while veterans died waiting for health care. You and Senator McCain ultimately addressed the issue with bi-partisan legislation. Why did it take 18 Inspector General reports, and a CNN investigation, and others, before you and your colleagues took action?

SANDERS: Well, I was chairman for two years, and when I was chairman we did take action. What we did is pass a $15 billion dollar piece of legislation which brought in many, many new doctors, and nurses into the V.A. so that veterans in this country could get the health care when they needed it, and not be on long waiting lines.

And, the other part of that legislation said that if a veteran is living more than 40 miles away from a V.A. facility, that veteran could get health care from the community health center, or the private sector. As a result of that legislation, we went further in than any time in recent history in improving health care for the men and women of this country who put their lives on the line to defend them.

COOPER: Governor Chafee, you and Hillary Clinton both voted for the Patriot Act which created the NSA surveillance program. You’ve emphasized civil liberties, privacy during your campaign. Aren’t these two things in conflict?

CHAFEE: No, that was another 99 to one vote for the Patriot Act, and it was seen as at the time modernizing our ability to do what we’ve always done to tap phones which always required a warrant. And I voted for that.

COOPER: Do you regret that vote?

CHAFEE: No, no. As long as you’re getting a warrant, I believe that under the Fourth Amendment, you should be able to do surveillance, but you need a warrant. That’s what the Fourth Amendment says. And in the Patriot Act, section 215 started to get broadened too far. So I would be in favor of addressing and reforming section 215 of the Patriot Act.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, do you regret your vote on the Patriot Act?

CLINTON: No, I don’t. I think that it was necessary to make sure that we were able after 9/11 to put in place the security that we needed. And it is true that it did require that there be a process. What happened, however, is that the Bush administration began to chip away at that process. And I began to speak out about their use of warrantless surveillance and the other behavior that they engaged in.

We always have to keep the balance of civil liberties, privacy and security. It’s not easy in a democracy, but we have to keep it in mind.

COOPER: Senator — Senator Sanders, you’re the only one on this stage who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001… [applause]

SANDERS: It was 99 to one and I was maybe the one. I don’t know.

COOPER: … and the reauthorization votes. Let me ask you, if elected, would you shut down the NSA surveillance program?

SANDERS: I’m sorry?

COOPER: Would you shut down the NSA surveillance program?

SANDERS: Absolutely. Of course.

COOPER: You would, point blank.

SANDERS: Well, I would shut down — make — I’d shut down what exists right now is that virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA. That is unacceptable to me. But it’s not just government surveillance. I think the government is involved in our e-mails; is involved in our websites. Corporate America is doing it as well.

If we are a free country, we have the right to be free. Yes, we have to defend ourselves against terrorism, but there are ways to do that without impinging on our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.

O’MALLEY (?): Anderson, the NSA…

COOPER: Governor Chafee, Edward Snowden, is he a traitor or a hero?

CHAFEE: No, I would bring him home. The courts have ruled that what he did — what he did was say the American…

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Bring him home, no jail time?

CHAFEE: … the American government was acting illegally. That’s what the federal courts have said; what Snowden did showed that the American government was acting illegally for the Fourth Amendment. So I would bring him home.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, hero or traitor?

CLINTON: He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.

COOPER: Should he do jail time?

ClINTON: In addition — in addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, Snowden? [applause]

O’MALLEY: Anderson, Snowden put a lot of Americans’ lives at risk. Snowden broke the law. Whistleblowers do not run to Russia and try to get protection from Putin. If he really believes that, he should be back here.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, Edward Snowden?

SANDERS: I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined.

COOPER: Is he a hero?

SANDERS: He did — he did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration before he is (inaudible).

COOPER: Senator Webb, Edward Snowden?

WEBB: I — well, I — I would leave his ultimate judgment to the legal system. Here’s what I do believe. We have a serious problem in terms of the collection of personal information in this country. And one of the things that I did during the FISA bill in 2007, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was introduce with Russ Feingold two amendments basically saying, “We understand the realities of how you have to collect this broad information in the Internet age, but after a certain period of time, you need to destroy the personal information that you have if people have not been brought — if criminal justice proceedings have not been brought against them.”

We’ve got a vast data bank of information that is ripe for people with bad intentions to be able to use. And they need to be destroyed.

COOPER: Another — another question for each of you, starting with Governor Chafee.

Name the one thing — the one way that your administration would not be a third term of President Obama.

CHAFEE: Certainly, ending the wars. We’ve got to stop these wars. You have to have a new dynamic, a new paradigm. We just spent a half-billion dollars arming and training soldiers, the rebel soldiers in Syria. They quickly join the other side. We bombed the…

[crosstalk]

COOPER: President Obama’s generals right now are suggesting keeping troops in Afghanistan after the time he wanted them pulled out. Would you keep them there?

CHAFEE: I’d like to finish my question — my answer.

And also we just bombed a hospital. We’ve had drone strikes that hit civilian weddings. So I would change how we — our approach to the Middle East. We need a new paradigm in the Middle East.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, how would you be different than President Obama’s administration?

O’MALLEY: I would follow through on the promise that the American people thought we made as Democratic Party, to protect the Main Street economy from recklessness on Wall Street. I would push to separate out these too-big-to-jail, too-big-to-fail banks, and put in place Glass-Steagall, a modern Glass-Steagall that creates a firewall so that this wreckage of our economy can never happen again.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, how would you not be a third term of President Obama?

CLINTON: Well, I think that’s pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had up until this point, including President Obama.

COOPER: Is there a policy difference?

CLINTON: Well, there’s a lot that I would like to do to build on the successes of President Obama, but also, as I’m laying out, to go beyond. And that’s in my economic plans, how I would deal with the prescription drug companies, how I would deal with college, how I would deal with a full range of issues that I’ve been talking about throughout this campaign to go further.

COOPER: Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: I have a lot of respect for president Obama. I have worked with him time and time again on many, many issues. But here’s where I do disagree. I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires. [applause]

COOPER: Senator Webb, how would you not be a third term for Obama?

WEBB: I got a great deal of admiration and affection for Senator Sanders, but I — Bernie, I don’t think the revolution’s going to come. And I don’t think the Congress is going to pay for a lot of this stuff. And if there would be a major difference between my administration and the Obama administration, it would be in the use of executive authority.

I came up as a committee counsel in the Congress, used to put dozens of bills through the House floor every year as a committee counsel on the Veterans Committee. I have a very strong feeling about how our federal system works and how we need to lead and energize the congressional process instead of allowing these divisions to continue to paralyze what we’re doing. So I would lead — working with both parties in the Congress and working through them in the traditional way that our Constitution sets (ph).

COOPER: Senator Sanders, he cited you. You don’t hear a lot of Democratic presidential candidates talking about revolution. What do you mean?

SANDERS: What I mean is that we need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest. We need to raise public consciousness. We need the American people to know what’s going on in Washington in a way that today they do not know. [applause]

And when people come together in a way that does not exist now and are prepared to take on the big money interest, then we could bring the kind of change we need.

O’MALLEY: Anderson, I actually have talked about a revolution. What we need is a green energy revolution. We need to move America to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050 and create 5 million jobs along the way.

COOPER: And we want to — and we’re going to talk more about climate change and environmental issues coming up. Some of the candidates have tried marijuana, as have pretty much — probably everybody in this room.

(LAUGHTER)

Others have not. Does that influence — does it influence their views on legalization? Find out that and others ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to this CNN Democratic presidential debate. It has been quite a night so far. We are in the final block of this debate. All the candidates are back, which I’m very happy to see.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: It’s a long story. Let’s continue, shall we?

Secretary Clinton, welcome back.

CLINTON: Well, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: You know, it does take me a little longer. That’s all I can say.

COOPER: That’s right. Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley says the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth between two royal families. This year has been the year of the outsider in politics, just ask Bernie Sanders. Why should Democrats embrace an insider like yourself?

CLINTON: Well, I can’t think of anything more of an outsider than electing the first woman president, but I’m not just running because I would be the first woman president. [applause]

CLINTON: I’m running because I have a lifetime of experience in getting results and fighting for people, fighting for kids, for women, for families, fighting to even the odds. And I know what it takes to get things done. I know how to find common ground and I know how to stand my ground. And I think we’re going to need both of those in Washington to get anything that we’re talking about up here accomplished.

So I’m very happy that I have both the commitment of a lifetime and the experience of a lifetime to bring together to offer the American people.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, do you want to tell Secretary Clinton why she shouldn’t get the crown?

O’MALLEY: Well, actually, you know, we had this conversation. And I will share with you that I’ve traveled all around the country, Anderson, and there’s two phrases I keep hearing again and again and again. And they’re the phrases “new leadership” and “getting things done.”

We cannot be this dissatisfied with our gridlocked national politics and an economy where 70 percent of us are earning the same or less than we were 12 years ago, and think that a resort to old names is going to move us forward.

I respect what Secretary Clinton and her husband have done for our country. But our country needs new leadership to move forward.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you have to be able to respond, if you want.

CLINTON: Well, I would not ask anyone to vote for me based on my last name. I would ask them to listen to what I’m proposing, look at what I’ve accomplished in the Senate, as secretary of of state, and then draw your own conclusion.

I certainly am not campaigning to become president because my last name is Clinton. I’m campaigning because I think I have the right combination of what the country needs, at this point, and I think I can take the fight to the Republicans, because we cannot afford a Republican to succeed Barack Obama as president of the United States.

COOPER: (inaudible). [applause]

Senator Sanders, does she have the right stuff?

SANDERS: I think — I think that there is profound frustration all over this country with establishment politics. I am the only candidate running for president who is not a billionaire, who has raised substantial sums of money, and I do not have a super PAC. [applause]

I am not raising money from millionaires and billionaires, and in fact, tonight, in terms of what a political revolution is about, there are 4,000 house parties — 100,000 people in this country — watching this debate tonight who want real change in this country.

COOPER: we’ve got — we — a lot of questions we’ve got about climate change, and we’re gonna go to Don Lemon. Don?

LEMON: All right. This one is for Martin O’Malley. Anderson, Governor O’Malley, this is from Anna Bettis from Tempe, Arizona. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: As a young person, I’m very concerned about climate change and how it will affect my future. As a presidential candidate, what will you do to address climate change?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Governor O’Malley, please tell Anna how you would protect the environment better than all the other candidates up on that stage.

O’MALLEY: Yeah.

Anna, I have put forward a plan — and I’m the only candidate, I believe, in either party to do this — to move America forward to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050.

We did not land a man on the moon with an all-of-the-above strategy. It was an intentional engineering challenge, and we solved it as a nation. And our nation must solve this one.

So I put forward the plan that would extend the investor tax credits for solar and for wind. If you go across Iowa, you see that 30 percent of their energy now comes from wind. We’re here in Las Vegas, one of the most sustainable cities in America, doing important things in terms of green building, architecture and design.

We can get there as a nation, but it’s going to require presidential leadership. And as president, I intend to sign as my very first order in office the — an order that moves us as a nation and dedicates our resources to solving this problem and moving us to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050.

COOPER: Governor…

O’MALLEY: We can do it.

COOPER: …Governor O’Malley, thank you very much. [applause]

Senator Webb, you have a very different view than just about anybody else on this stage, and unlike a lot of Democrats. You’re pro-coal, you’re pro-offshore drilling, you’re pro-Keystone pipeline. Are — again, are you — the question is, are you out of step with the Democratic party?

WEBB: Well, the — the question really is how are we going to solve energy problems here and in the global environment if you really want to address climate change?

And when I was in the Senate, I was an all-of-the-above energy voter. We introduced legislation to bring in alternate energy as well as nuclear power. I’m a strong proponent of nuclear power. It is safe, it is clean. And really, we are not going to solve climate change simply with the laws here.

We’ve done a good job in this country since 1970. If you look at China and India, they’re the greatest polluters in the world. Fifteen out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in one of those two countries. We need to solve this in a global way. It’s a global problem and I have been very strong on — on doing that. The — the agreements — the so-called agreements that we have had with China are illusory in terms of the immediate requirements of the — of the Chinese government itself.

So let’s solve this problem in an international way, and then we really will have a — a way to address climate change.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, are you tougher on — on climate change than Secretary Clinton?

SANDERS: Well, I will tell you this. I believe — and Pope Francis made this point. This is a moral issue. The scientists are telling us that we need to move extremely boldly.

I am proud that, along with Senator Barbara Boxer, a few years ago, we introduced the first piece of climate change legislation which called for a tax on carbon.

And let me also tell you that nothing is gonna happen unless we are prepared to deal with campaign finance reform, because the fossil fuel industry is funding the Republican Party, which denies the reality of climate change… [applause]

…and certainly is not prepared to go forward aggressively.

This is a moral issue. We have got to be extremely aggressive in working with China, India, Russia.

COOPER: Senator — thank you, Senator.

SANDERS: The planet — the future of the planet is at stake.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, I want you to be able to respond, then I’m gonna go to (ph) (inaudible).

CLINTON: Well, that — that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. When we met in Copenhagen in 2009 and, literally, President Obama and I were hunting for the Chinese, going throughout this huge convention center, because we knew we had to get them to agree to something. Because there will be no effective efforts against climate change unless China and India join with the rest of the world.

They told us they’d left for the airport; we found out they were having a secret meeting. We marched up, we broke in, we said, “We’ve been looking all over for you. Let’s sit down and talk about what we need to do.” And we did come up with the first international agreement that China has signed.

Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, it’s now gone much further.

COOPER: Thank you.

CLINTON: And I do think that the bilateral agreement that President Obama made with the Chinese was significant. Now, it needs to go further, and there will be an international meeting at the end of this year, and we must get verifiable commitments to fight climate change from every country gathered there.

COOPER: Dana Bash?

BASH: Secretary Clinton, you now support mandated paid family leave.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

BASH: Carly Fiorina, the first female CEO of a Fortune 50 company, argues, if the government requires paid leave, it will force small businesses to, quote, “hire fewer people and create fewer jobs.” What do you say not only to Carly Fiorina, but also a small-business owner out there who says, you know, I like this idea, but I just can’t afford it?

CLINTON: Well, I’m surprised she says that, because California has had a paid leave program for a number of years. And it’s…

BASH: It’s on the federal level.

CLINTON: Well, but all — well, on a state level, a state as big as many countries in the world. And it has not had the ill effects that the Republicans are always saying it will have. And I think this is — this is typical Republican scare tactics. We can design a system and pay for it that does not put the burden on small businesses.

I remember as a young mother, you know, having a baby wake up who was sick and I’m supposed to be in court, because I was practicing law. I know what it’s like. And I think we need to recognize the incredible challenges that so many parents face, particularly working moms.

I see my good friend, Senator Gillibrand, in the front row. She’s been a champion of this. We need to get a consensus through this campaign, which is why I’m talking about it everywhere I go, and we need to join the rest of the advanced world in having it.

BASH: But Secretary — Secretary Clinton, even many people who agree with you might say, look, this is very hard to do, especially in today’s day and age. There are so many people who say, “Really? Another government program? Is that what you’re proposing? And at the expense of taxpayer money?”

CLINTON: Well, look, you know, when people say that — it’s always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say, “You can’t have paid leave, you can’t provide health care.” They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it. [applause]

You know, we can do these things. [applause]

We should not be paralyzed — we should not be paralyzed by the Republicans and their constant refrain, “big government this, big government that,” that except for what they want to impose on the American people. I know we can afford it, because we’re going to make the wealthy pay for it. That is the way to get it done.

COOPER: Thank you. Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: Yeah, Dana, here’s the point: Every other major country on Earth, every one, including some small countries, say that when a mother has a baby, she should stay home with that baby. We are the only major country. That is an international embarrassment that we do not provide family — paid family and medical leave. [applause]

Second of all, the secretary is right. Republicans tell us we can’t do anything except give tax breaks to billionaires and cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s not what the American people want.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley?

O’MALLEY: Anderson, in our state, we actually expanded family leave. And I have to agree with Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders. Look, the genius of our nation is that we find ways in every generation to include more of our people more fully in the economic life of our country, and we need to do that for our families, and especially so that women aren’t penalized in having to drop out of the workforce. My wife, Katie, is here with our four kids. And, man, that was a juggle when we had little kids and — and keeping jobs and moving forwards. We would be a stronger nation economically if we had paid family leave.

COOPER: Governor, thank you. The issue now, particularly in this state, is recreational marijuana. I want to go to Juan Carlos Lopez.

LOPEZ: Thank you, Anderson.

Senator Sanders, right here in Nevada, there will be a measure to legalize recreational marijuana on the 2016 ballot. You’ve said you smoked marijuana twice; it didn’t quite work for you. If you were a Nevada resident, how would you vote?

SANDERS: I suspect I would vote yes. [applause]

And I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana. I think we have to think through this war on drugs… [applause] …which has done an enormous amount of damage. We need to rethink our criminal justice system, we we’ve got a lot of work to do in that area.

O’MALLEY: Juan Carlos? [applause]

LOPEZ: Secretary Clinton, you told Christiane Amanpour you didn’t smoke pot when you were young, and you’re not going to start now. [laughter]

When asked about legalizing recreational marijuana, you told her let’s wait and see how it plays out in Colorado and Washington. It’s been more than a year since you’ve said that. Are you ready to take a position tonight?

CLINTON: No. I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.

So, I think we’re just at the beginning, but I agree completely with the idea that we have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana. Therefore, we need more states, cities, and the federal government to begin to address this so that we don’t have this terrible result that Senator Sanders was talking about where we have a huge population in our prisons for nonviolent, low-level offenses that are primarily due to marijuana.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, thank you. I want to go to Don Lemon with another Facebook question.

LEMON: Alright, Anderson. This is for Senator Sanders, OK? This is from Carrie (ph) Kang (ph) from Manassas, Virginia, would like would like to ask the Senator, “President Obama has had a difficult time getting Republicans to compromise on just about every agenda. How will you approach this going forward, and will it be any different?”

Senator?

SANDERS: The Republican party, since I’ve been in the Senate, and since President Obama has been in office, has played a terrible, terrible role of being total obstructionists. Every effort that he has made, that some of us have made, they have said no, no, no.

Now, in my view, the only way we can take on the right wing republicans who are, by the way, I hope will not continue to control the Senate and the House when one of us elected President… [applause] …But the only way we can get things done is by having millions of people coming together. If we want free tuition at public colleges and universities, millions of young people are going to have to demand it, and give the Republicans an offer they can’t refuse.

If we want to raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour, workers are going to have to come together and look the Republicans in the eye, and say, “We know what’s going on. You vote against us, you are out of your job.” [applause]

COOPER: We’re going to hear from all the candidates coming up. We’re going to take a short break. More from the candidates in a moment. [applause]

[commercial break]

COOPER: And welcome back to the final round of the CNN Democratic presidential debate.

This is a question to each of you. Each of you, by the way, are going to have closing statements to make. Each of you will have 90 seconds. But a final question to each of you. If you can, just try to — 15 seconds if you can.

Governor Chafee, Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” You’ve all made a few people upset over your political careers. Which enemy are you most proud of? [laughter]

CHAFEE: I guess the coal lobby. I’ve worked hard for climate change and I want to work with the coal lobby. But in my time in the Senate, tried to bring them to the table so that we could address carbon dioxide. I’m proud to be at odds with the coal lobby.

COOPER: Governor O’Malley?

O’MALLEY: The National Rifle Association. [applause]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians. [laughter]

Probably the Republicans. [laughter and applause]

COOPER: Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: As someone who has taken on probably every special interest that there is in Washington, I would lump Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry at the top of my life of people who do not like me. [applause]

COOPER: Senator Webb?

WEBB: I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to.

COOPER: All right. Time for closing statements. Each of you will have 90 seconds.

Governor Chafee, let’s begin with you.

CHAFEE: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you, CNN. And thank you, Facebook, for sponsoring this debate.

America has many challenges confronting us — ending the perpetual wars, addressing climate change, addressing income inequality, funding education, funding infrastructure, funding healthcare, helping black Americans, helping Native Americans. We have many challenges. Who is best able to confront these challenges?

I’ve served in government at many levels. I know what it’s like to solve problems at the local level because I did it as mayor. I know how to get legislation passed through Congress because I did it as a senator. I know how to turn around a state because I did as governor of Rhode Island.

But what I’m most proud of is that in 30 years of public service, I have had no scandals. I have high ethical standards. And what I’m most proud of is my judgment, particularly in the Iraq war vote. There was a lot of pressure — political pressure, public pressure. But I did my homework and I did not believe that the evidence was there that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And we live now with the consequences.

So that kind of judgment is what we want in a president going forward. And I’m running for president to end the wars. I want to be the peacemaker. I am a proven peacemaker. Please go to Chafee 2016 to learn more about me. Thank you. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Chafee, thank you very much. Senator Webb, your final statement for 90 seconds.

WEBB: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure to be with you tonight. You’ve heard a lot of promises up here; you’ve heard a lot of rhetoric. They all seem to happen during campaigns, and then once the election’s over, people start from scratch again and try to get things done.

One of the things I can promise you, if you look at my record, in and out of government, is that I’ve always been willing to take on a complicated, something unpopular issues, and work them through, the complex issues, and work them through in order to have the solution.

We did it with criminal justice reform. We’ve had a lot of discussion here about criminal justice reform. We did it in other ways. We need a national political strategy for our economy, for our social policy, for social justice, and, by the way, for how you run and manage the most complex bureaucracy in the world, which is the federal government.

I know how to lead. I did it in Vietnam, I did it in the Pentagon, I did it in the Senate, and if you will help me overcome this cavalcade of — of financial irregularities and money that is poisoning our political process, I am ready to do that for you in the White House.

COOPER: Senator Webb, thank you very much.

Governor O’Malley, you have 90 seconds.

O’MALLEY: Anderson, thank you.

I am very, very grateful to have been able to be on this stage with this distinguished group of candidates tonight. And what you heard tonight, Anderson, was a very, very — and all of you watching at home — was a very, very different debate than from the sort of debate you heard from the two presidential Republican debates. [applause]

On this stage — on this stage, you didn’t hear anyone denigrate women, you didn’t hear anyone make racist comments about new American immigrants, you didn’t hear anyone speak ill of another American because of their religious belief.

What you heard instead on this stage tonight was an honest search for the answers that will move our country forward, to move us to a 100 percent clean electric energy grid by 2050, to take the actions that we have always taken as Americans so that we can actually attack injustice in our country, employ more of our people, rebuild our cities and towns, educate our children at higher and better levels, and include more of our people in the economic, social, and political life of our country.

I truly believe that we are standing on the threshold of a new era of American progress. Unless you’ve become discouraged about our gridlock in Congress, talk to our young people under 30, because you’ll never find among them people that want to bash immigrants or people that want to deny rights to gay couples. [applause]

That tells me we are moving to a more connected, generous, and compassionate place, and we need to speak to the goodness within our country. [applause]

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, thank you very much.

Senator Sanders, final, closing thoughts, 90 seconds.

SANDERS: This is a great country, but we have many, many serious problems. We should not be the country that has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country and more wealth and income inequality than any other country.

We should not be the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care to all of our people as a right of citizenship and we should not be the only major country that does not provide medical and — and parental leave — family and parental leave to all of our families.

Now, at the end of our day, here is the truth that very few candidates will say, is that nobody up here, certainly no Republican, can address the major crises facing our country unless millions of people begin to stand up to the billionaire class that has so much power over our economy and our political life.

Jim Webb is right: Money is pouring in to this campaign through super PACs. We are doing it the old-fashioned way: 650,000 individual contributions. And if people want to help us out, BernieSanders.com. We are averaging $30 bucks apiece. We would appreciate your help. [applause]

COOPER: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: Thank you very much, Anderson. And thanks to all the viewers who tuned in tonight.

I think what you did see is that, in this debate, we tried to deal with some of the very tough issues facing our country. That’s in stark contrast to the Republicans who are currently running for president.

What you have to ask yourself is: Who amongst us has the vision for actually making the changes that are going to improve the lives of the American people? Who has the tenacity and the ability and the proven track record of getting that done?

Now, I revere my late mother, and she gave me a lot of good advice. But one of the best pieces of advice she gave me was, you know, the issue is not whether or not you get knocked down. It’s whether you get back up.

America’s been knocked down. That Great Recession, 9 million people lost their jobs, 5 million lost their homes, $13 trillion in wealth disappeared. And although we’ve made progress, we’re standing but not running the way America needs to.

My mission as president will be to raise incomes for hard-working middle-class families and to make sure that we get back to the basic bargain I was raised with: If you work hard and you do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead.

Please join me in this campaign. Please come and make it clear that America’s best days are still ahead. Thank you very much. [applause]

COOPER: Well, that does it for this Democratic presidential debate. On behalf of everyone at CNN, we want to thank the candidates, our debate partners at Facebook, the Wynn Resort, and the Democratic National Committee. Thanks also to Dana Bash, Juan Carlos Lopez, and Don Lemon. We’ll be back in Las Vegas December 15th, when CNN hosts our next Republican presidential debate. That will be moderated by my colleague, Wolf Blitzer.

 

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 September 16, 2015: CNN Republican Early Lower Tier Debate Transcript Lindsey Graham Declared Winner

ELECTION 2016

CampaignBuzz2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

CNN Republican Top Tier Debate Transcript

Source: CNN, 9-16-15

GOP Presidential Debate. Aired 8:10-11:15p ET.

Aired September 16, 2015 – 20:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN MODERATOR: I’m Jake Tapper. We’re live at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California for the main event. Round 2 of CNN’s presidential debate starts now.

The eleven leading Republican candidates for president are at their podiums. They are ready to face off, and if you’ve been watching this race, you know anything could happen over the next few hours.

To viewers who are just joining us, welcome to the Air Force One Pavilion of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Our thanks to the staff here and especially to former first lady Nancy Reagan for this impressive setting with Ronald Reagan’s presidential plane as our backdrop.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: This debate is airing on CNN networks in the United States and around the world. It’s also being broadcast on the Salem Radio Network. I know everyone is very eager to get started.

But first, I want to explain the ground rules tonight. My name is Jake Tapper. I’ll be the moderator. I will be joined in the questioning by Salem Radio Network talk show host Hugh Hewitt. He worked in the Reagan administration for six years. And by CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

I will ask follow-up questions, I will attempt to guide the discussion. Candidates, I will try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of questions. You’ll have one minute to answer and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. I’ll give you time to respond if you’ve been singled out for criticism.

Our viewers should know we have timing lights that are visible to the candidates to warn them when their time is up. These 11 Republicans are positioned on the stage based on their ranking in recent national polls.

Our goal for this evening is a debate. A true debate, with candidates addressing each other in areas where they differ. Where they disagree — on policy, on politics, on leadership. Now, let’s begin.

I’d like to invite each candidate to take 30 seconds to introduce him or herself to our audience. First to you, Senator Paul.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: Good evening, everyone. I’m an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, Kentucky. My wife, Kelly, and I have been married for nearly 25 years, and I spend my days defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I think there’s nothing more important than understanding that the Constitution restrains government, not the people.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, R-ARK.: I’m Mike Huckabee. I’m delighted to be on this stage with some remarkable fellow Republicans.

None of us are a self-professed socialist. None of us on this state are under investigation by the FBI because we destroyed government records, or because we leaked secrets.

I know that there are some in the Wall-Street-to-Washington axis of power who speak of all of us contemptuously. But I’m here to say that I think we are, in fact, the A team.

We have some remarkable people, and, in fact, not only are we the A team; we even have our own Mr. T, who doesn’t mind saying about others, “you’re a fool.”

And I’m delighted to be here with all of these guys, and would put any of them in an administration that I led. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. MARCIO RUBIO, R-FL.: Thank you. My name is Marco Rubio. I’m from Florida. My wife Jeanette and I are the proud — we’ve been married 17 years, and we’re the proud parents of four children, two of whom were able to join us here this evening.

I’m honored to be here at the Reagan Library, at a place that honors the legacy of a man who inspired not just my interest in public service, but also our love for country.

And I’m also aware that California has a drought, and so that’s why I made sure I brought my own water.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Senator Cruz?

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: I’m Ted Cruz. I am the son of an Irish-Italian mom and a Cuban immigrant dad who fled oppression and came to America seeking freedom. I’m a husband to my best friend, Heidi, who’s here tonight. I’m a dad to two little girls who are the loves of my life, Caroline and Catherine.

If you’re fed up with Washington, if you’re looking for someone to stand up to career politicians in both parties, I’m the only one on this stage who has done that over and over again, and if we stand together, we can bring America back. DR. BEN CARSON: Hi, I’m Ben Carson, and I’m a retired pediatric

neurosurgeon. I’m here with my wife, Candy, of 40 years, and two of my sons, and their wives.

I stress the pediatric part of my career because the reason that I’ve gotten involved in this race is because I’m very concerned about the future of our children, and the direction of our country is one that does not portend well, unless we, the people, intervene and retake our rightful place at the pinnacle.

And I just want to be — make it clear that I’m grateful to be here with all of you again, and welcome the addition of Carly Fiorina, as well.

(APPLAUSE)

DONALD TRUMP: I’m Donald Trump. I wrote “The Art of the Deal”. I say not in a braggadocious way, I’ve made billions and billions of dollars dealing with people all over the world, and I want to put whatever that talent is to work for this country so we have great trade deals, we make our country rich again, we make it great again. We build our military, we take care of our vets, we get rid of Obamacare, and we have a great life altogether.

Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH, R-FLA.: I’m Jeb Bush, and I believe America’s on the verge of its greatest century, and I’m ready to lead. I’m a committed, conservative reformer that cut taxes, that balanced budgets, that took on the special interest in Florida, and we won.

I look forward to talking tonight about how we can fix a broken Washington D.C., and create an environment where people can rise up again in this great country.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: Good evening, I’m Scott Walker, and tonight, I want to thank Mrs. Reagan, and the Reagan Library for hosting us. You see, in my lifetime, the greatest president was a governor from California. Ronald Reagan knew how to go big, and go bold. He understood the essence of moving this country forward, and that’s what I did when I took on the status quo in my state, and the Washington based special interest.

Now, more than ever, America needs a leader who will go big and bold again. Someone who’s been tested. I’m ready to be that leader. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLY FIORINA: Good evening. My story, from secretary to CEO, is only possible in this nation, and proves that everyone of us has potential. My husband, Frank, of 30 years, started out driving a tow truck for a family owned auto body shop. We have come to a pivotal point in our nation’s history where this nation’s possibilities and potential are being crushed by a government grown so big, so powerful, so inept, so corrupt, and a political class that refuses to do anything about it.

I am prepared to lead the resurgence of this great nation.

(APPLAUSE)

GOV. JOHN R. KASICH, R-OHIO: Hello, I’m John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio. Emma, and Reese, my children, and Karen, love ‘ya girls. Thanks for watching tonight.

By the way, I think I actually flew on this plane with Ronald Reagan when I was a congressman, and his goals, and mine, really much — are pretty much the same. Lift Americans, unify, give hope, grow America, and restore it is to that great, shining city on a hill.

Yes, he was a great one, and I learned much from watching him. The most important thing, hope to Americans, unify, lift everyone in America.

(APPLAUSE)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: Hi, my name is Chris Christie, and I’d like to you take the camera off me and put it on the audience because I’d like to ask all of you, how many of you, raise your hand, believe that in today’s Barak Obama America your children will have a better life than you’ve had?

You see? That’s why I’m running for President. Because leadership is not about me, it’s about our country. And, what we talk about tonight, it’s not about us, it’s about the people in the audience tonight, because in seven short years this president has stripped away their trust, and their faith, and their belief that the next generation will have a better life. He’s stolen that from us, and when I’m president, I’m going to take it back.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Thank you one and all for being here. There are many important policy issues facing our nation. We’re going to get to many of them tonight, but I do want to start off with some current events in the news, and also some of the comments the candidates have recently made on the campaign trail.

TAPPER: Mrs. Fiorina, I want to start with you. Fellow Republican candidate, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, has suggested that your party’s frontrunner, Mr. Donald Trump, would be dangerous as President. He said he wouldn’t want, quote, “such a hot head with his finger on the nuclear codes.”

You, as well, have raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s temperament.

You’ve dismissed him as an entertainer. Would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?

FIORINA: You know, I think Mr. Trump is a wonderful entertainer. He’s been terrific at that business.

I also think that one of the benefits of a presidential campaign is the character and capability, judgment and temperament of every single one of us is revealed over time and under pressure. All of us will be revealed over time and under pressure. I look forward to a long race.

TAPPER: You didn’t answer my question. Would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes? It’s an issue that one of your fellow candidates has raised.

FIORINA: That’s not for me to answer; it is for the voters of this country to answer, and I have a lot of faith in the common sense and good judgment of the voters of the United States of America.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Well, first of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11, he’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here, there’s far too many people anyway.

As far as temperament — and we all know that — as far as temperament, I think I have a great temperament. I built a phenomenal business with incredible, iconic assets, one of the really truly great real-estate businesses.

And I may be an entertainer, because I’ve had tremendous success with number-one bestsellers all over the place, with “The Apprentice” and everything else I’ve done.

But I will tell you this: What I am far and away greater than an entertainer is a businessman, and that’s the kind of mindset this country needs to bring it back, because we owe $19 trillion right now, $19 trillion, and you need this kind of thinking to bring our country back.

And believe me, my temperament is very good, very calm. But we will be respected outside of this country. We are not respected now.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Mr. — Senator Paul, your name has been invoked.

PAUL: I kind of have to laugh when I think of, “Mmm, sounds like a non sequitur.” He was asked whether or not he would be capable and it would be in good hands to be in charge of the nuclear weapons, and all of a sudden, there’s a sideways attack at me.

I think that really goes to really the judgment. Do we want someone with that kind of character, that kind of careless language to be negotiating with Putin? Do we want someone like that to be negotiating with Iran? I think really there’s a sophomoric quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I’m very concerned about him — having him in charge of the nuclear weapons, because I think his response, his — his visceral response to attack people on their appearance — short, tall, fat, ugly — my goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?

TAPPER: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.

(LAUGHTER)

That I can tell you.

WALKER: But Jake, Jake, Jake, Jake…

TAPPER: I want to — I want to give Mr. Trump…

WALKER: But Jake, this — this is — this…

TAPPER: … Mr. Trump, I want to give you another chance — Mr. Trump, I want to give you a chance to respond to something that your rival to your left, Governor Bush, said.

Governor Bush told me last week when I read him the quote from Governor Jindal that he agrees you’re not a serious candidate.

Tell Governor Bush why you are a serious candidate and what your qualifications are to be commander-in-chief. TRUMP: I’ve actually been in politics all my life, although I’ve been on that side as opposed to this side. I’m now a politician for about three months. Obviously, I’m doing pretty well. I’m number one in every polls (sic) by a lot.

But the qualification is that I’ve dealt with people all over the world, been successful all over the world. Everything I’ve done virtually has been a tremendous success.

When markets changed, when things turned, I heard Governor Pataki, who, by the way, was a failed governor in New York, a very seriously failed — he wouldn’t be elected dog catcher right now. I heard what he had to say.

And I will tell you this: Atlantic City, I’ve made a tremendous amount of money in Atlantic City. I left seven years ago, I’ve gotten great credit for my timing, and that’s what I’m all about.

I’m a businessman, did really well, really well, and Jeb, what I want to do is put that ability into this country to make our country rich again. And I can do that, and I’m not sure that anybody else in the group will be able to do that.

TAPPER: Governor Bush, would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?

BUSH: I think the voters will make that determination.

But what I know to be true is that the next president of the United States is going to have to fix an extraordinary difficult situation. This administration, with President Obama and Hillary Clinton, has created insecurity the likes of which we never would’ve imagined. There’s not a place in the world where we’re better off today than six and a half years ago.

And that requires a steadiness. That requires an understanding of how the world works. That requires an understanding and appreciation of American leadership in the world.

You can’t just, you know, talk about this stuff and insult leaders around the world and expect a good result. You have to do this with a steady hand, and I believe I have those skills.

WALKER Jake, this is — this is — this is…

TRUMP: But I have to say…

WALKER This is actually what’s wrong — this is what’s wrong with this debate. We’re not talking about real issues.

And Mr. Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now. He told us all the things we wanted to hear back in 2008. We don’t know who you are or where you’re going. We need someone who can actually get the job done.

And you talked about business.

TRUMP: Well, in Wisconsin…

WALKER You — you — let me finish…

TRUMP: Excuse me.

WALKER No, no…

TRUMP: In Wisconsin, you’re losing $2.2 billion right now.

WALKER You’re using the talking…

TRUMP: I would do so much better than that.

WALKER Mr. Trump, you’re using the talking points of the Democrats…

TRUMP: No.

WALKER … and as we all know…

TRUMP: I’m using facts.

WALKER … that failed three times in four and a half years when I got elected, because it is working. We balanced a budget.

You want to talk about balanced budgets? You took four major projects into bankruptcy over and over and over again. You can’t take America into bankruptcy. That’s what’s wrong with the politicians in Washington right now. They think we can take a country into bankruptcy.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Every major business leader, has used the — I never went bank bankrupt, by the way, as you know, everybody knows. But — hundreds of companies, hundreds of deals, I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I’m in business. I did a very good job.

But I will say this, and people are very, very impressed with what I’ve done, the business people. But when the folks of Iowa found out the true facts of the job that you’ve done in Wisconsin, all of a sudden you, tubed (ph), he was No. 1 and now he’s No. 6 or seven in the polls.

So, look, we brought it out, you were supposed to make a billion dollars in the state. You lost 2.2 — you have right now, a huge budget deficit. That’s not a Democratic point. That’s a point. That’s a fact. And when the people of Iowa found that out, I went to No. 1 and you went down the tubes.

TAPPER: Governor Walker?

WALKER: Jake, yeah, absolutely, I’ll take this on, because this is an issue that’s important in this race.

Just because he says it doesn’t make it true. The facts are the facts.

(APPLAUSE)

We balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit, we did it by cutting taxes — $4.7 billion to help working families, family farmers, small business owners and senior citizens. And it’s about time people in America stand up and take note of this.

If you want someone that can actually take on the special interest of Washington, which you yourself said you were part of, using the system, we need somebody that will stand up and fight for average Americans to put them back in charge of their government.

I’m the one who is taking that on. I’ll do that as your next president.

TAPPER: Let’s move on.

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Jake, Jake. TAPPER: A phenomenon going on in the race right now is the

political…

OK, Governor Kasich, go ahead.

KASICH: Listen, you know, I — if I were sitting at home and watch thing back and forth, I would be inclined to turn it off. I mean, people at home want to know across this country, they want to know what we’re going to do to fix this place, how we’ll balance a budget, how we’re going to create more economic growth, how we’ll pay down the debt. What we’re going to do to strengthen the military.

So, we just spent 10 minutes here…

TAPPER: We have a lot of issues coming up, sir.

KASICH: But — but wait a minute. It’s a lot of ad hogshead. Now, I know that it may be buzzing out there, but I think it’s important we get to the issues, because that’s what people want, and they don’t want all this fighting.

TAPPER: We are getting to the issues, sir.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Phenomenon going on in the race is the political outsiders in the race, Dr. Carson, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, all together, have majority support in the polls.

Governor Christie, I want to ask you about something that Dr. Carson said the other day.

Dr. Carson said campaigning is easier for him, because he’s not a politician. He can just tell the truth, therefore, while politicians, quote, “Have their finger in the air to see and do what is politically expedient.”

Governor Christie, tell Dr. Carson, is that a fair description of you?

CHRISTIE: Well, I know Ben wasn’t talking about me, I’m sure he was talking about one of the other guys, not me.

(LAUGHTER)

As far as being an outsider is concerned — as far as being an outsider is concerned, let me tell you this, Jake, I’m a Republican in New Jersey. I wake up every morning as an outsider. I wake up every morning with a Democratic legislature who trying to beat my head in and fight me because I’m trying to bring conservative change to a state that needed it desperately.

And so, everyone can talk us here about their credentials. But the bottom line is, every morning I get up, I veto 400 bills from a crazy liberal Democratic legislature, not one of them has been overridden. I’ve vetoed more tax increases than any governor in American history, according to Americans for Tax Reform. What folks want in this country is somebody to go down there and get the job done. And that’s exactly what I’ll do.

So, I know this much, that what the American people want to hire right now is somebody who believes in them. And believes that they are the ones who can fix our country. I will be the vessel through which they can fix this country, but it’s not about me.

It’s about all of you. And getting this government off your back and out of your way, and letting you succeed. I know Ben wasn’t talking about me.

TAPPER: Well, let’s find out. Thank you.

CHRISTIE: Look at him smiling at me right now. I know Ben didn’t mean it about me. One of these other guys, I’m sure.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Christie.

Dr. Carson, who were you thinking about on this stage when you said that?

CHRISTIE: Be honest, Ben, be honest.

TAPPER: And more broadly, is experience in government not important for a president to have?

CARSON: Typically, politicians do things that are politically expedient. And they are looking for whatever their particular goal is.

That is not the reason that I have gotten into this thing. I’m extraordinary concerned about the direction of this country, the divisiveness that is going on, fiscal irresponsibility, the failure to take a leadership position in the world.

All of those things will lead to a situation where the next generation will not have a chance that we’ve had now. So I don’t — I don’t want to really get into describing who’s a politician and who’s not a politician, but I think the people have kind of made that decision for themselves already, and will continue to do so as time goes on.

TAPPER: Thank you, Dr. Carson.

CHRISTIE: See, Jake, it wasn’t me.

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: Jake, I’ll tell you — I’ll tell you why people are supporting outsiders. It’s because you know what happens if someone’s been in the system their whole life, they don’t know how broken the system is. A fish swims in water, it doesn’t know it’s water. It’s not that politicians are bad people, it’s that they’ve been in that system forever.

The truth is 75 percent of the American people think the government is corrupt; 82 percent of the American people think these problems that have festered for 50 years in some cases, 25 years in other cases. The border’s been insecure for 25 years; 307,000 veterans have died waiting for health care. These things have gone on for so long because no one will challenge the status quo.

You know what a leader does? They challenge the status quo, they solve problems that have festered for a long time and they produce results. That is what my whole life has been about. People know this is about far more than replacing a D with an R —

TAPPER: Thank you.

FIORINA: — this is about changing the system.

TAPPER: Thank you. Thank you Ms. Fiorina.

(APPLAUSE)

Governor Bush, in addition to the fact that he’s an outsider, one of the reasons Mr. Trump is a frontrunner, Republican voters say, is because they like the fact that he is not bought and paid for by wealthy donors. Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that the $100 million you’ve raised for your campaign makes you a puppet for your donors. Are you?

BUSH: No. Absolutely not. People are supporting me because I have a proven record of conservative leadership where I cut taxes $19 billion over eight years. We shrunk the state government workforce, we created a climate that led the nation in job growth seven out of eight years. We were one of two states to go to AAA bond rating. People know that we need principle-centered leadership, a disrupter to go to Washington, D.C. The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something — that was generous and gave me money — was Donald Trump. He wanted casino gambling in Florida —

TRUMP: I didn’t —

BUSH: Yes you did.

TRUMP: Totally false.

BUSH: You wanted it and you didn’t get it because I was opposed to —

TRUMP: I would have gotten it.

BUSH: — casino gambling before —

TRUMP: I promise I would have gotten it.

BUSH: during and after. And that’s not — I’m not going to be bought by anybody.

TRUMP: I promise if I wanted it, I would have gotten it.

BUSH: No way. Believe me. TRUMP: I know my people.

BUSH: Not even possible.

TRUMP: I know my people.

TAPPER: Is there anything else you want to say about this?

TRUMP: No. I just will tell you that, you know, Jeb made the statement. I’m not only referring to him. I — a lot of money was raised by a lot of different people that are standing up here. And the donors, the special interests, the lobbyists have very strong power over these people.

I’m spending all of my money, I’m not spending — I’m not getting any — I turned down — I turn down so much, I could have right now from special interests and donors, I could have double and triple what he’s got. I’ve turned it down. I turned down last week $5 million from somebody.

So I will tell you I understand the game, I’ve been on the other side all of my life. And they have a lot of control over our politicians. And I don’t say that favorably, and I’m not sure if there’s another system, but I say this. I am not accepting any money from anybody. Nobody has control of me other than the people of this country. I’m going to do the right thing.

TAPPER: Governor — BUSH: You’ve got, according to your — to what you said on one of the talk shows, you got Hillary Clinton to go to your wedding —

TRUMP: That’s true. That’s true.

BUSH: — because you gave her money. Maybe it works for Hillary Clinton —

TRUMP: I was — excuse me, Jeb.

BUSH: — it doesn’t work for anybody on this — on stage.

TRUMP: I was a businessman, I got along with Clinton, I got along with everybody. That was my job, to get along with people.

BUSH: But the simple fact is —

TRUMP: I didn’t want to — excuse me. One second.

BUSH: No. The simple fact is, Donald, you could not take —

TRUMP: OK, more energy tonight. I like that.

(LAUGHTER)

Look —

BUSH: I was asked the question. TRUMP: I didn’t want — it was my obligation as a businessman to my family, to my company, to my employees, to get along with all politicians. I get along with all of them, and I did a damn good job in doing it. Go ahead.

BUSH: So he supports Pelosi, he supports Schumer, he supports Clinton —

TRUMP: Got along with everybody.

BUSH: When he — and he — when he asked — when he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no.

TRUMP: Wrong.

BUSH: We said no. And that’s the simple fact. The simple fact is —

TRUMP: Don’t make things up. Jeb, don’t make things up. Come on.

BUSH: Don’t cut me off.

TRUMP: Don’t make things up.

CARSON: Jake, can I say something about that?

TAPPER: Sure Dr. Carson.

CARSON: You know, when I entered this race, all the political pundits said it’s impossible; you can’t do it because you’re not connected with the money. And there’s no way that you can raise what you need in order to compete successfully.

I in no way am willing to get in the bed with special interest group or lick the boots of billionaires. I have said to the people if they want me to do this, please get involved. And we now have over 500,000 donations, and the money is coming in.

But the pundits forgot about one thing, and that is the people. And they are really in charge.

TAPPER: Thank you, Dr. Carson. Let’s move to Russia if we could.

Russia is sending troops and tanks into Syria right now to prop up a U.S. enemy, Bashar al-Assad. President Obama’s incoming top general says, quote, “Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security.”

Mr. Trump, you say you can do business with President Vladimir Putin, you say you will get along, quote, “very well.” What would you do right now if you were president, to get the Russians out of Syria?

TRUMP: So, number one, they have to respect you. He has absolutely no respect for President Obama. Zero.

Syria’s a mess. You look at what’s going on with ISIS in there, now think of this: we’re fighting ISIS. ISIS wants to fight Syria. Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.

I would talk to him. I would get along with him. I believe — and I may be wrong, in which case I’d probably have to take a different path, but I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.

We don’t get along with China. We don’t get along with the heads of Mexico. We don’t get along with anybody, and yet, at the same time, they rip us left and right. They take advantage of us economically and every other way. We get along with nobody.

I will get along — I think — with Putin, and I will get along with others, and we will have a much more stable — stable world.

TAPPER: So, you — just to clarify, the only answer I heard to the question I asked is that you would — you would reach out to Vladimir Putin, and you would do what? You would…

TRUMP: I believe that I will get along — we will do — between that, Ukraine, all of the other problems, we won’t have the kind of problems that our country has right now with Russia and many other nations. TAPPER: Senator Rubio, you’ve taken a very different approach to the — the question of Russia. You’ve called Vladimir Putin a, quote, “gangster.”

Why would President Rubio’s approach be more effective than President Trump’s?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I have an understanding of exactly what it is Russia and Putin are doing, and it’s pretty straightforward. He wants to reposition Russia, once again, as a geopolitical force.

He himself said that the destruction of the Soviet Union — the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, and now he’s trying to reverse that.

He’s trying to destroy NATO. And this is what this is a part of. He is exploiting a vacuum that this administration has left in the Middle East.

Here’s what you’re going to see in the next few weeks: the Russians will begin to fly — fly combat missions in that region, not just targeting ISIS, but in order to prop up Assad.

He will also, then, turn to other countries in the region and say, “America is no longer a reliable ally, Egypt. America is no longer a reliable ally, Saudi Arabia. Begin to rely on us.”

What he is doing is he is trying to replace us as the single most important power broker in the Middle East, and this president is allowing it. That is what is happening in the Middle East. That’s what’s happening with Russia, and…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Rubio.

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: I want to bring in Carly Fiorina.

(APPLAUSE)

FIORINA: Having…

TAPPER: Ms. Fiorina, you have met…

FIORINA: Having met Vladimir Putin, if I may…

TAPPER: …yeah, you’ve met Vladimir Putin. Yes.

FIORINA: Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. We’ve talked way too much to him.

What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message. By the way, the reason it is so critically important that every one of us know General Suleimani’s name is because Russia is in Syria right now, because the head of the Quds force traveled to Russia and talked Vladimir Putin into aligning themselves with Iran and Syria to prop up Bashar al- Assad.

Russia is a bad actor, but Vladimir Putin is someone we should not talk to, because the only way he will stop is to sense strength and resolve on the other side, and we have all of that within our control.

We could rebuild the Sixth Fleet. I will. We haven’t. We could rebuild the missile defense program. We haven’t. I will. We could also, to Senator Rubio’s point, give the Egyptians what they’ve asked for, which is intelligence.

We could give the Jordanians what they’ve asked for…

TAPPER: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina.

FIORINA: …bombs and material. We have not supplied it…

TAPPER: Thank you.

FIORINA: …I will. We could arm the Kurds. They’ve been asking us for three years. All of this is within our control.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Thank you. Thank you, Ms. Fiorina.

While you’re — while you brought up the subject of General Suleimani of the Quds forces from Iran, the next president, no matter who he or she may be, will inherit President Obama’s Iran deal.

Senator Cruz, Governor Kasich says that anyone who is promising to rip up the Iran deal on day one, as you have promised to do, is, quote, “inexperienced,” and, quote, “playing to a crowd.” Respond to Governor Kasich, please.

CRUZ: Well, let me tell you, Jake, the single biggest national security threat facing America right now is the threat of a nuclear Iran. We’ve seen six and a half years of President Obama leading from behind. Weakness is provocative, and this Iranian nuclear deal is nothing short of catastrophic.

This deal, on its face, will send over $100 billion to the Ayatollah Khamenei, making the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.

This deal abandons four American hostages in Iran, and this deal will only accelerate Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons. You’d better believe it. If I am elected president, on the very first day in office, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Why is that not, as Governor Kasich says, playing to the crowd and an example of you being inexperienced?

CRUZ: Well, let’s be clear when it comes to experience. What President Obama wants to do is he’s run to the United Nations, and he wants to use the United Nations to bind the United States, and take away our sovereignty. Well, I spent five and a half years as a Solicitor General of Texas, the lead lawyer for the state, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I went in front of the Supreme Court, and took on the world court of the United Nations in a case called Medellin v. Texas, and we won a historic victory saying the World Court, and the U.N., has no power to bind the United States, and no President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, has the authority to give away our sovereignty.

And, so, if there’s anyone up here who would be bound by this catastrophic deal with Iran, they’re giving up the core responsibility of commander in chief, and as president, I would never do that.

TAPPER: Governor Kasich…

KASICH: …Yeah, well…

TAPPER: …Did Senator Cruz just play to the crowd?

KASICH: Well, let me just say this. First of all, I think it’s a bad agreement, I would never have done it. But, you know, a lot of our problems in the world today is that we don’t have the relationship with our allies. If we want to go everywhere alone, we will not have the strength as (ph) if we could rebuild with our allies.

Now, this agreement, we don’t know what’s going to happen in 18 months. I served on the Defense Committee for 18 years. I’ve seen lots of issues in foreign affairs, and foreign — in terms of global politics, you have to be steady.

Now, here’s the — if they cheat, we slap the sanctions back on. If they help Hamas, and Hezbollah, we slap the sanctions back on. And, if we find out that they may be developing a nuclear weapon, than the military option is on the table. We are stronger when we work with the Western civilization, our friends in Europe, and just doing it on our own I don’t think is the right policy.

TAPPER: …Thank you, Governor. I want to go to Senator Paul.

TRUMP(?): …Slow (ph) and steady, (inaudible) chicken…

TAPPER: I want to go to Senator Paul. Senator Paul, the White House is rolling out the red carpet next week for the President of China, President Xi. Governor Walker says that President Obama should cancel the state dinner because of China’s currency manipulation, and because of China’s alleged cyber attacks against the United States.

Is Governor Walker right?

PAUL: I think this goes back to essentially what we’ve been saying for the last two or three questions. Carly Fiorina also said we’re not going to talk with Putin. Well, think if Reagan had said that during the Cold War? We continued to talk with the Russians throughout the Cold War which is much more significant that where we are now.

Should we continue to talk with Iran? Yes. Should we cut up the agreement immediately? That’s absurd. Wouldn’t you want to know if they complied? Now, I’m going to vote against the agreement because I don’t think there’s significant leverage, but it doesn’t mean that I would immediately not look at the agreement, and cut it up without looking to see if whether or not Iran has complied.

The same goes with China. I don’t think we need to be rash, I don’t think we need to be reckless, and I think need to leave lines of communication open. Often we talk about whether we should be engaged in the world, or disengaged in the world, and I think this is an example of some who want to isolate us, actually, and not be engaged.

We do need to be engaged with Russia. It doesn’t mean we give them a free pass, or China a free pass, but, to be engaged, to continue to talk. We did throughout the Cold War, and it would be a big mistake not to do it here.

TAPPER: Governor Walker, Senator Paul seemed to suggest…

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: …that canceling the state dinner would be rash, and reckless.

WALKER: Two parts to that, one on China, one back for a second on Iran.

When it comes to China, why would we be giving an official state visit to a country that’s been involved in a massive cyber attack against the United States? That’s not just a visit, that’s a 21 gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House. It just doesn’t make any sense. If we’re ever going to send a message to them, wouldn’t this be the time, when they’ve issued this, sort of, massive attack against us? And, Jake, for the question, I was one of the first ones to call for terminating the bad deal with Iran on day one. The President came after me and said I need to bone up. You know, the President who called ISIS the JV squad said I needed to bone up.

The reality is it’s a bad deal on day one, and it’s a bad deal because this president has allowed Iran to go closer, and closer.

I’d love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran. We need a leader who’s going to stand up, and actually (INAUDIBLE)…

FIORINA: …Jake…

TAPPER: …Governor Bush…

CRUZ(?): …Jake…

TAPPER: Governor Bush, your father was the chief diplomatic envoy to China back when Nixon opened relations to China. Is Scott Walker’s approach the right one, canceling the state dinner?

BUSH: No, I don’t think so, but we need to be strong against China. We should use offensive tactics as it relates to cyber security, send a deterrent signal to China. There should be super sanctions in what President Obama has proposed. There’s many other tools that we have without canceling a dinner. That’s not going to change anything, but we can be much stronger as it relates to that.

As it relates to Iran, it’s not a strategy to tear up an agreement. A strategy would be how do we confront Iran? And, the first thing that we need to do is to establish our commitment to Israel which has been altered by this administration. And, make sure that they have the most sophisticated weapons to send a signal to Iran that we have Israel’s back.

If we do that, it’s going to create a healthier deterrent effect than anything else I can think of.

TAPPER: I want to turn…

FIORINA: …Jake, (INAUDIBLE)…

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: …I want to turn to Governor Huckabee who has been very patient. Somebody had to be 11th, and he is, but, I do want to change the subject to the event that you had…

HUCKABEE: I would certainly love to get in on this, because I think the single…

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: … however you want, but I want to ask this question.

HUCKABEE: I’ve been patiently waiting, and I’m going to just say this about Iran.

TAPPER: All right, sir, go ahead.

HUCKABEE: Because I think it is incredibly important. This is really about the survival of Western civilization. This is not just a little conflict with a Middle Eastern country that we’ve just now given over $100 billion to, the equivalent in U.S. terms is $5 trillion.

This threatens Israel immediately, this threatens the entire Middle East, but it threatens the United States of America. And we can’t treat a nuclear Iranian government as if it is just some government that would like to have power. This is a government for 36 years has killed Americans, they kidnapped Americans, they have maimed Americans. They have sponsored terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, and they threaten the very essence of Western civilization.

To give them this agreement, that the president treats like the Magna Carta, but Iranians treat it like it’s toilet paper, and we must, simply, make it very clear that the next president, one of us on this stage, will absolutely not honor that agreement, and will destroy it and will be tough with Iran, because otherwise, we put every person in this world in a very dangerous place.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: OK.

(UNKNOWN): Jake, I’d like to…

TAPPER: We’re going to turn now to Hugh Hewitt, from Salem Radio Network.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: Thank you, Jake.

Mr. Trump, two years ago, President Obama drew a red line that the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad crossed, President Obama threatened to strike. He did not, his knees buckled.

We now have 4 million refugees, Syria is a living hell, and he turned to the Congress for the authority to back him up. You have three senators to your right that said, no. Do they bear responsibility for this refugee crisis, and what would you have done when Bashar Assad crossed the line?

TRUMP: I wouldn’t have drawn the line, but once he drew it, he had no choice but to go across. They do bear some responsibility, but I think he probably didn’t do it, not for that reason.

Somehow, he just doesn’t have courage. There is something missing from our president. Had he crossed the line and really gone in with force, done something to Assad — if he had gone in with tremendous force, you wouldn’t have millions of people displaced all over the world.

HEWITT: How much responsibility, Mr. Trump, do the senators hold?

TRUMP: They had a responsibility, absolutely. I think we have three of them here…

HEWITT: Senator Rubio…

TRUMP: I think they had a responsibility, yes.

RUBIO: Let me tell you — I will tell you we have zero responsibility, because let’s remember what the president said. He said the attack he would conduct would be a pinprick. Well, the United States military was not build to conduct pinprick attacks.

If the United States military is going to be engaged by a commander- in-chief, it should only be engaged in an endeavor to win. And we’re not going to authorize use of force if you’re not put in a position where they can win.

And quite frankly, people don’t trust this president as commander-in- chief because of that.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Senator Paul? PAUL: I think this gets to the point of wisdom on when to intervene and when we shouldn’t. Had we bombed Assad at the time, like President Obama wanted, and like Hillary Clinton wanted and many Republicans wanted, I think ISIS would be in Damascus today. I think ISIS would be in charge of Syria had we bombed Assad.

Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention sometimes makes us less safe. This is real the debate we have to have in the Middle East.

Every time we have toppled a secular dictator, we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we’re more at risk. So, I think we need to think before we act, and know most interventions, if not a lot of them in the Middle East, have actually backfired on us.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Paul.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to turn now to my colleague Dana Bash.

RUBIO: Hold on, a second, Jake, he asked me, as well. I’d like to actually…

TAPPER: That would be fair, you’re right. You’re the third senator.

RUBIO: … respond. I think I’m the first senator.

(LAUGHTER)

The No. 1 test for use of military force should be the vital national security interest of the United States. The reason why I opposed President Obama bombing Syria, is because he couldn’t answer the question what do you do if chemical weapons end up in the hands of radical Islamic terrorists like al-Nusra, like Al Qaida, like ISIS?

Now, I also want to respond to several folks up here who said we should trust this Iranian deal, see if the Iranians will comply.

Anyone who is paying attention to what Khamenei says knows that they will not comply. There is a reason Khamenei refers to Israel as the little Satan, and America as the great Satan.

In the middle of negotiating this treaty, Khamenei led the assembled masses in chanting, death to America. I’m reminded of a great editorial cartoon. It shows the Ayatollah Khamenei saying, “Death to all Americans,” and then it shows John Kerry coming back, saying, “Can we meet ya half way?”

(LAUGHTER)

We need a commander-in-chief who will stand up and protect this country. And I’ll tell you, I can’t wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton and to make abundantly clear if you vote for Hillary, you are voting for the Ayatollah Khomeini to possess a nuclear weapon and if you elect me as president, under no circumstances will a theocratic ayatollah who chants death to America ever be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: We’re going to go to Dana Bash…

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: No, no, no. I want to — I want to — I want to say something about what the senator just said.

FIORINA: And then it’ll be my turn.

KASICH: No one is — no — let me — let me suggest to you we believe that we operate better in the world when our allies work with us. President Bush did it in the Gulf War. We work better when we are unified.

Secondly, nobody’s trusting Iran. They violate the deal, we put on the sanctions, and we have the high moral ground to talk to our allies in Europe to get them to go with us.

If they don’t go with us, we slap the sanctions on anyway. If they fund these radical groups that threaten Israel and all of the West, then we should rip up the deal and put the sanctions back on.

And let me make it clear — let me make it clear…

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: … if we think — if we think they’re getting close to a — to developing a nuclear weapon and we get that information, you better believe that I would do everything in my power as the commander-in- chief to stop them having a nuclear weapon.

CRUZ: Jake, Jake… KASICH: We can have it, and we can have our allies, and we can be strong as a country, and we can project across this globe with unity, not just doing it alone. That is not what gets us where we want to get as a nation.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Jake, there is no more important topic in 2016 than this topic right here, and I’ve listened to several folks saying, “Well, gosh, if they cheat, we’ll act.”

We won’t know under this agreement — there are several facilities in Iran they designate as military facilities that are off limit all together. Beyond that, the other facilities, we give them 24 days notice before inspecting them. That is designed to allow them to hide the evidence.

And most astonishingly, this agreement trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves. That makes no sense whatsoever.

And let me know — President Obama is violating federal law…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

CRUZ: … by not handing over the side deals, and we ought to see the United States Congress…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

CRUZ: … stand up together and say, “Hand over this treaty, and protect this country.”

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator. I want to…

FIORINA: Jake?

TAPPER: … turn back to Governor Huckabee…

FIORINA: Jake?

TAPPER: I want to turn back to Governor Huckabee.

Governor Huckabee, last week, you held a rally for a county clerk in Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as I don’t need to tell you.

You’ve called what happened to Kim Davis, that clerk, “an example of the criminalization of Christianity.” There are several people on the stage who disagree with you.

Governor Bush, for example, says that that clerk is sworn to uphold the law. Is Governor Bush on the wrong side of the criminalization of Christianity?

HUCKABEE: No, I don’t think he’s on the wrong side of such an issue. Jeb is a friend. I’m not up here to fight with Jeb or to fight with anybody else.

But I am here to fight for somebody who is a county clerk elected under the Kentucky constitution that 75 percent of the people of that state had voted for that said that marriage was between a man and a woman.

The Supreme Court in a very, very divided decision decided out of thin air that they were just going to redefine marriage. It’s a decision that the other justices in dissent said they didn’t have and there wasn’t a constitutional shred of capacity for them to do it.

I thought that everybody here passed ninth-grade civics. The courts cannot legislate. That’s what Roberts said. But heck, it’s what we learned in civics.

The courts can’t make a law. They can interpret one. They can review one. They can’t implement it. They can’t force it.

But here’s what happened: Because the courts just decided that something was going to be and people relinquished it and the other two branches of government sat by silently — I thought we had three branches of government, they were all equal to each other, we have separation of powers, and we have checks and balances.

If the court can just make a decision and we just all surrender to it, we have what Jefferson said was judicial tyranny.

The reason that this is a real issue that we need to think about…

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HUCKABEE: No, no. Let me finish this one thought, Jake. I haven’t gotten that much time, so I’m going to take just what little I can here.

We made accommodation to the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard. We made accommodations to the detainees at Gitmo — I’ve been to Gitmo, and I’ve seen the accommodations that we made to the Muslim detainees who killed Americans.

HUCKABEE: You’re telling me that you cannot make an accommodation for an elected Democrat county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky? What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Well, I’m not telling you that, Governor. But Governor Bush is, because he — because he disagrees. He thinks that Kim Davis swore to uphold the law.

You disagree? You’re not — you don’t…

BUSH: I don’t think — you’re not stating my views right.

TAPPER: OK. Please do.

BUSH: I think there needs to be accommodation for someone acting on faith. Religious conscience is — is — is a first freedom. It’s — it’s a powerful part of our — of our Bill of Rights.

And, in a big, tolerant country, we should respect the rule of law, allow people in — in — in this country — I’m a — I was opposed to the decision, but we — you can’t just say, “well, they — gays can’t get married now.”

But this woman, there should be some accommodation for her conscience, just as there should be for people that are florists that don’t want to participate in weddings, or bakers. A great country like us should find a way to have accommodations for people so that we can solve the problem in the right way. This should be solved at the local level…

TAPPER: You did…

BUSH: And so we do agree, Mike.

CHRISTIE: I was —

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Governor, you said, quote, “she is sworn to uphold the law.”

CHRISTIE: She is, and so if she, based on conscience, can’t sign that — that marriage license, then there should be someone in her office to be able to do it, and if the law needs to be changed in the state of Kentucky, which is what she’s advocating, it should be changed.

TAPPER: Let me go to my colleague Dana Bash, who has a question.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Governor Kasich, Senator Cruz is so committed to stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood that it could result in shutting down the federal government in just about two weeks. Do you agree with Senator Cruz’s tactic?

KASICH: Well, I agree that we should defund Planned Parenthood. I don’t know many people in America who don’t think that we should, and in my state, we’re trying to figure out how to get it done, because we are threatened with the federal government taking all of our Medicaid money away.

I think there is a way to get this done by giving governors the ability to be able to act to defund Planned Parenthood. But when (ph) it comes to closing down the federal government, you gotta be very careful about that.

When we shut the government down — if we have a chance at success and it’s a great principle, yes. The president of the United States is not going to sign this, and all we’re gonna do is shut the government down, and then we’re gonna open up — open it up, and the American people are gonna shake their heads and say, “what’s the story with these Republicans?” So I think there is a way to get to cutting off the funding for

Planned Parenthood. I was in the Congress for 18 years, balanced the budget, cut taxes, got it done. Changed welfare, went around the president to get welfare reform done.

There are ways to do it without having to shut the government down, but I’m sympathetic to the fact that we don’t want this organization to get funding, and the money ought to be reprogrammed for family planning in other organizations that don’t support this tactic.

But I would not be for shutting the government down…

BASH: Thank you.

KASICH: …because I don’t think it’s going to work out.

BASH: Thank you.

Senator Cruz, I would just add that, on this stage not that long ago, Senator Graham said that this tactic that you’re pushing would tank the Republicans’ ability to win in 2016.

CRUZ: Well, let me tell you, Dana, number one, I’m proud to stand for life. These Planned Parenthood videos are horrifying. I would encourage every American to watch the videos. See — seeing your Planned Parenthood officials callously, heartlessly bartering and selling the body parts of human beings, and then ask yourself, “are these my values?”

These are horrifying. On these videos, Planned Parenthood also essentially confesses to multiple felonies. It is a felony with ten years’ jail term to sell the body parts of unborn children for profit. That’s what these videos show Planned Parenthood doing.

Absolutely we shouldn’t be sending $500 million of taxpayer money to funding an ongoing criminal enterprise, and I’ll tell you, the fact that Republican leadership in both houses has begun this discussion by preemptively surrendering to Barack Obama and saying, “we’ll give in because Obama threatens a veto.”

You know, Obama’s committed to his principles. His liberal principles, he will fight for them. He says…

BASH: Thank you, senator.

CRUZ: I will veto any budget that doesn’t fund Planned Parenthood, and Republicans surrender. We need to stop surrendering and start standing…

BASH: Thank you…

CRUZ: …for our principles.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK) BASH: Governor — governor, I want to go to you. Is it what Senator

Cruz says, a surrender by Republicans?

CHRISTIE: We’re not — what I can tell you is this. We didn’t surrender in New Jersey, six years ago, as the brand new first ever pro-life governor of New Jersey since Roe versus Wade, I defended Planned Parenthood.

And I’ve vetoed Planned Parenthood funding, now, eight times in New Jersey. Since the day I walked in as governor, Planned Parenthood has not been funded in New Jersey. We stood up and every one of those vetoes has been sustained.

But here’s the problem, we’re — we’re fighting with each other up here. We agree. Let’s ask Hillary Clinton. She believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts…

BASH: But…

CHRISTIE: …Dana, in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit. It is disgusting, and the American people need to hear it…

BASH: But is it…

CHRISTIE: …we shouldn’t be fighting with each other. She’s the real opponent, she’s the real problem.

BASH: But, governor, the — but, governor, the reality is, in just two weeks’ time…

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: …we are going to be facing a question about whether or not it’s enough to shut down the government to make that statement, because there is still a Democrat in the White House. Do you oppose it or support it?

CHRISTIE: I’ll tell you what — I’ll tell you what I’d be willing to fight for. I’ll tell you what I’d be willing to fight for. Why will (ph) we put tax reform on the president’s desk, so we can simplify this tax system?

BASH: Yes or no, do you support this shutdown?

CHRISTIE: No, no, it’s really important, Dana. We got to talk about what we would be willing to shut down for. Why don’t we put tax reform on this president’s desk, and make him veto it if that’s what he wants to do? Why haven’t we repealed and replaced Obamacare?

Make him veto if that’s what he wants to do.

BASH: We’re talking about Planned Parenthood right now.

CHRISTIE: And why don’t we do the same thing with Planned Parenthood?

BASH: Can you answer yes or no?

CHRISTIE: We elected a Republican Congress to do this. And they should be doing it, and they’re not. And they’re giving the president a pass.

FIORINA: Dana, I’d like to…

BASH: One more time. I’m sorry, I just want to get the answer.

CHRISTIE: I put it in the list, Dana. We should be doing these things and forcing the president to take action.

BASH: So you would support a shutdown.

CHRISTIE: Let’s force him to do what he says he’s going to do. Now I don’t know whether he’ll do it or not, but let’s force him to do it.

FIORINA: Dana, I would like to link these two issues, both of which are incredibly important, Iran and Planned Parenthood.

One has something to do with the defense of the security of this nation. The other has something to do with the defense of the character of this nation. You have not heard a plan about Iran from any politician up here, here is my plan. On day one in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.

The second, to the supreme leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system.

We can do that, we don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States in America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies.

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Dana, I want to continue on the subject.

Governor Bush, you recently said while discussing Planned Parenthood, quote, you’re “not sure we need a half billion for women’s health issues.” Now you’ve since said that you misspoke, you didn’t mean to say “women’s health issues.”

But Donald Trump said that quote, that comment, which Hillary Clinton did seize upon immediately, will haunt you the same way Mitt Romney’s 47 percent video haunted him.

Tell Donald Trump why he’s wrong.

BUSH: Well, he’s wrong on a lot of things, but on this he’s wrong because I’m the most pro-life governor on this stage. I got to act on my core beliefs. It’s part of who I am. Life is a gift from God. And from beginning end we need to respect it and err on the side of life.

And so I defunded Planned Parenthood. We created a climate where parental notification took place. We were the only state to fund crisis pregnancy centers with state moneys. We were totally focused on this. And I would bring that kind of philosophy to Washington, D.C.

So here is a solution to this. Title X of the HHS funding, there is something that was the “Reagan Rule.” It was passed in 1988. And in that rule it was defined, and the courts approved this, that a Planned Parenthood, you couldn’t separate the money between the actual abortion procedures, and there are 330,000 abortions that take place in this clinic, and their promotion of it.

He interpreted it the right way, the courts ruled in his favor, and Planned Parenthood did not get funding during that time until President Clinton came in.

When I’m elected president, we will restore that interpretation of Title X. And this deal will be finished.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Bush.

Donald Trump, let me just…

TRUMP: Jeb, just…

TAPPER: The quote was, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” He said he misspoke. You said that that’s going to haunt him. Why do you think that?

TRUMP: I think it will haunt him. I think it’s a terrible. I think it’s going to haunt him absolutely. He came back later and he said he misspoke. There was no question because I heard when he said the statement. I was watching and he said the statement.

And I said, wow, I can’t believe it. I will take care of women. I respect women. I will take care of women.

One thing we will say and I would like to get back to the Iran situation. We’re talking about Iran. The agreement was terrible. It was incompetent. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the worst contracts of any kind I’ve ever seen.

And nobody ever mentions North Korea where you have this maniac sitting there and he actually has nuclear weapons and somebody better start thinking about North Korea and perhaps a couple of other places. But certainly North Korea.

And Ted and I have spoken. We’ve — a lot of us have spoken. We’re talking about Iran. They are bad actors, bad things are going to happen. But in the meantime, you have somebody right now in North Korea who has got nuclear weapons and who is saying almost every other week, I’m ready to use them. And we don’t even mention it.

TAPPER: Governor Bush?

BUSH: There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country. I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government. Those organizations should get funding, just as I increased funding when I was governor of the state.

That’s the way you do this is you improve the condition for people. And, Donald, when I was governor, we also increased the opportunities for women.

Women’s income grew three times faster than the national average when I was governor.

TRUMP: So why didn’t you say it? Why didn’t you say it?

BUSH: We improved — we improved —

TRUMP: I know, but why did you say it? I heard it myself. Why did you say it?

BUSH: — we increased child support — we increased child support with a broken system by 90 percent.

TRUMP: You said you’re going to cut funding for women’s health. You said it.

BUSH: I have a proven record. I have a proven record.

TRUMP: You said it.

TAPPER: I want to — we’re going to get to —

WALKER: Jake, just one more moment. This is — there’s something bigger to this. Now, I — like so many other governors here, I defunded Planned Parenthood four-and-a-half years ago, in a Blue State. But it’s bigger than that. We did that in a Blue State, we took the money and put it into women’s health, so we did exactly what we’re talking about here.

But I think the bigger issue here is we should be able to do this nationally, and this is precisely why so many Republicans are upset with Washington. They see the House and they see the Senate and they say why can’t we pass this. Why can’t we defund Planned — put it in a spending bill.

Forget about the 60-vote rule, there’s no reason — and the Constitution doesn’t call for 60 votes. Pass it with 51 votes, put it on the desk of the president —

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

WALKER: — and go forward and actually make a point. This is why —

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

WALKER: — people are upset with Washington.

TAPPER: We’re going to — we’re going to get to many of these issues. This — we’re still in the first block, believe it or not. We’re going to get to many of these issues, but before we end this block, Ms. Fiorina, I do want to ask you about this.

In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I think she’s got a beautiful face, and I think she’s a beautiful woman.

TAPPER: All right. On that note, in less than two minutes — we’re going to take a very quick break. In less than two minutes, the most contentious issue on the campaign trail. And the candidates on the stage are split over how to handle it. That’s coming up next.

Please give some applause to the candidates.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome to CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate. No topic perhaps has been more combustible in this campaign than the issue of immigration.

Mr. Trump, you have called for deporting every undocumented immigrant, Governor Christie has said, quote, “There are not enough law enforcement officers — local, county, state and federal combined — to forcibly deport 11 to 12 million people.”

Tell Governor Christie how much your plan will cost, and how you will get it done.

TRUMP: Correct. First of all, I want to build a wall, a wall that works. So important, and it’s a big part of it.

Second of all, we have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside, and I think Chris knows that, maybe as well as anybody.

They go, if I get elected, first day they’re gone. Gangs all over the place. Chicago, Baltimore, no matter where you look.

We have a country based on laws. I will make sure that those laws are adhered to. These are illegal immigrants. I don’t think you’d even be asking this question if I didn’t run because when I ran, and I brought this up, my opening remarks at Trump Tower, I took heat like nobody has taken heat in a long time. And, then they found out with the killing of Katie, from San Francisco, and so many other crimes, they found out that I was right.

And, most people, many people, apologized to me. I don’t think you’d even be talking about illegal immigration if it weren’t for me. So, we have a country of laws, they’re going to go out, and they’ll come back if they deserve to come back. If they’ve had a bad record, if they’ve been arrested, if they’ve been in jail, they’re never coming back. We’re going to have a country again. Right now, we don’t have a country, we don’t have a border, and we’re going to do something about it, and it can be done with proper management, and it can be done with heart.

TAPPER: Governor Christie, you and I have talked about this in an interview. You say that his big wall, his plan to deport 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants, it sounds great, but it’s never going to happen.

Tell him why you’re skeptical of his plans?

CHRISTIE: First of, Jake, I don’t yield to anybody on how to enforce the law. I’m the only person on this stage who spent seven years as a United States Attorney after September 11th, and I know how to do this.

The fact is though that for 15,000 people a day to be deported every day for two years is an undertaking that almost none of us could accomplish given the current levels of funding, and the current number of law enforcement officers. Here’s what we need to do, and I think this is where Donald is absolutely right. What we need to do is to secure our border, and we need to do it with more than just a wall.

We need to use electronics, we need to use drones, we need to use FBI, DEA, and ATF, and yes, we need to take the fingerprint of every person who comes into this country on a visa, and when they overstay their visa, we need to tap them on the shoulder, and say, “You have overstayed your welcome, you’re taking advantage of the American people. It’s time for you to go.”

If we had that kind of system in place, we wouldn’t have the 11 million people we have now.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Christie… TRUMP: …By the way, I agree with — with what Chris is saying, but, I will say this. Illegal immigration is costing us more than $200 billion dollars a year just to maintain what we have.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Dr. Carson because he too has been skeptical of your plan to immediately deport 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants. He said, quote, “People who say that have no idea what this entails.”

Why do you say that, Dr. Carson?

CARSON: Well, first of all, I recognize that we have an incredible illegal immigration problem. I was down in Arizona a few weeks ago at the border. I mean, the fences that were there were not manned, and those are the kind of fences when I was a kid that would barely slow us down. So, I don’t see any purpose in having that.

Now, what we need to do is look at something that actually works. Yuma County, Arizona. They stop 97 percent of the illegal immigrants through there. They put in a double fence with a road so that there was quick access by the enforcement people.

If we don’t seal the border, the rest of this stuff clearly doesn’t matter. It’s kind of ridiculous all the other things we talk about. We have the ability to do it, we don’t have the will to do it.

There was one area where they had cut a hole in the fence, and to repair it, they put a few strands of barb wire across. Well, the photographers who were there with us, they wanted to photograph us from the side of the Mexicans, and they went through there, and they were not physically fit people, and they took their cameras and things with them, and shot us from the other side.

That’s how easy it is to get across. And, the drugs, I mean, it goes on, and on, and on. ICE tells them to release these people, 67,000 criminals released…

TAPPER: …Dr. Carson…

CARSON: …on to our property, it’s ridiculous.

TAPPER: With all due respect, you said about Donald Trump’s plan to deport 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants, “People who say that have no idea what this entails.”

Why not?

CARSON: Well, I have also said, if anybody knows how to do that, that I would be willing to listen. And, if they can, you know, specify exactly how that’s going to be done, and what the cost, and it sounds reasonable, then I think it’s worth discussing…

TRUMP(?): …(INAUDIBLE)…

TAPPER: …let’s continue the conversation about illegal immigration with Dana Bash.

BASH: Governor Bush, Mr. Trump has suggested that your views on immigration are influenced by your Mexican born wife. He said that, quote, “If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico.” Did Mr. Trump go to far in invoking your wife?

BUSH: He did, he did. You’re proud of your family, just as I am.

TRUMP: Correct.

BUSH: To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.

TRUMP: Well, I have to tell you, I hear phenomenal things. I hear your wife is a lovely woman…

BUSH: She is. She’s fantastic.

TRUMP: I don’t know her, and this is a total mischaracterization…

BUSH: She is absolutely the love of my life, and she’s right here…

TRUMP: Good.

BUSH: And why don’t you apologize to her right now.

TRUMP: No, I won’t do that, because I’ve said nothing wrong.

BUSH: Yeah.

TRUMP: But I do hear she’s a lovely woman.

BUSH: So, here’s the deal. My wife is a Mexican-American. She’s an American by choice.

She loves this country as much as anybody in this room, and she wants a secure border. But she wants to embrace the traditional American values that make us special and make us unique.

We’re at a crossroads right now. Are we going to take the Reagan approach, the hopeful optimistic approach, the approach that says that, you come to our country legally, you pursue your dreams with a vengeance, you create opportunities for all of us?

Or the Donald Trump approach? The approach that says that everything is bad, that everything is coming to an end. I…

BASH: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Jeb said…

BUSH: I’m on the Reagan side of this.

TRUMP: … that they come into our country as an act of love. With all of the problems we that we have, in so many instances — we have wonderful people coming in. But with all of the problems — this is not an act of love. He’s weak on immigration — by the way, in favor of Common Core, which is also a disaster, but weak on immigration.

He doesn’t get my vote.

BASH: Mr. Trump…

FIORINA: Dana, with all being said to Mr. Trump…

BASH: Go ahead.

FIORINA: Immigration did not come up in 2016 because Mr. Trump brought it up. We talked about it in 2012, we talked about it in 2008. We talked about it in 2004.

TRUMP: Not with this intensity.

FIORINA: We have been talking about it for 25 years. This is why people are tired of politicians.

BASH: Ms. Fiorina — Ms. Fiorina, we’re going to come to you, we’re going to come to you.

I just want to give Governor Bush a chance to respond to what Mr. Trump said. BUSH: Look, first of all, I wrote a book about this, three — four years ago, now. And I laid out a comprehensive, conservative approach for immigration reform.

And it does require securing the border. No one disagrees with that. But to build a wall, and to deport people — half a million a month — would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, Donald. Hundreds of billions of dollars. It would destroy community life, it would tear families apart.

And it would send a signal to the rest of the world that the United States values that are so important for our long-term success no longer matter in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: As I said, we are spending $200 billion — we are spending $200 billion a year on maintaining what we have. We will move them out. The great ones will come back, the good ones will come back.

They’ll be expedited, they’ll be back, they’ll come back legally. We’ll have a country — they’ll come back, legally.

BASH: OK, on that note, you have criticized Governor Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail. You said, quote, “He should really set an example by speaking English in the United States.”

What’s wrong with speaking Spanish?

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s wonderful and all, but I did it a little bit half-heartedly, but I do mean it to a large extent.

We have a country, where, to assimilate, you have to speak English. And I think that where he was, and the way it came out didn’t sound right to me. We have to have assimilation — to have a country, we have to have assimilation.

I’m not the first one to say this, Dana. We’ve had many people over the years, for many, many years, saying the same thing. This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Well, I’ve been speaking English here tonight, and I’ll keep speaking English.

But the simple fact is, if a high school kid asks me a question in Spanish, a school — by the way, a voucher program that was created under my watch, the largest voucher program in the country, where kids can go to a Christian school, and they ask me a question in Spanish, I’m going to show respect and answer that question in Spanish.

Even though they do speak English, and even though they embrace American values.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: This is a reporter, not a high school kid.

RUBIO: Ms. Dana, I agree that English is the unifying language of our country, and everyone should learn to speak it. It’s important.

I want to tell you a story about someone that didn’t speak English that well. It was my grandfather; he came to this country in the 1960s, as a — escaping Cuba. And he lived with us, growing up.

And my grandfather loved America. He understood what was so special about this country. He loved Ronald Reagan; he would be very proud of the fact that we’re here this evening.

My grandfather instilled in me the belief that I was blessed to live in the one society in all of human history where even I, the son of a bartender and a maid, could aspire to have anything, and be anything that I was willing to work hard to achieve.

But he taught me that in Spanish, because it was the language he was most comfortable in. And he became a conservative, even though he got his news in Spanish.

And so, I do give interviews in Spanish, and here’s why — because I believe that free enterprise and limited government is the best way to help people who are trying to achieve upward mobility.

And if they get their news in Spanish, I want them to hear that directly from me. Not from a translator at Univision.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Rubio. (APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Senator Cruz — Senator Cruz, this week, we learned more about Dr. Carson’s plan for the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

Dr. Carson proposed giving these undocumented immigrants a six- month grace period to pay back taxes then to let them become guest workers and only to deport people who failed to do that.

CARSON: Not exactly what I said.

TAPPER: Well, how would you say it, sir? I was just reading the Wall Street Journal quote, but please tell us.

CARSON: Well, what I said, after we seal the borders, after we turn off the spigot that dispenses all the goodies so we don’t have people coming in here, including employment, that people who had a pristine record, we should consider allowing them to become guest workers, primarily in the agricultural sphere, because that’s the place where Americans don’t seem to want to work.

That’s what I said. And they have a six-month period to do that. If they don’t do it within that time period, then they become illegal, and as illegals, they will be treated as such.

TAPPER: OK, from the horse’s mouth, Senator Cruz, does that fit your definition of amnesty?

CRUZ: Well, Jake, you know, I’m — I’m very glad that Donald Trump’s being in this race has forced the mainstream media finally to talk about illegal immigration. I think that’s very important.

I like and respect Ben Carson. I’ll let him talk about his own plans.

But I will say this: The natural next question that primary voters are asking, after we focus on illegal immigration is, okay, what are the records of the various candidates? And this is an issue on which there are stark differences.

A majority of the men and women on this stage have previously and publicly embraced amnesty. I am the only candidate on this stage who has never supported amnesty and, in fact, who helped lead the fight to stop a massive amnesty plan.

In 2013, when Barack Obama and Harry Reid joined the Washington Republicans in a massive, I stood shoulder to shoulder with Jeff Sessions helping lead the fight.

You know, folks here have talked about, how do you secure the borders? Well, I’ve been leading the fight in the Senate to triple the Border Patrol, to put in place fencings and walls, to put in place a strong biometric exit/entry system…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

Senator Rubio…

CARSON: Can I — can I — can I just…

TAPPER: … I’m not sure…

CARSON: Can I correct…

TAPPER: We’ll come back to you — we’ll come back to you in one second, sir.

But Senator Rubio, I’m not sure exactly whose plan he’s — he’s saying is — constitutes amnesty, but I know he has said it about your plan in the past, so I want to give you a chance to respond, then, Dr. Carson, we’ll come to you.

CARSON: OK.

RUBIO: Well, let me say that legal immigration is not an issue I read about in the newspaper. Immigration, illegal immigration, all the good aspects of immigration and all the negative ones as well, I live with. My family’s immigrants. My neighbors are all immigrants. My in-laws are all immigrants.

So I’ve seen every aspect of it, and I can tell you America doesn’t have one immigration problem, it has three.

First, despite the fact that we are the most generous country in the history of the world in allowing people to come here legally, we have people still coming illegally.

Second, we have a legal immigration system that no longer works. It primary is built on the basis of whether you have a relative living here instead of merit.

And third, we have 11 million or 12 million people, many of whom have been here for longer than a decade who are already here illegally.

And we must deal with all three of these problems. We cannot deal with all three of these problems in one massive piece of legislation. I learned that. We tried it that way.

Here’s the way forward: First, we must — we must secure our border, the physical border, with — with a wall, absolutely. But we also need to have an entry/exit tracking system. 40 percent of the people who come here illegally come legally, and then they overstay the visa. We also need a mandatory e-verify system.

After we’ve done that, step two would be to modernize our legal immigration system so you come to America on the basis of what you can contribute economically, not whether or not simply you have a relative living here.

And after we’ve done those two things, I believe the American people…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator. RUBIO: … will be very reasonable and responsible about what you do with someone who’s been here and isn’t a criminal. If you’re a criminal, obviously, you will not be able to stay.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

Senator — Dr. Carson…

(APPLAUSE)

… I want to give you 30 seconds. I’d like you to answer the question.

Senator Cruz describes plans such as yours as amnesty. Why is your plan not amnesty?

CARSON: My plan is not amnesty for a number of reasons.

Number one, you know, I’ve talked to farmers, and they said they cannot hire Americans to do the kind of job that I’m talking about.

And the second reason is because the individuals who register as guest workers, they don’t get to vote, they are not American citizens, and they don’t get the rights and privileges of American citizens. So that’s key.

But the other thing that I want to bring up is, I mentioned something earlier. I think it was just sort of glossed over.

I talked about the success in Yuma County, I mean, incredible success, and the Department of Justice said, “No, we don’t want to do that. That’s too successful.”

We don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. All we have to do is look at things that work. All we have to do is use a little common sense.

TAPPER: Thank you, Dr. Carson. I want to talk about the issue of birthright citizenship, which — which has emerged since the first debate as — as an a — a major issue in this campaign.

Mr. Trump, you say that babies born in the United States to undocumented immigrants should not any longer get automatic American citizenship. Ms. Fiorina says that you are pandering on this issue and acting like the politicians that you rail against. What’s your message to Ms. Fiorina on birthright citizenship?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, the — the 14th Amendment says very, very clearly to a lot of great legal scholars — not television scholars, but legal scholars — that it is wrong. It can be corrected with an act of Congress, probably doesn’t even need that.

A woman gets pregnant. She’s nine months, she walks across the border, she has the baby in the United States, and we take care of the baby for 85 years. I don’t think so.

And by the way, Mexico and almost every other country anywhere in the world doesn’t have that. We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough to have it. And people — and by the way, this is not just with respect to Mexico. They are coming from Asia to have babies here, and all of a sudden, we have to take care of the babies for the life of the baby.

The 14th Amendment, it reads properly, you can go and — it’s probably going to be have to be check — go through a process of court, probably ends up at the Supreme Court, but there are a lot of great legal scholars that say that is not correct.

And in my opinion, it makes absolutely no — we’re the only — one of the only countries, we’re going to take care of those babies for 70, 75, 80, 90 years? I don’t think so.

TAPPER: Ms. Fiorina, the vast majority of countries do not have birthright citizenship…

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: …Donald Trump is right about that. Why is it pandering when he’s — he says this?

FIORINA: First let me say, We have just spent a good bit of time discussing, as Republicans, how to solve this problem. I would ask your audience at home to ask a very basic question. Why have Democrats not solved this problem?

President Obama campaigned in 2007 and 2008 on solving the immigration problem. He entered Washington with majorities in the House and the Senate. He could have chosen to do anything to solve this pro — this problem. Instead, he chose to do nothing.

Why? because the Democrats don’t want this issue solved.

TAPPER: Ms. Fiorina…

FIORINA: They want it to be an issue that they can use. As to birthright citizenship…

TAPPER: Please.

FIORINA: …the truth is, you can’t just wave your hands and say “the 14th Amendment is gonna go away.” It will take an extremely arduous vote in Congress, followed by two-thirds of the states, and if that doesn’t work to amend the Constitution, then it is a long, arduous process in court.

And meanwhile, what will continue to go on is what has gone on for 25 years. With all due respect, Mr. Trump, we’ve been talking about illegal immigration for 25 years. San Francisco has been a sanctuary city since 1989. There are 300 of them.

And meanwhile, what has happened? Nothing. The border remains insecure. The legal immigration system remains broken. Look, we know what it takes to secure a border. We’ve heard a lot of great ideas here. Money, manpower, technology… TAPPER : Thank you, Ms. Fiorina.

FIORINA: …mostly, apparently, leadership…

TAPPER: Thank you.

FIORINA: …the kind of leadership that understands how to get results.

TAPPER: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina. Mr. Trump, I want to give you the chance to respond…

TRUMP: I agree 100 percent, by the way, with Carly on the fact that the Democrats do not want to solve this problem, for the obvious reasons, but they do not.

But I believe that a reading of the 14th Amendment allows you to have an interpretation where this is not legal and where it can’t be done. I’ve seen both sides, but some of the greatest scholars agree with me, without having to go through Congress.

If you do go through Congress, you can absolutely solve the problem. TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Senator Paul…

FIORINA: But you — you would stipulate, Mr. Trump, but not everyone agrees with you.

TRUMP: That’s true, sure.

FIORINA: OK.

TAPPER: Senator Paul, I want to bring you in. Where — where do you stand on the issue of birthright citizenship?

PAUL: Well, I hate to say it, but Donald Trump has a bit of a point here.

The case that was decided around 1900 was, people had a green card, were here legally, and they said that their children were citizens. There’s never been a direct Supreme Court case on people who were here illegally, whether or not their kids are citizens.

So it hasn’t really been completely adjudicated. The 14th Amendment says that “those who are here and under the jurisdiction.” The original author of the — of the 14th Amendment said on the Senate floor that this was applying to slaves, and did not specifically apply to others.

TAPPER: All right. Senator Paul, thank you so much. Let’s turn to a new topic. We’ve received a lot of questions on social media about the economy and about jobs. We have two CEOs on stage right now.

Ms. Fiorina, you were CEO of Hewlett Packard. Donald Trump says you, quote, “ran HP into the ground,” you laid off tens of thousands of people, you got viciously fired.

For voters looking to somebody with private-sector experience to create American jobs, why should they pick you and not Donald Trump?

FIORINA: I led Hewlett Packard through a very difficult time, the worst technology recession in 25 years. The NASDAQ stock index fell 80 percent. It took 15 years for the stock index to recover. We had very strong competitors who literally went out of business and lost all of their jobs in the process.

Despite those difficult times, we doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its topline growth rate, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation.

Yes, we had to make tough choices, and in doing so, we saved 80,000 jobs, went on to grow to 160,000 jobs. And now Hewlett Packard is almost 300,000 jobs. We went from lagging behind to leading in every product category and every market segment.

We must lead in this nation again, and some tough calls are going to be required. But as for the firing, I have been very honest about this from the day it happened. When you challenge the status quo, you make enemies. I made a few. Steve Jobs told me that when he called me the day I was fired to say, hey, been there, done that twice.

It’s also true that the man that led my firing, Tom Perkins, just took —

TAPPER: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina.

FIORINA: — out a full-page ad in the New York Times to say he was wrong, I was right. I was a terrific CEO, the board was dysfunctional. And he thinks I will make a magnificent president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina. TRUMP: Well —

TAPPER: Mr. Trump — Mr. Trump, why would you be better at creating jobs than Carly Fiorina?

TRUMP: — let me — well, let me just explain. The head of the Yale Business School, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, wrote a paper recently, one of the worst tenures for a CEO that he has ever seen, ranked one of the top 20 in the history of business. The company is a disaster and continues to be a disaster. They still haven’t recovered. In fact, today, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, they fired another 25 or 30,000 people saying we still haven’t recovered from the catastrophe.

When Carly says the revenues went up, that’s because she bought Compaq, it was a terrible deal, and it really led to the destruction of the company.

Now one other company before that was Lucent. Carly was at Lucent before that. And Lucent turned out to be a catastrophe also. So I only say this. She can’t run any of my companies. That I can tell you.

TAPPER: Ms. Fiorina, I want to give you a chance to respond.

FIORINA: You know, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a well-known Clintonite and honestly had it out for me from the moment that I arrived at Hewlett Packard. But honestly, Mr. Trump, I find it quite rich that you would talk about this.

You know, there are a lot of us Americans who believe that we are going to have trouble someday paying back the interest on our debt because politicians have run up mountains of debt using other people’s money. That is in fact precisely the way you ran your casinos. You ran up mountains of debt, as well as losses, using other people’s money, and you were forced to file for bankruptcy not once —

TRUMP: I never filed for bankruptcy.

FIORINA: — not twice, four times, a record four times. Why should we trust you to manage the finances —

TRUMP: I’ll tell you why; it’s very simple.

FIORINA: — of this nation any differently than you managed the finances —

TRUMP: I’ll tell you. I was running —

FIORINA: — of your casinos?

TRUMP: — Carly, Carly —

TAPPER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: — I’ve made over $10 billion. I had a casino company — Caesars just filed for bankruptcy. Chris will tell you — it’s not Chris’ fault either — but almost everybody in Atlantic City is either in trouble or filed for — maybe I’ll blame Chris.

FIORINA: Well —

TRUMP: But Atlantic City is a disaster —

FIORINA: Well, Mr. Trump —

TRUMP: Wait a minute, Carly. Wait. I let you speak. Atlantic City is a disaster, and I did great in Atlantic City. I knew when to get out. My timing was great. And I got a lot of credit for it.

Many of the great business people that you know — and Carl Icon (ph) is going to work with me on making great deals for this country. But whether it’s Carl or so many others that we read about all the time —

TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: — they have used the laws of the land, which is the —

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Governor Christie’s name has been invoked. I’d like to give him a 30 second opportunity.

CHRISTIE: Jake listen. While I’m as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald and Carly’s career, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education, I’ve got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers, they care about theirs.

(APPLAUSE)

Let’s start talking about that on this stage and stop playing — and stop playing the games. Stop playing —

KASICH: There’s a —

CHRISTIE: John — I’m not done yet, John.

FIORINA: A track record of leadership is not a game. It is the issue in this election.

CHRISTIE: Stop — and stop playing — and Carly — Carly, listen. You can interrupt everybody else on this stage, you’re not going to interrupt me, OK?

The fact is that we don’t want to hear about your careers, back and forth and volleying back and forth about who did well and who did poorly. You’re both successful people. Congratulations. You know who’s not successful? The middle class in this country who’s getting plowed over by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let’s start talking about those issues tonight and stop this childish back-and-forth between the two of you.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Ms. Fiorina, I want to give you

KASICH: Jake —

TAPPER: Governor Kasich, I’m coming to you next, but Ms. Fiorina’s name was mentioned, and I have to give her the opportunity to respond if she wants it.

FIORINA: Well, I thought we had been hearing quite a bit about Govenor Christie’s record as governor, actually. I think track records are very important. I completely agree that what’s at stake here is the future of this nation, and the future of every American.

But I do think that a track record of leadership is vital because in the end this election is about leadership. And let’s talk about what leadership is. It’s not about braggadocio, it is about challenging the status quo, solving problems, producing results.

And the highest calling of leadership is to unlock potential in others.

TAPPER: Thank you. FIORINA: Problems have festered in Washington for too long. And the potential of this nation is being crushed.

TAPPER: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina.

Governor Kasich, I want to come — I’m coming to you. I’m coming to you. Let me ask the question. You can use the time however you want.

KASICH: OK, Jake.

TAPPER: Donald Trump says that the hedge fund guys are getting away with murder by paying a lower tax rate. He wants to raise the taxes of hedge fund managers, as does Governor Bush. Do you agree?

KASICH: I don’t at this point in terms of changing the incentives for investment and risk-taking.

But let’s just stop for a second. There’s one person on this stage that does have a record. I’m the only person on the stage and one of the few people in this country that led the effort as the chief architect of the last time we balanced the federal budget.

We also cut taxes. And when I left Washington in 2000, we had a $5 trillion surplus, and the economy was booming. I had spent 10 years of my life to get us to that point, went out in the private sector, was a great experience, and went into Ohio and took an $8 billion hole and turned it into a $2 billion surplus.

We’ve had the largest amount of tax cuts of any sitting governor. We’ve grown well over 300,000 jobs. You see, I’ve done it in both places. I’m the only one here that has done it in both places.

It took a lot to get us to a balanced budget. It was legitimate. It was real. And we negotiated it. A lot of what we’re talking about here tonight as we take this position and that position, you know what? At the end of the day, America has got to work.

We’ve got to figure out how we come together to deal with this — with our fiscal problems because when we deal with that, we create a stronger economy for everybody. People have a chance to rise.

So, you know, when we think about how we make a choice, it’s the person that lands that plane. It’s not somebody that talks about it. It’s about the person who has done it. And I’ve done it in…

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

KASICH: … both places. And I did it including people in the other party. And that’s how we were successful.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Kasich.

KASICH: And that’s how I will be president, using that experience to drive this country forward. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE) TAPPER: Governor Huckabee, I want to bring you in on the question of

hedge fund managers and taxing them. You have said that you are bothered by the fact that hedge fund managers pay such a low tax rate and make 2,500 times what people who work for them make.

Do you agree with what Donald Trump and Governor Bush have proposed, raising their tax rates?

HUCKABEE: I have a different idea. I think we ought to get rid of all the taxes on people who produce. Why should we penalize productivity? And it’s why I’m an unabashed supporter of the “fair tax,” which would be a tax on our consumption, rather than a tax on our productivity.

In other words, you’re not going to tax anybody for what they earn, whether it’s worker whose working by the hour or whether it’s a hedge fund manager. If they can produce something and bring capital and labor to create jobs, we need some jobs. And I think the “fair tax” makes more sense.

Now, Jake, I’ve been listening to everybody on the stage and there is a lot of back and forth about I’m the only one who has done this, the only one who has done that, I’ve done great things.

We’ve all done great things or we wouldn’t be on this stage. But it occurs to me as we’re sitting here in the Reagan Library that most of us would like to pay tribute to a guy who, when he got elected, didn’t get elected telling everybody how great he was.

He got elected telling everybody how great the American people were. And he empowered them to live their dreams, which is what I’d love to see us do by no longer penalizing the people who are out there working because they are taking a gut punch right now.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

Dr. Carson, you support scrapping the entire tax code and replacing it with a flat tax based on the principal on tithing from the Bible. If you make $10 billion, you pay $1 billion in taxes, if you make $10, you pay $1 in taxes.

Donald Trump believes in progressive taxation. He says it’s not right that rich people pay the same as the poor. Tell Donald Trump why his ideas on taxes are wrong.

CARSON: It’s all about America. You know, the people who say the guy who paid a billion dollars because he had 10, he has still got $9 billion left, that’s not fair, we need to take more of his money. That’s called socialism. That doesn’t work so well.

What made America into a great nation was the fact that we said, that guy just put in $1 billion, let’s create an environment that’s even more conducive to his success so that next year he can put in $2 billion. And that’s the kind of thing that helps us to grow. We can’t grow by

continuing to take a piece of pie, and dividing it, and redistributing it.

But, I’m also looking at what doctor — at what Governor Huckabee talked about…

HUCKABEE: …You don’t want me operating on you, I assure you.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: The Fair Tax. Looking at both of them, and evaluating them both, and I’m talking to the American people because one of the things we must recognize is that this country is of, for, and by the people. And, it’s really time that the government get out of the way, and let the people be the ones who decide how they want to run their country.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Mr. Trump…

TRUMP: …Well, I’d like to respond, I’d like to respond…

TAPPER: …What do you think of the flat tax? Do you think it’s fair?

TRUMP: Well, I think the thing about the flat tax, I know it very well. What I don’t like is that if you make $200 million a year, you pay ten percent, you’re paying very little relatively to somebody that’s making $50,000 a year, and has to hire H&R Block to do the — because it’s so complicated.

One thing I’ll say to Ben is that we’ve had a graduated tax system for many years, so it’s not a socialistic thing. What I’d like to do, and I’ll be putting in the plan in about two weeks, and I think people are going to like it, it’s a major reduction in taxes. It’s a major reduction for the middle class. The hedge fund guys won’t like me as much as they like me right now. I know them all, but they’ll pay more.

I know people that are making a tremendous amount of money and paying virtually no tax, and I think it’s unfair.

TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Senator Paul?

PAUL: Well, I’m glad we’re having a discussion about taxes because everybody laments that we lose jobs overseas, we have. Our companies, and our jobs are being chased overseas by a 70,000 page tax code, so, that’s why I’ve chosen to get rid of the whole thing, and have one single rate, 14 and a-half percent for everybody, business, and for corporate income, and personal income. But, we also get rid of the payroll tax, so the working class would get a tax break as well.

So, I think a flat tax, eliminating the tax code, getting rid of all the loopholes, is the way to go, and it’s the way we get America going again.

TAPPER: Governor Walker, I want to go to you. Dr. Carson wants to raise the Federal Minimum Wage, you have called it a lame idea. Why is raising the Federal Minimum Wage lame?

WALKER: So, the best way to help people see their wages go up is to get them the education, the skill they need, to take on careers that pay more than minimum wage. And, it’s why we talk about it, it’s all about jobs. You want to help actually get jobs, it’s why on that last question we were trying to jump in on taxes. To me, it’s not just about taxes, cutting taxes. I’ve done it as much as anyone has.

I’ve cut income taxes, I’ve cut property taxes. In fact, property taxes are lower today in my state than they were before we took office. The real issues about jobs.

Ronald Reagan, our plan is based on the Ronald Reagan tax cuts of 1986. That brought about one of the longest sustained periods of economic growth in American history. All the things we should be talking about tonight are about how do we create jobs, helping people get the skills and the education qualifications they need to succeed.

That’s the way you help people create jobs. It’s part of our large plan to reform the tax code, to cut taxes, to put in place an education system that gives people the skills and education that they need. To put in place all the above energy policy, but you start on day one with repealing Obamacare.

I’m the only one on this stage that’s actually got a plan, introduced an actual plan to repeal Obamacare on day one. I’ll send a bill up to Congress, and to make sure enact it…

TAPPER: …Thank you, Governor…

WALKER: …I’m going to sign an order that makes the Congress live by the same rules as everybody else. TAPPER: …Thank you, Governor…

WALKER: …That will ensure they repeal Obamacare…

TAPPER: Dr. Carson, Governor Walker didn’t really answer the question, but I’ll let you respond. He called raising the Federal Minimum Wage lame, what do you think of that?

CARSON: Well, first of all, let me say what I actually said about raising the minimum wage. I was asked should it be raised, I said, probably, or possibly. But, what I added, which I think is the most important thing, so, I said we need to get both sides of this issue to sit down, and talk about it. Negotiate a reasonable minimum wage, and index that so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America.

I think we also have to have two minimum wages, a starter, and a sustaining because how are young people ever going to get a job if you have such a high minimum wage that it makes it impractical to hire them…

TAPPER: Thank you, Dr. Carson…

WALKER: …Jake, Jake, Jake, I just want to address that issue because you said I didn’t answer, and I did. I said, to me, I think the real focus shouldn’t be — you know, Hillary Clinton talks about the minimum wage. That’s her answer to grow the economy. The answer is to give people the skills and the education so they make far more than minimum wage.

I don’t want to argue about how low things are going to be, I want to talk about how do we lift everyone up in America. That’s what Reagan talked about. It wasn’t how bad things were, it was how to make it better for everyone. That’s what we’ve done in Wisconsin, that’s exactly what we’d do as…

TAPPER: Let me bring in our partner from Salem Radio Network, Hugh Hewitt.

HEWITT: I’d like to talk about winning because I think all of you are more qualified than former Secretary of State Clinton, and as were the people in the first debate, but there are different styles, and Carly Fiorina, Governor Kasich, you’re conveniently located next to each other, and you have different styles.

Governor Kasich, you’ve been on my show a lot. You refused to attack Hillary Clinton, you just don’t want to go there, you want to do the up with people. Go, Ohio, OK, and I like that.

Carly Fiorina, I don’t have to bring up the Secretary of State — you bring her up, so (inaudible).

Which one of you is wrong? Governor Kasich?

KASICH: Well, look, people still have to get to know me, so I want to spend my time talking about my experience reforming welfare, balancing budgets, cutting taxes, providing economic growth when I was in Washington, turning Ohio around. Eight billion in the hole, $2 billion surplus, up over 300,000 jobs, big tax cuts, strengthening our credit.

All those things matter but, you know, as a young man in my first election in 1978, I defeated an incumbent Democrat. I defeated an incumbent Democrat in 1982; running on the Reagan program, I was the only Republican in America to defeat an incumbent Democrat that year.

And then, when I won for election of governor, I was the first Republican to defeat an incumbent in 36 years, and the first person to have never run statewide out of politics for 10 years to beat an incumbent. That hadn’t happened for 96 years.

So, we’ll get to the point where we’ll talk about Hillary Clinton, or whoever the nominee is, record. But right now, I want to give people sense of hope, sense of purpose, a sense of unity, sense that we can do it. So…

HEWITT: Governor.

KASICH: You know, at the end of the day, I’m going to continue to talk about my record, because there is, did you ever notice when people run for office, they run for president, they make a lot of promises, they don’t keep them. HEWITT: Thank you, Governor. KASICH: I don’t intend to do that, and I

going to be out there pushing it out — don’t worry about me and Hillary. That will all work out, and I’m from Ohio. She will not beat me there, I can promise you that.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Carly Fiorina, your style?

FIORINA: You see, Governor Christie, people spend time talking about their track records, and Mr. Trump and I have every right to do the same. And Mrs. Clinton has to defend her track record.

Her track record of lying about Benghazi, of lying about her e- mails, about lying about her servers. She does not have a track record of accomplishment.

Like Mrs. Clinton, I, too, have travels hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. But unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know flying is an activity, not an accomplishment. Mrs. Clinton — if you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name a accomplishment of Mrs. Clinton’s.

HEWITT: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina.

Governor Christie, your name was mentioned. I want to give you a chance to respond.

CHRISTIE: Listen, you know, Hugh, it’s an important point. And the question is, who is going to prosecute Hillary Clinton?

The Obama White House seems to have in interest, the Justice Department seems to have no interest. I think it’s time to put a former federal prosecutor on the same stage as Hillary Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will prosecute her during those debates on that stage for the record we’re talking about here. The fact she had a private email server in her basement, using national security secrets running through it, could have been hacked by the Russians, the Chinese, or two 18-year-olds on a toot (ph) wanting to have some fun.

No one is answering that question from the Hillary Clinton campaign…

HEWITT: Thank you, Governor.

CHRISTIE: You know why? Because she knows she’s wrong, and she cannot look in the mirror at herself, and she cannot tell the American people the truth.

HEWITT: Thank you, Governor Christie. There is a lot more coming up.

Ahead, a world of trouble. The challenges that one of these candidates may face in the Oval Office, and how he or she will handle it.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate. Let’s turn to some issues now in foreign policy.

Mr. Trump, Senator Rubio said it was, quote, “very concerning to him” that in a recent interview you didn’t seem to know the details about some of the enemies the U.S. faces. Rubio said, if you don’t know the answers to those questions, you will not be able to serve as commander-in-chief.

Please respond to Senator Rubio.

TRUMP: Well, I heard Hugh Hewitt, a nice man, he apologized because he actually said that we had a misunderstanding. And he said today that Donald Trump is maybe the best interview there is anywhere that he has ever done.

Now unless he was just saying that on CNN to be nice, but he did say that…

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: Oh, you’re the best interview in America.

TRUMP: And we had a legitimate misunderstanding in terms of his pronunciation of a word.

But I would say just…

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Well, I think it was. And he actually said that. Did you say that?

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: … makes an interesting case (ph) here (ph).

TRUMP: OK. So I will say this, though, Hugh was giving me name after name, Arab name, Arab name, and there are few people anywhere, anywhere that would have known those names. I think he was reading them off a sheet.

And frankly I will have — and I told him, I will have the finest team that anybody has put together and we will solve a lot of problems.

You know, right now they know a lot and look at what is happening. The world is blowing up around us. We will have great teams and great people.

TAPPER: Senator Rubio?

TRUMP: I hope that answers your question. I mean, you are in the Senate, but I hope that answers your question. RUBIO: Yes, well, it does. But it’s in the following way, this is an

important question. I think if you’re running for president, these are important issues, because look at around the world today.

There is a lunatic in North Korea with dozens of nuclear weapons and long-range rocket that can already hit the very place in which we stand tonight. The Chinese are rapidly expanding their military. They hack into our computers. They’re building artificial islands in the South China Sea, the most important shipping lane in the world.

A gangster in Moscow is not just threatening Europe, he’s threatening to destroy and divide NATO. You have radical jihadists in dozens of countries across multiple continents. And they even recruit Americans using social media to try to attack us here at home.

And now we have got this horrible deal with Iran where a radical Shia cleric with an apocalyptic vision of the future is also guaranteed to one day possess nuclear weapons and also a long-range rocket that can hit the United States.

These are extraordinarily dangerous times that we live in. And the next president of the United States better be someone that understands these issues and has good judgment about them because the number one issue that a president will ever confront, and the most important obligation that the federal government has, is to keep this nation safe.

And today we are not doing that. We are eviscerating our military. And we have a president that is more respectful to the ayatollah in Iran than he is to the prime minister of Israel.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Mr. Trump? Senator Rubio seemed to be suggesting that you don’t know information that…

TRUMP: No, I don’t think he’s suggesting that at all. I mean…

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: All right. Senator Rubio.

TRUMP: I don’t think he’s suggesting that at all.

RUBIO: Well, that’s why we have a debate. I think that we should have a deeper debate about these issues, because there is no more important decision that a president will make.

TAPPER: But are you saying that you have the knowledge to be the president that Mr. Trump does not have?

RUBIO: Well, you should ask him questions in detail about the foreign policy issues our president will confront, because you had better be able to lead our country on the first day.

Not six months from now, not a year from now, on the first day in office, our president could very well confront a national security crisis. You can’t predict it. Sometimes you cannot control it.

And it is the most — the federal government does all kinds of things it’s not supposed to be doing. It regulates bathrooms. It regulates schools that belong to local communities.

But the one thing that the federal government must do, the one thing that only the federal government can do is keep us safe. And a president better be up-to-date on those issues on his first day in office, on her first day in office.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Well, you have to understand, I am not sitting in the United States Senate with, by the way, the worst voting record there is today. Number one. I am not sitting in the United States Senate. I’m a businessman doing business transactions.

RUBIO: Trust (ph) me, I get that. OK.

TRUMP: I am doing business transactions. I will know more about this — and, as you said, that was very acceptable, and when you listen to that whole interview, it’s a great interview, you said it, I didn’t. Well, now I did. But…

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Listen, just one second. Just one second.

RUBIO: I never get to addressed, and…

TRUMP: I will know…

RUBIO: …and when I do, I’m gonna jump in.

TRUMP: …I will know more about the problems of this world by the time I sit, and you look at what’s going in this world right now by people that supposedly know, this world is a mess. TAPPER: Senator Rubio, he did invoke your absentee record in the Senate.

RUBIO: Yeah. He did. Let me — I’m proud to serve in the United States Senate. You know, when I ran five years ago, the entire leadership of my party in Washington lined up against me.

But I’m glad I won. And I’m glad that I ran, because this country’s headed in the wrong direction. And if we keep electing the same people, nothing is going to change.

And you’re right, I have missed some votes, and I’ll tell you why, Mr. Trump. Because in my years in the Senate, I’ve figured out very quickly that the political establishment in Washington, D.C. in both political parties is completely out of touch with the lives of our people.

You have millions of people in this country living paycheck to paycheck, and nothing is being done about it. We are about to leave our children with $18 trillion in — in — in debt, and they’re about to raise the debt limit again.

We have a world that grows increasingly dangerous, and we are eviscerating our military spending and signing deals with Iran. And these — if this thing continues, we are going to be the first Americans to leave our children worse off than ourselves.

That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate, I’m not running for re-election, and I’m running for president because I know this: unless we have the right president, we cannot make America fulfill its potential, but with the right person in office, the 21st century can be the greatest era that our nation has ever known.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Rubio. I want to turn now to Hugh Hewitt.

HEWITT: Thank you, Jake. I’ve done a lot of great interviews with all of you, but, Governor Bush, I talked to you in February about the biggest elephant in a room full of elephants, which is your last name. And you said you would not be burdened either by your brother or your father’s legacy in the Middle East.

And then, a week later, you rolled out your list of foreign policy advisers, and it was a lot of the band getting back together again. So on behalf of the military that is watching…

BUSH: Yeah.

HEWITT: …OK, the active duty military that are at the end of the sphere (ph), what kind of a commander in chief is Jeb Bush going to be, and who are the advisers that are new to your team?

BUSH: Well, first of all, Hugh, if you’re looking at Republican advisers, you have to go to the last two administrations. That happened to be 41 and 43. So just by definition, if you’re — and many of the people here that are seeking advice from the foreign policy experts in the Republican side, they — they served in my dad’s administration, my brother’s administration. Of course that’s the case.

But I’m my own man. I’m going to create a strategy that is based on the simple fact that the United States needs to lead the world. The first thing that we need to do is to stop the craziness of the sequester.

Rebuild our military so that our — so that we don’t deploy people over and over again without the necessary equipment to keep them safe, to send a signal to the world that we’re serious. If we’re going to lead the world, then we need to have the strongest military possible.

We need to rebuild our counterintelligence and intelligence capabilities. We need to focus on the fact that the next president is going to start in 2017, not in 1990 — you know, 30 years ago, or when my brother started.

The world is dramatically different. And I believe that we need to restore America’s presence and leadership in the world. Name a country where our relationship is better today than it was the — the day that Barack Obama got elected president.

Under Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, we have seen a weakness that now creates huge problems for the next president of the United States. So I’ll have a team that will be — that will be following the doctrine I set up, and it will be peace through strength.

We’re sitting here in this library, which is a wonderful place to talk about this, because that’s exactly what happened in the 1980s, and the world was a lot safer because of…

TRUMP: (inaudible)

HEWITT: Mr. — Mr. Trump.

BUSH: The leadership of Ronald Reagan and my…

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: I want to ask you a question, though, you promised us great leaders. And I believe that. But Jeb Bush has laid out 20 different people that have experience around the world. There are 190 countries, you can’t run the world by yourself.

When are we going to get some names on your military and your foreign policy advisers?

TRUMP: (inaudible) I’m — and I’m meeting with people that are terrific people, but I have to say something because it’s about judgment.

I am the only person on this dais — the only person — that fought very, very hard against us (ph), and I wasn’t a sitting politician going into Iraq, because I said going into Iraq — that was in 2003, you can check it out, check out — I’ll give you 25 different stories.

TRUMP: In fact, a delegation was sent to my office to see me because I was so vocal about it. I’m a very militaristic person, but you have to know when to use the military. I’m the only person up here that fought against going into Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: Hugh, can I — can I make a response to that?

TRUMP: Just excuse me, one second, Rand…

PAUL: Can I make a response to that?

TRUMP: If you don’t mind, Rand — you know, you are on last — you do have your 1 percent.

I would like — and I think it’s very important. I think it’s important, because it’s about judgment. It’s about judgment.

I didn’t want to go into Iraq, and I fought it, because what I said — what I said…

PAUL: May I make a response to that?

TRUMP: … was you’re going to — you’re going to destabilize…

PAUL: He’s referred to me.

TRUMP: … the Middle East, and that’s what happened.

PAUL: He’s referred to me…

BUSH: So you — the — the first chance…

PAUL: … in his remarks. May I make a response?

BUSH: Right after me, and then I’ll — I’ll yield — yield the floor. What do you guys say in the Senate when you’re talking and debating?

PAUL: Absolutely. Go ahead.

BUSH: Here’s the facts: When Donald Trump talks about judgment, what was his position on who would’ve been the best negotiator to deal with Iran? It wasn’t a Republican; it was Hillary Clinton. That’s what you believe. I mean, the lack of judgment and the lack of understanding about how the world works is really dangerous in this kind of time that we’re saying.

So is that the judgment that you bring to the table, that Hillary Clinton…

TRUMP: If you think about it…

BUSH: … is a great negotiator, that she could bring about a better deal on Iran?

TRUMP: Your brother — and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.

BUSH: You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe.

I don’t know if you remember…

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: … Donald…

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: … you remember the — the rumble? You remember the fire fighter with his arms around it? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe.

TRUMP: I don’t know. You feel safe right now? I don’t feel so safe. PAUL: May I respond?

WALKER:: That’s because of Barack — that’s because of Barack Obama.

BUSH: That’s — that’s my brother.

WALKER:: That’s because of Barack Obama. We’ve had a president who called ISIS the J.V. squad, Yemen a success story, Iran a place we can do business with. It’s not because of George W. Bush; it’s because of Barack Obama…

(APPLAUSE)

WALKER: (inaudible) on that point, though, whether it’s — whether we’re talking about national security, foreign policy or we’re talking about domestic policy, the key…

TRUMP: Or the collapse of the economy.

WALKER: … the key issue here is talking about leadership. Now, there’s a lot of greater people up here, and you’ve heard a lot of great ideas out there. But I would ask the American people, look at who’s been tested.

When there were 100,000 protesters in my capital, I didn’t back down, when they issued death threats against me and threats against my family, I didn’t back down, when they tried to recall me, I didn’t back down, and when they made me the — one of their number-one targets last year, I didn’t back down.

Give me the chance to be your president.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

WALKER: I won’t back down…

TAPPER: Senator…

WALKER: … on any of these issues.

TAPPER: Senator Paul?

PAUL: The remark was made that there hadn’t been anyone else on the podium opposed to the Iraq War. I’ve made my career as being an opponent of the Iraq War. I was opposed to the Syria war. I was opposed to arming people who are our enemies.

Iran is now stronger because Hussein is gone. Hussein was the great bulwark and counterbalance to the Iranians. So when we complain about the Iranians, you need to remember that the Iraq War made it worse.

Originally, Governor Bush was asked, was the Iraq War a mistake, and he said, “No. We’d do it again.”

We have to learn sometimes the interventions backfire. The Iraq War backfired and did not help us. We’re still paying the repercussions of a bad decision.

TAPPER: Senator Paul…

PAUL: We have make the decision now in Syria, should we topple Assad? Many up here wanted to topple Assad, and it’s like — I said no, because if you do…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Paul…

PAUL: … ISIS will now be in charge of Syria…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Paul…

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I understand that Governor Bush’s name has been invoked, and then we can go to you, Senator Rubio. BUSH: Here’s the lessons of history: When we — we pull back, voids are created. We left Iraq. We should’ve had a — a forces agreement to stay there with a small force, and instead of that, we politically and militarily pulled back, and now we have the creation of ISIS.

36 days ago in this very library, I gave a speech with a comprehensive strategy how to take out ISIS, and it requires American leadership and engagement. We don’t have to be the world’s policemen. But we certainly have to be the world’s leader.

We need to have — make sure that the world knows that we’re serious, that we’re engaged, that we’re not going to pull back, that — that our — that our word matters. And if we do that, we can create a force that will take out ISIS both in Iraq and in Syria, which will take a lot longer time now…

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

BUSH: … because of what President Obama’s done by pulling back.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: I want to go even deeper — and I want to go even deeper in that direction, because I think the belief that somehow by retreating, America makes the world safer has been disproven every single time it’s ever been tried.

Syria’s a perfect example of it. The uprising in Syria was not started by the United States; it was started by the Syrian people. And I warned at the time — this was three and a half years ago — I openly and repeatedly warned that if we did not find moderate elements on the ground that we could equip and arm, that void would be filled by radical jihadists.

Well, the president didn’t listen, the administration didn’t follow through, and that’s exactly what happened. That is why ISIS grew. That is why ISIS then came over the border from Syria and back into Iraq. What is happening in that region is the direct consequence of the inability to lead and of disengagement. And the more we disengage, the more airplanes from Moscow you’re going to see flying out of Damascus and out of Syria…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

RUBIO: … as you asked earlier today.

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: Jake, Jake…

TAPPER: Dr. Carson?

CARSON: I haven’t had an opportunity to weigh in on foreign policy, and I just want to mention that when the war, when the issue occurred in 2003, I suggested to President Bush that he not go to war? OK. So I just want that on the record.

And, you know, a lot of people are very much against us getting involved right now with global jihadism. And they refer back to our invasion of Iraq. And they seem to think that that was what caused it.

What caused it was withdrawing from there and creating a vacuum which allowed this terrible situation to occur. But it is very different from what is going on today. We’re talking about global jihadists who actually want to destroy us.

They are an existential threat to our nation. And we have to be mature enough to recognize that our children will have no future if we put our heads in the sand. We have to recognize we have two choices.

We either allow them the continue to progress and appear to be the winners, or we use every resource available to us to destroy…

TAPPER: Thank you, Dr. Carson.

CARSON: … them first.

TAPPER: I mean, it is interesting that you say that, because I want to ask Governor Christie about something else that you have said.

Governor Christie, we just marked the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Now Dr. Carson has said that if he had been president at the time, the United States would not have gone to war in Afghanistan. What does that say to you about how Dr. Carson would respond as president if America were attacked again?

CHRISTIE: Well, Jake, I was named U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001. And that next day my wife Mary Pat did what she did every day, she traveled through the World Trade Center and went to her office two blocks from the World Trade Center.

And after those planes hit, for five-and-a-half-hours after that, I couldn’t reach her, didn’t know whether she was dead or alive, and we had three children at the time, 8, 5 and 1.

And I had to confront what so many thousands of others in my region had to confront, the idea I might become a single parent, the idea that my life and my children’s life might be changed forever.

We lost friends that day. We went to the funerals. And I will tell you that what those people wanted and what they deserved was for America to answer back against what had been done to them.

And I support what President Bush did at that time, going into Afghanistan, hunting al Qaeda and its leaders, getting its sanctuary out of place, and making it as difficult around the world for them to move people and money.

And then he went to prosecutors like us, and he said, never again. Don’t prosecute these people after the crime is committed. Intervene before the crime happens. I absolutely believe that what the president did at the time was right.

And I am proud to have been one of the people on the stage who was part of making sure that what Governor Bush said before was the truth. America was safe for those seven years and Barack Obama has taken that safety away from us.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Dr. Carson?

CARSON: Well, recognize that, you know, President George W. Bush is a great friend of ours, and we spent many wonderful days at the White House. I haven’t been there in the last seven years. I probably have to have a food-tester.

(LAUGHTER)

But at any rate, I didn’t suggest that nothing be done. What I suggested to President Bush is to be Kennedy-esque, in the sense that when the Russians got ahead of us in the space race, what we did is use the bully pulpit to galvanize everybody, business, industry, academia behind a national goal to put a man on the moon and bring him back safely.

I said, you can do the same kind of thing. Declare that within five to 10 years we will become petroleum independent. The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that, they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks.

There are smart ways to do things and there are muscular ways to do things. And sometimes you have to look at both of those to come up with the right solution.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: … Governor Christie.

CHRISTIE: Let me say this, Jake, is that while that may have been a fine idea that Dr. Carson had, these people were out to kill us.

I stood in that region with my family, and every time a plane went overhead in the weeks after that, people’s heads jerked to the sky because they thought it was happening again.

You do not need to go through subtle diplomacy at that point. That could be handled later on. What you need is a strong American leader who will take the steps that are necessary to protect our nation.

That’s what I would do as commander-in-chief in this circumstance. And that’s what President George W. Bush did in 2001.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Dr. Carson?

CARSON: I have no argument with having a strong leader, and to be aggressive where aggression is needed. But it is not needed in every circumstance. There is a time when you can use your intellect to come up with other ways to do things. And I think that’s what we have to start thinking about.

CARSON: There is no question that a lot of these problems that we have been talking about in terms of the international situation is because we are weak. It is because our Navy is so small. It is because our Air Force is incapable of doing the same things that it did a few years ago.

It’s because our Marines Corps is not ready to be deployed.

TAPPER: Thank you, Dr. Carson.

CARSON: There are a lot of problems that are going on, and we need to solve those problems, we need to build up our military…

TAPPER: Thank you, Dr. Carson.

RUBIO: But radical terrorism cannot be solved by intellect. It cannot — they require — what they need, is they need an operating space. That’s what Afghanistan was for Al Qaida. It was a vacuum that they filled, and they created an operating space.

That’s why they had to be drawn out of there. That’s why they had to be destroyed. It is the reason why ISIS has grown as well. We allowed them — we allowed a vacuum to emerge in Syria. They used it as an operating space to grow; and today they’re not just in Iraq and Syria anymore, they’re now in Libya, conducting operations in the Sinai.

They’re now in Afghanistan, trying to supplant the Taliban as the most powerful radical jihadist group on the ground there, as well. You cannot allow radical jihadists to have an operating safe haven anywhere in the world.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

Governor Huckabee. (APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Just today — just today, there was a new report that 50 different intelligence analysts have said that what they sent up the ladder was doctored by senior officials, so that they could give some happy talk to the situation that we face.

I love the idea of a good intellectual capacity to deal with our enemies, but the fact is, if you don’t have good intelligence that is reliable and honest, you won’t have good intelligence and you cannot make good decisions.

The next president is primarily elected not just to know things, but to know what to do with the things that he knows. And the most dangerous person in any room is the person who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HUCKABEE: And the reason Barack Obama has been dangerous to this country and we better elect someone who had some executive experience, is because we cannot afford another eight years having a person in the office who doesn’t know what he does not know.

TAPPER: Thank you, governor, I want to turn to ISIS. Governor Walker…

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: We just spent — we just spent the last 10 minutes…

TALKER: Governor Walker, there is a big debate now, we have been talking about ISIS here and there in this discussion, there a big debate right now about whether or not to send more U.S. troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

In the first debate earlier this evening, Senator Lindsey Graham argued that candidates are only serious about fighting ISIS if they’re willing to send 10,000 U.S. troops to Iraq, 10,000 U.S. troops as part of a coalition to Syria.

Governor Walker, you say, you just told me a few days ago that the 3,000 U.S. troops there right now are enough, as long as the rules of engagement are changed.

What do you know that Senator Graham doesn’t know?

WALKER: To be clear, what I said the other day was that we need to lift the political restrictions that are already in play. Barack Obama’s administration has put political restrictions on the military personnel already in Iraq.

We need to lift those and then we need to listen to our military experts, not the political forces in the White House, but our military experts about how many more we sent in. And we certainly shouldn’t have a commander-in-chief who sends a message to our adversaries as to how far we’re going to go, and how far we’re willing to fight, so I’m not putting a troop number.

What I’m saying is lift the political restrictions. When you do that, you empower our military personnel already there to work with the Kurd and the Sunni allies, to reclaim the territory taken by ISIS. And to do so in a way that allows that ISIS doesn’t go back in Syria, as we were just talking about here.

That is the fundamental problem going forward. We have a president — and Hillary Clinton was a part of this, by the way, who has made political decisions for our men and women in uniform. I want the men and women at home to know, if I’m commander-in-chief, I will only send you into harm’s way when our national security is at risk. And if we do, you know you’ll have our full support, the support of the American people, and you’ll have a clear path for victory.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

Senator Paul, I want to go to you, because you have said that the boots on the ground to fight ISIS need to be Arab boots. We just learned today that despite the Obama administration spending $500 million to help create those Arab boots, there are only four or five U.S. trained fighters in Syria fighting ISIS.

What does that say to you about the effectiveness of the idea of the boots on the ground need to be Arab boots?

PAUL: If you want boots on the ground, and you want them to be our sons and daughters, you got 14 other choices. There will always be a Bush or Clinton for you, if you want to go back to war in Iraq.

But the thing is, the first war was a mistake. And I’m not sending our sons and our daughters back to Iraq. The war didn’t work. We can amplify those who live there.

The Kurds deserve to be armed and I’ll arm them. We can use our Air Force to amplify the forces there. But the boots on the ground need to be the people who live there.

My goodness, I’m still upset with the Saudi Arabians for everything they do over there. They’ve funded the arms that went to the jihadists. They’re not accepting any of the people, any of the migrants that have been — the refugees that are being pushed out of Syria. Saudi Arabia is not accepting one.

Why are we always the world’s patsies that we have to go over there and fight their wars for them? They need to fight their wars, we need to defend American interests, but it is not in America’s national security interests to have another war in Iraq.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

(APPLAUSE)

We’re going to turn to some domestic issues now. I want to bring in my colleague, Dana Bash.

BASH: Thank you.

KASICH: Can I just — can I — Jake, can I just make one point on this whole military discussion?

TAPPER: Sure….

KASICH: I called for boots on the ground many months ago in a coalition with our friends who share our interest. You know, you win a battle with the military, and when we go somewhere, we need to be mobile, and lethal. We need to take care of business, and we need to come home.

But, we face, also, a bigger war — and you win the bigger war with the battle of ideas. You wonder why young people, and educated people, rich people, schooled people, have tried to join ISIS.

Western civilization, all of us, need to wake up to the fact that those murderers and rapists need to be called out, and in Western civilization we need to make it clear that our faith in the Jewish and Christian principals force us to live a life bigger than ourselves…

TAPPER: …Thank you, Governor…

KASICH: …to make (ph) centers (ph) of justice so that we can battle the radicals, call them out for what they are, and make sure that all of our people feel fulfilled in living in Western civilization…

TAPPER: …Thank you, Governor. Dana Bash…

KASICH: …This is a giant battle in the world today…

FIONNA: …Jake, since everyone has gotten to weigh in on this military issue, I’d like to be able to do the same.

We have spent probably 12 minutes talking about the past. Let’s talk about the future. We need the strongest military on the face of the planet, and everyone has to know it. And, specifically, what that means is we need about 50 Army brigades, we need about 36 Marine battalions, we need somewhere between 300, and 350 naval ships, we need to upgrade every leg of the nuclear triad…

TAPPER: Thank you, Mrs. Fiorina…

FIORINA: …we need to reform the Department of Defense, we need as well…

BASH: …Thank you….

TAPPER: …Thank you, we’re going to turn now to domestic issues with Dana Bash.

FIORINA: …to invest in our military technology, and we need to care for our veterans so 307,000…

TAPPER: …Dana Bash…

(APPLAUSE)

FIORINA: …aren’t dying waiting for health care.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Dana Bash?

BASH: Governor Bush, let’s talk about the issue that’s very important to Republican voters, and that’s the Supreme Court. After Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold Obamacare twice, Senator Cruz criticized your brother for appointing John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

Looking back on it, did your brother make a mistake?

BUSH: Well, I’m surprised Senator Cruz would say that since he was as strong supporter of John Roberts at the time.

I will talk about what I will do as it relates to appointing Supreme Court Justices. We need to make sure that we have justices that, with a proven experienced record of respect for upholding the constitution. That is what we need. We can’t have — the history in recent past is appoint people that have no experience so that you can’t get attacked.

And, that makes it harder for people to have confidence that they won’t veer off…

BASH: …Is John Roberts one of those people?

BUSH: John Roberts has made some really good decisions, for sure, but he did not have a proven, extensive record that would have made the clarity the important thing, and that’s what we need to do. And, I’m willing to fight for those nominees to make sure that they get passed. You can’t do it the politically expedient way anymore. This is the culture in Washington. You have to fight hard for these appointments. This is perhaps the most important thing that the next president will do.

BASH: Do you like what you just heard, Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Well, Dana, I’ve known John Roberts for 20 years, he’s amazingly talented lawyer, but, yes, it was a mistake when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. He’s a good enough lawyer that he knows in these Obamacare cases he changed the statute, he changed the law in order to force that failed law on millions of Americans for a political outcome.

And, you know, we’re frustrated as conservatives. We keep winning elections, and then we don’t get the outcome we want. And, let me focus on two moments in time.

Number one, in 1990, in one room was David Souter, and in another room was Edith Jones, the rock ribbed (ph) conservative on the fifth circuit court of appeals. George Herbert Walker Bush appointed David Souter.

And then in 2005, in one room was John Roberts, in another room was my former boss, Mike Luttig, the rock ribbed (ph) conservative on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals…

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

CRUZ: …George W. Bush appointed John Roberts, and let me give you the consequences of that.

If, instead, the President Bush had appointed Edith Jones, and Mike Luttig, which is who I would have appointed, Obamacare would have been struck down three years ago, and the marriage laws of all 50 states would be on the books. These matter, and I fought to defend the constitution my whole life…

TAPPER: …Governor Bush…

CRUZ: …and I will as president as well.

TAPPER: …I want to let you respond.

BUSH: Well, first of all, he, as I said, supported John Roberts. He supported him, publicly. So, you can rewrite history, I guess, Ted, but the simple fact is that you supported him because he had all the criteria that you would have thought would have made a great justice. And, I think he is doing a good job.

But, the simple fact is that going forward, what we need to do is to have someone that has a long standing set of rulings that consistently makes it clear that he is a focused, exclusively on upholding the Constitution of the United States so they won’t try to use the bench as a means to which legislate.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor…

…And, that’s what we should do, and I hope I’ll be working members of the United States Senate to fight hard for the passage of people that have that kind of qualification.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz, 30 seconds.

CRUZ: It is true that after George W. Bush nominated John Roberts, I supported his confirmation. That was a mistake and I regret that. I wouldn’t have nominated John Roberts, and indeed, Governor Bush pointed out why.

It wasn’t that the President Bushes wanted to appoint a liberal to the court, it’s that it was the easier choice. Both David Souter and John Roberts, they didn’t have a long paper trail. If you had nominated Edith Jones or Mike Ludig (ph) you would have had a bloody fight and they weren’t willing to spend political capital to put a strong judicial conservative on the court. I have spent my entire life, starting from clerking for Chief Justice

William Rehnquist on the United States Supreme Court, one of the most principled jurists. We have an out-of-control Court, and I give you my word, if I’m elected president, every single Supreme Court justice will faithfully follow the law and will not act like philosopher kings — TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

CRUZ: — imposing their liberal policies on millions of Americans —

TAPPER: Thank you, Semator.

CRUZ: — who need to be trusted to govern ourselves.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

(APPLAUSE)

Governor Huckabee, I want to bring you in very quickly if you could. Will you have a litmus test when it comes to appointing Supreme Court nominees?

HUCKABEE: You better believe I will, because I’m tired of liberals always having a litmus test and conservatives are supposed to pretend we don’t. Well let me tell you what mine would be.

Number one, I’d ask do you think that the unborn child is a human being or is it just a blob of tissue? I’d want to know the answer to that. I’d want to know do you believe in the First Amendment, do you believe that religious liberty is the fundamental liberty around which all the other freedoms of this country are based? And I’d want to know do you really believe in the Second Amendment, do you believe that we have an individual right to bear arms to protect ourselves and our family and to protect our country? And do you believe in the Fifth and the 14th Amendment? Do you believe that a person, before they’re deprived of life and liberty, should in fact have due process and equal protection under the law? Because if you do, you’re going to do more than defund Planned Parenthood.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HUCKABEE: One final thing. I’d make darn sure that we absolutely believe the 10th Amendment. Every governor on this stage would share this much with you. Every one of us — our biggest fight wasn’t always with the legislature or even with the Democrats. My gosh, half the time, it was with the federal government who apparently never understood —

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HUCKABEE: — that if it’s not reserved in the Constitution, then the 10th Amendment says it’s left to the states. But somebody forgot to send a memo to Washington.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. We’re going to take a quick break. Coming up, one of the hottest questions that you have been asking us via social media. We will pose it to the candidates. That’s coming up right after this.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN’s Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library here in Simi Valley — Simi Valley, California.

Many people on social media wanted us to ask about marijuana legalization. Senator Paul, Governor Christie recently said, quote, “if you’re getting high in Colorado today,” where marijuana has been legalized, “enjoy it until January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana.” Will you?

PAUL: I think one of the great problems, and what American people don’t like about politics, is hypocrisy. People have one standard for others and not for them — for themselves.

There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to — to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.

I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I’m a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.

But the bottom line is the states. We say we like the 10th Amendment, until we start talking about this. And I think the federal government has gone too far, I think that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome, and really has been something that has really damaged our inner cities.

Not only do the drugs damage them, we damage them again by incarcerating them and then preventing them from getting employment over time.

So I don’t think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: I want to give that — I want to give the person that you called a hypocrite an opportunity to respond. Do you want to identify that person?

PAUL: Well, I think if we left it open, we could see how many people smoked pot in high school.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Is there somebody you were specifically thinking of?

PAUL: Well, you know, the thing is that…

BUSH: He was talking about me.

PAUL: Yeah, I was talking about (inaudible) — well, let me…

TAPPER: That’s what I though, but I wanted (inaudible) to say it.

BUSH: Well, I — I wanted to — be — make it easier for him.

TAPPER: OK.

BUSH: And I just did.

TAPPER: Governor Bush, please.

BUSH: So, 40 years ago, I smoked marijuana, and I admit it. I’m sure that other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom’s not happy that I just did.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: That’s true. And here’s the deal. Here’s the deal. We have — we have a serious epidemic of drugs that goes way beyond marijuana. What goes on in Colorado, as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision.

But if you look at the problem of drugs in this — in this society today, it’s a serious problem. Rand, you know this because you’re campaigning in New Hampshire like all of us, and you see the epidemic of heroin, the overdoses of heroin that’s taking place.

People’s families are — are being torn apart. It is appropriate for the government to play a consistent role to be able to provide more treatment, more prevention — we’re the state that has the most drug courts across every circuit in — in — in Florida, there are drug courts to give people a second chance.

That’s the best way to do this.

PAUL: But let me respond. The thing is, is that in Florida, Governor Bush campaigned against medical marijuana. That means that a small child like Morgan Hintz (ph) that has seizures is day, is failing on non-traditional medications, is not allowed to use cannabis oil.

And if they do that in Florida, they will take the child away, they will put the parents in jail. And that’s what that means if you’re against allowing people use medical marijuana, you’ll actually put them in jail.

BUSH: No, you’re wrong — you’re wrong about this.

PAUL: And actually, under the current circumstances, kids who had privilege like you do, don’t go to jail, but the poor kids in our inner cities go to jail. I don’t think that’s fair. And I think we need to acknowledge it, and it is hypocritical to still want to put poor people in jail… BUSH: I don’t want to put poor people in jail, Randy.

PAUL: Well, you vote — you oppose medical marijuana…

BUSH: Here’s the deal. No, I did not oppose when the legislature passed the bill to deal with that very issue. That’s the way to solve this problem.

Medical marijuana on the ballot was opened up, there was a huge loophole, it was the first step to getting to a (inaudible) place. And as a citizen of Florida, I voted no.

PAUL: But that means you’ll put people in jail.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to go right now — I want to go right now…

FIORINA: Jake, may I just say…

CHRISTIE: Jake, you brought my issue up.

TAPPER: That’s true. Go ahead, Christie, please.

CHRISTIE: You know, I enjoy the interplay. Thank you, gentlemen.

I’ll just say this, first off, New Jersey is the first state in the nation that now says if you are non-violent, non-dealing drug user, that you don’t go to jail for your first offense. You go to mandatory treatment.

You see, Jake, I’m pro-life. And I think you need to be pro-life for more than just the time in the womb. It gets tougher when they get out of the womb. And when they’re the 16-year-old drug addict in the Florida county lockup, that life is just as precious as the life in the womb.

And so, that’s why I’m for rehabilitation, why I think the war on drugs has been a failure.

But I’ll end with this. That doesn’t mean we should be legalizing gate way drugs. And if Senator Paul thinks that the only victim is the person, look at the decrease in productivity, look at the way people get used and move on to other drugs when they use marijuana as a gateway drug, it is not them that are the only victims. Their families are the victims too, their children are the victims too, and their employers are the victims also.

That’s why I’ll enforce the federal law, while you can still put an emphasis on rehabilitation, which we’ve done in New Jersey.

PAUL: May I respond?

FIORINA: Jake — Jake…

TAPPER: You may respond, and then I’ll bring in you, Ms. Fiorina.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: Understand what they’re saying. if they’re going to say we are going to enforce the federal law against what the state law is, they aren’t really believing in the Tenth Amendment.

Governor Christie would go into Colorado, and if you’re breaking any federal law on marijuana, even though the state law allows it, he would put you in jail. If a young mother is trying to give her child cannabis oil for medical marijuana for seizure treatment, he would put her in jail, if it violates federal law.

I would let Colorado do what the Tenth Amendment says. This power — we were never intended to have crime dealing at the federal level. Crime was supposed to be left to the states. Colorado has made their decision. And I don’t want the federal government interfering and putting moms in jail, who are trying to get medicine for their kid…

CHRISTIE: And Senator Paul knows that that’s simply not the truth.

In New Jersey, we have medical marijuana laws, which I supported and implemented. This is not medical marijuana. There’s goes as much — a further step beyond. This is recreational use of marijuana.

This is much different. And so, while he would like to use a sympathetic story to back up his point, it doesn’t work. I’m not against medical marijuana. We do it in New Jersey. But I’m against the recreational use against marijuana.

If he wants to change the federal law, get Congress to pass the law to change it, and get a president to sign it.

PAUL: May I respond? May I respond?

TAPPER: Yes, Senator Paul.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: Here is the thing, he doesn’t want to make it about medical marijuana, but what if New Jersey’s medical marijuana contradicts the federal law? He’s saying he’ll send the federal government in, and he will enforce the federal law. That’s not consistent with the Tenth Amendment. It is not consistent with states’ rights. And it is not consistent with the conservative vision for the country.

I don’t think we should be sending the federal police in to arrest a mother and separate them from their child for giving a medicine to their child for seizures.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to bring in Ms. Fiorina — I want to bring in Ms. Fiorina on this issue.

FIORINA: I very much hope I am the only person on this stage who can say this, but I know there are millions of Americans out there who will say the same thing.

My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. So, we must invest more in the treatment of drugs.

FIORINA: I agree with Senator Paul. I agree with states’ rights. But we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. It’s not. And the marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago.

(LAUGHTER)

We do — sorry, Barbara. We do need — we do need criminal justice reform. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two- thirds of the people in our prisons are there for non-violent offenses, mostly drug related. It’s clearly not working.

But we need to tell young people the truth. Drug addiction is an epidemic, and it is taking too many of our young people. I know this sadly from personal experience.

TAPPER: Hugh — Hugh, I’d like to…

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Thank you, Jake.

Tomorrow is — Republicans know this — tomorrow is Constitution Day. We’ve been talking about the 10th Amendment. Let’s talk about the Second Amendment.

Governor Bush, one of the things the Supreme Court has gotten right is that it’s an individual right and it’s protected for individuals to hold it.

Last week, you said the next step in gun issues is to make sure they’re not in the hands of mentally ill. In this state, there’s a controversial law that allows guns to be taken away from people without a hearing.

Where does it go — and the problem of violence is endemic, but where does it go from what you said last week, how far into people’s lives to take guns away from them?

BUSH: Not very far.

I think we need to do this state by state. There are places that get this right, and we need to make sure that we protect the privacy laws. This is a complicated place. But I do think the natural impulse on the left — Hillary Clinton, immediately after one of these horrific violent acts took place, immediately said we need to have federal gun laws. President Obama almost reflexively always says the same thing.

And the net result is, you’re going to take away rights of — of law- abiding citizens, the 99.999 percent of the people that are law- abiding citizens. That’s not the right approach to do it. In Florida, we have a background check. We have concealed-weapon permit holders, and in fact, there’s 1,200,000 of them. We have a reduction in violent crime because we put people behind bars when they use a gun in the commission of the crime. That’s the better approach.

But we’re living in a society today where despair kind of grows in isolation.

HEWITT: If a family member calls and says, “My child, my brother, my sister is disturbed,” ought the state be able to go and get their weapon without a hearing?

BUSH: I — I think there needs to be a hearing, but the fact is, we need to encourage that kind of involvement. That’s — that’s exactly what we need to do.

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: There’s a broader issue here, Hugh. And there’s a broader issue here as well.

First of all, the only people that follow the law are law-abiding people. Criminals by definition ignore the law, so you can pass all the gun laws in the world, like the left wants. The criminals are going to ignore it because they are criminals.

Here’s the real issue.

(APPLAUSE)

The real issue — the real issue is not what are people using to commit violence, but why are they committing the violence? And here’s the truth: Because you cannot separate the social, moral wellbeing of your people from their economic and other wellbeing. You cannot separate it.

You can’t have a strong country without strong people, you cannot have strong people without strong values, and you cannot have strong values without strong families and the institutions in this country that defend and support those families.

HEWITT: Thank you, Senator.

RUBIO: Well, and today, we have a left-wing government under this president that is undermining all of the institutions and society that support the family and teach those values.

HEWITT: Senator Cruz, I want to go to you.

Your constitutional litigant (ph), are you afraid of the next- step theory of what happens to Second Amendment rights?

CRUZ: I — I am not, and — and you mentioned that the U.S. Supreme Court had rightly upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms.

I was proud to lead 31 states before the U.S. Supreme Court defending the Second Amendment, and we won that landmark victory. And indeed, just a couple of years ago, when Harry Reid and Barack Obama came after the right to keep and bear arms of millions of Americans, I was proud to lead the fight in the United States Senate to protect our right to keep and bear arms, and for that reason…

HEWITT: Thank you, Senator.

CRUZ: … I was honored to be endorsed by Gun Owners of America…

HEWITT: Thank you, Senator.

CRUZ: … as the strongest supporter of the Second Amendment on this stage today, and I will…

HEWITT: Thank you, senator.

CRUZ: … fight every day to defend the Bill of Rights.

TAPPER: I’d like to turn it over — I’d like to turn to Dana Bush.

BASH: Mr. Trump, you have said once or twice that you are really rich, and you are by far the richest person on this stage.

Chris Christie says billionaires like you and even people who make and earn far less should no longer get Social Security, or at least there should be limits based on — on their income.

You think he’s wrong, and if so, why?

TRUMP: Speaking for myself, I’m OK with it. I think there’s a certain truth to it. I know people that, frankly, it has no impact on their life whatsoever. There are many people.

I would almost say leave it up to them, but I would be willing to check it off, and say I will not get Social Security. I do not…

BASH: What about the country as a — as a policy?

TRUMP: As a policy, I would almost leave it up to the people. Don’t forget they pay in and they pay in, and maybe they do well, and maybe some people want it. But the fact is that there are people that truly don’t need it, and there are many people that do need it very, very badly. And I would be willing to write mine off 100 percent, Dana.

BASH: So is a voluntary program the way to get the Social Security system solvent again like that.

CHRISTIE: No, it’s not. But with Donald, it’s a good start. That’s really good.

(LAUGHTER)

No, listen. This is an issue that — that we’ve gotta talk about, and we haven’t talked about yet.

71 percent of all federal spending is on entitlements and debt service. When John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, it was 26 percent.

Harvard and Dartmouth says that Social Security’s going to go insolvent in seven to eight years. So what I say is very simple. We need to save this program for the good people out there who have paid into the system and need it.

And if that means making sure that folks like Donald and many of us on the stage don’t get it, that’s the right thing to do because here’s what Hillary Clinton is going to want to do.

She’s going to want to put more money into a system that has already lied to us and stolen from us. This government doesn’t need more money to make Social Security solvent. We need to be not paying out benefits to people who don’t really need it.

We need to protect the people who Social Security means the difference between picking between heat and rent and food. That’s why I put out the proposal and that’s the people I’m trying to…

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I’m coming to you right now on a separate issue, sir. We received…

(UNKNOWN): Well, I want to talk about this issue for a moment.

TAPPER: We received a lot of questions from social media about climate change.

Senator Rubio, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, reminds us that when Reagan was president he faced a similar situation to the one that we’re facing now. There were dire warnings from the mass consensus of the scientific community about the ozone layer shrinking.

Shultz says Ronald Reagan urged skeptics in industry to come up with a plan. He said, do it as an insurance policy in case the scientists are right. The scientists were right. Reagan and his approach worked.

Secretary Shultz asks, why not take out an insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?

RUBIO: Because we’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we are under now wants to do. We’re not going to…

TAPPER: I’m citing George Shultz.

RUBIO: Well, and I don’t — he may have lined up with their positions on this issue. But here is the bottom line. Every proposal they put forward are going to be proposals that will make it harder to do business in America, that will make it harder to create jobs in America.

Single parents are already struggling across this country to provide for their families. Maybe a billionaire here in California can afford an increase in their utility rates, but a working family in Tampa, Florida, or anywhere across this country cannot afford it.

So we are not going to destroy our economy. We are not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather, because America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely.

But America is not a planet. And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore, China is. And they’re drilling a hole and digging anywhere in the world that they can get a hold of.

So the bottom line is, I am not in favor of any policies that make America a harder place for people to live, or to work, or to raise their families.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Governor Christie, you have said that climate change is real, and that humans help contribute to it. Without getting into the issue of China versus the United States, which I understand you’ve talked about before, what do you make of skeptics of climate change such as Senator Rubio?

CHRISTIE: I don’t think Senator Rubio is a skeptic of climate change. I think what Senator Rubio said I agree with. That in fact we don’t need this massive government intervention to deal with the problem.

Look at what we have done in New Jersey. We have already reached our clean air goals for 2020. And when I was governor, I pulled out of the regional cap and trade deal, the only state in the Northeast that did that. And we still reached our goals.

Why? Because 53 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear. We use natural gas. We use solar power. We’re the third-highest- using solar power state. You know why? Because we made all of those things economically feasible.

I agree with Marco. We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound.

We have proven we can do that in New Jersey. Nuclear needs to be back on the table in a significant way in this country if we want to go after this problem.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Just for the record, I was citing Secretary of State George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state who I don’t think anybody would call him left-wing. CHRISTIE: I understand. No, no, listen, everybody makes a mistake

every once in a while, Jake, even George Shultz. And if that’s truly a representation of what he believes we should be doing, then with all due respect to the former secretary of state, I disagree with him.

RUBIO: Jake, you mentioned me and called me a denier. Let me say, climate change…

TAPPER: I called you a skeptic.

RUBIO: OK. A skeptic. You can measure the climate. You can measure it. That’s not the issue we’re discussing. Here is what I’m skeptical of. I’m skeptical of the decisions that the left wants us to make, because I know the impact those are going to have and they’re all going to be on our economy.

They will not do a thing to lower the rise of the sea. They will not do a thing to cure the drought here in California. But what they will do is they will make America a more expensive place to create jobs.

And today with millions of people watching this broadcast that are struggling paycheck to paycheck that do not know how they’re going to pay their bills at the end of this month, I’m not in favor of anything that is going to make it harder for them to raise their family.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to go another question right now.

(CROSSTALK) WALKER: … a lot of those people, though, and I’m going to echo what Senator Rubio just said. This is an issue where, we’re talking about my state, it’s thousands of manufacturing jobs. Thousands of manufacturing jobs for a rule the Obama administration, own EPA has said will have a marginal impact on climate change.

So we’re going to put thousands and thousands of jobs in my state, I think it’s something like 30,000 in Ohio, other states across this country, we’re going to put people — manufacturing jobs, the kind of jobs that are far greater than minimum wage, this administration is willing to put at risk for something its own EPA says is marginal (ph)…

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

(CROSSTALK)

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I’m turning to…

PAUL: If you want a skeptic — if you want a skeptic, Jake, I will happily jump into that briar patch. If you want a real…

TAPPER: …I’m turning to another — I’m turning to another issue right now. Senator Cruz. Well, I think we’ve heard from several this evening. A backlash against vaccines was blamed for a measles outbreak here in

California. Dr. Carson, Donald Trump has publicly and repeatedly linked vaccines, childhood vaccines, to autism, which, as you know, the medical community adamantly disputes.

You’re a pediatric neurosurgeon. Should Mr. Trump stop saying this?

CARSON: Well, let me put it this way, there has — there have been numerous studies, and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism.

This was something that was spread widely 15 or 20 years ago, and it has not been adequately, you know, revealed to the public what’s actually going on. Vaccines are very important. Certain ones. The ones that would prevent death or crippling.

There are others, there are a multitude of vaccines which probably don’t fit in that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases. But, you know, a lot of this is — is — is pushed by big government.

And I think that’s one of the things that people so vehemently want to get rid of, big government. You know, we have 4.1 million federal employees. Six hundred and fifty federal agencies and department (sic).

That’s why they have to take so much of our taxes. TAPPER: Should he stop saying it? Should he stop saying that vaccines cause autism?

CARSON: Well, you know, I’ve just explained it to him. He can read about it if he wants to. I think he’s an intelligent man and will make the correct decision after getting the real facts.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, as president, you would…

TRUMP: Well, I — I — I’d like to respond.

TAPPER: I’m going right to you.

TRUMP: I’d like to respond.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, as president, you would be in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, both of which say you are wrong. How would you handle this as president?

TRUMP: Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.

I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in — and I’ve seen it — and I’ve seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time.

Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.

Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

I only say it’s not — I’m in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount.

TAPPER: Thank you.

TRUMP: But just in — in little sections.

TAPPER: Dr. — Dr. Carson?

TRUMP: I think — and I think you’re going to have — I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism.

TAPPER: Dr. Carson, you just heard his medical take.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: He’s an OK doctor.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: But, you know, the fact of the matter is, we have extremely well-documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations. But it is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time.

And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and, I think, are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are done, and I think that’s appropriate.

TRUMP: And that’s all I’m saying, Jake. That’s all I’m saying.

TAPPER: Dr. Paul? Dr. Paul, I’d like to bring you in.

PAUL: A second opinion?

(LAUGHTER)

One of the greatest — one of the greatest medical discoveries of all times was — were the vaccines, particularly for smallpox. And if you want to read a story, it’s called The Speckled Monster, it’s an amazing story, it was all done voluntary.

But people came in by the droves. George Washington wouldn’t let his wife visit until she got vaccinated. So I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.

I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.

TAPPER: Alright, thank you so much…

HUCKABEE: Jake? Jake?

TAPPER: Coming up — I’m sorry, Governor Huckabee, please.

HUCKABEE: I think we need to remember that there are maybe some controversies about autism, but there is no controversy about the things that are really driving the medical costs in this country.

And I would really believe that the next president ought to declare a war on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, because those are the four things that are causing the greatest level of cost.

John Kennedy said, “we’ll go to the moon in a decade and bring a man back,” and we did it. I grew up in the ’50s. I remember the polio vaccine. We saved billions of dollars since that time, because we haven’t had to treat for polio.

Why doesn’t this country focus on cures rather than treatment? Why don’t we put a definitive focus scientifically on finding the cure for cancer, for heart disease, for diabetes and for Alzheimer’s, a disease alone that will cost us —

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HUCKABEE: $1.1 trillion by the year 2050. We change the economy and the country.

TAPPER: We have to take another quick break. Coming up, Ronald Reagan looming large over this debate. So how Reaganesque exactly are these Republicans? We will find out next.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. We have a few last questions for you. Two of them a little lighthearted, the other one more serious. We’ll start with one of the more light questions. Senator Paul, I’m going to start with you and we’re just going to go down the line.

Earlier this year, the Treasury Department announced that a woman will appear on the $10 bill. What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?

PAUL: Ooh, that’s a tough one. You know, I’m big on — that we were — and I love what Carly said about women’s suffrage. I think Susan B. Anthony might be a good choice.

TAPPER: Governor Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: That’s an easy one. I’d put my wife on there. (LAUGHTER)

I’ve been married to her 41 years. She’s fought cancer and lived through it. She’s raised three kids, five great grandkids, and she’s put up with me. I mean, who else could possibly be on that money other than my wife. And that way, she could spend her own money with her face.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Senator Paul (sic).

RUBIO: Senator Rubio, you mean?

TAPPER: I’m sorry. Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: I know we all look alike.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Just the senators.

RUBIO: The — Rosa Parks, an everyday American that changed the course of history.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Well, I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, I’d change the $20. I’d take Jackson off and I’d leave Alexander Hamilton right where he is as one of our Founding Fathers.

(APPLAUSE)

And I very much agree with Marco that it should be Rosa Parks. She was a principled pioneer that helped change this country, helped remedy racial injustice, and that would be an honor that would be entirely appropriate.

TAPPER: Dr. Carson?

CARSON: I’d put my mother on there. You know, she was one of 24 children, got married at age 13, had only a third grade education, had to raise two sons by herself, refused to be a victim. Wouldn’t let us be victims, and has been an inspiration to many people.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Well, because she’s been sitting for three hours, I think my daughter, Ivanka, who’s right here.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Other than that we’ll go with Rosa Parks. I like that.

TAPPER: Governor Bush.

BUSH: I would go with Ronald Reagan’s partner, Margaret Thatcher. Probably illegal, but what the heck?

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Since it’s not going to happen. A strong leader is what we need in the White House, and she certainly was a strong leader that restored the United Kingdom into greatness.

TAPPER: Governor Walker. WALKER: First of all, I got to say to Carson, Huckabee, thanks a lot for making the rest of us look like chumps up here, but, I’d pick Clara Barton. I once worked for the American Red Cross, she was a great founder of the Red Cross.

TAPPER: Mrs. Fiorina.

FIORINA: I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, or the $20 bill. I think, honestly, it’s a gesture. I don’t think it helps to change our history. What I would think is that we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group. Women are the majority of this nation. We are half the potential of this nation, and this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Governor Kasich.

KASICH: Well, it’s probably not, maybe, legal, but, I would pick Mother Theresa, the lady that I had a chance to meet, a woman who lived a life so much bigger than her own. An inspiration to everyone when we think about our responsibility to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

TAPPER: Governor Christie.

CHRISTIE: I think the Adams family has been shorted in the currency business. Our country wouldn’t be here without John Adams, and he would not have been able to do it without Abigal Adams, so, I’d put Abigail Adams on the bill.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Alright. Some good entries if anybody at the mint was listening. Here’s the next lighthearted question, you all know that the United States Secret Service uses codenames for the president, and his family. Ronald Reagan’s codename, for example, was, “Rawhide”, an homage to his performances in Westerns. Nancy Reagan’s was, “Rainbow”.

You don’t have to come up the one for your spouse, but, what would you want, Governor Christie, I’ll start with you, your Secret Service codename to be.

(LAUGHTER) CHRISTIE: You know, I’ve been called a lot of names by a lot of different people, and now I got to get called by names by the Secret Service?

I would just say True Heart.

KASICH: Well, I have one now — they (ph) call me, “Unit One”.

My wife says, “You’ll never be Unite One, I’m Unite One. You’re Unit Two.” FIORINA: Secretariat.

TAPPER: Governor Walker?

WALKER: Harley. I love riding Harley’s.

BUSH: Ever Ready, it’s very high energy, Donald.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Humble.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

MALE: That’s a good one.

TAPPER: Dr. Carson?

CARSON: One Nation.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: You know, as a Cuban, I might go with Cohiba (ph), and I’ll tell you, I’d go with, for Heidi, Angel, because she is my angel.

TAPPER: Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: Well, there are some people in Florida upset at me over a joke I made about Florida State, but, what the heck, I want my codename to be Gator.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: I’d go with Duck Hunter.

TAPPER: Senator Paul.

PAUL: Justice Never Sleeps.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: That’s a mouthful, but OK.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: OK, here’s the more serious question, Ronald Reagan, the 40th President, used the plane behind you to accomplish a great many things. Perhaps, most notably, to challenge Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall, and ultimately, to make peace with the USSR.

How will the world look different once your Air Force One is parked in the hangar of your presidential library?

Senator Paul?

PAUL: I met Ronald Reagan as a teenager, and my family, we’re big supporters of him when he ran against Gerald Ford. It was a big deal because he was the grassroots, running against the establishment, and I’ll never forget that. And, how he stood up and said, you know what, this is something new that our country needs, and our party needs.

If I were president, I would try to be one who says, you know what, I’m a Reagan Conservative. I’m someone who believes in peace through strength, and I would try to lead the country in that way knowing that our goal is peace, and that war is the last resort, not the first resort. And, that when we go to war, we go to war in a constitutional way, which means that we have to vote on it, that war is initiated by congress, not by the president, that we go to war electively (ph). That when we go to war, we don’t fight with one arm tied behind our back, we fight all out to win, but then we come home.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: At the end of my presidency I would like to believe that the world would be a safe place, and there wouldn’t be the threats. not only to the U.S., but to Israel and our allies, because we would have the most incredible well-trained, well-equipped, well- prepared military in the history of mankind. And they would know that the commander-in-chief would never send them to a mission without all the resources necessary, but people wouldn’t bully us anymore. Because they would know that that would be an invitation to their destruction.

Domestically, we would be operating under a tax system that eliminated the IRS. People wouldn’t be punished for their work, and for what they produced.

And life would be really deemed precious. Abortion would be no more. It would be as much of a scourge in our past as slavery is. And we would have a peaceful country, where people respected each other and people respected law enforcement. And we would focus on cures.

And we would make this country not only safe from our enemies without, but safe from the enemies within. And it would be a good place to raise our kids and our grandkids.

(APPLAUSE) RUBIO: One of the things that made Ronald Reagan a great president, is that he understood that America was a unique nation, like any other that had existed throughout human history. He knew it was founded on universal principles that were powerful, the dignity of all people, human rights, the rights of all to live in freedom and liberty, and choose their own path in life. He didn’t just believe it, he acted on it. That’s why bringing down communism was so important to him. If I’m honored with the opportunity to be president, I hope that our Air Force One will fly, first and foremost, to our allies; in Israel, in South Korea, and Japan. They know we stand with them. That America can be counted on.

It would also fly to China, not just to meet with our enemies, not just to meet with those adversaries of ours that are there, but also to meet with those that aspire to freedom and liberty within China. I would even invite them to my inauguration.

We would also fly into Moscow and into Russia. And not just meet with the leaders of Russia, but also meet with those who aspire to freedom and liberty in Russia. And ultimately, I hope that my Air Force One, if I become president, will one day land in a free Cuba, where its people can choose its leaders and its own destiny.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Ronald Reagan believed in America.

If I’m elected president our friends and allies across the globe will know that we stand with them. the bust of Winston Churchill will be back in the Oval Office, and the American embassy in Israel will be in Jerusalem.

Enemies across this world will know the United States is not to be trifled with. ISIS will be defeated. We will have a president willing to utter the words, “radical Islamic terrorism,” and the Ayatollah Khamenei will understand that he will never, ever, ever acquire nuclear weapons.

Here at home, we’ll reignite the promise of America. Young people coming out of school, with student loans up to their eyeballs, will find instead of no jobs, two, three, four, five job opportunities.

How will that happen? Through tax reform. We’ll pass a simple flat tax and abolish the IRS. And through regulatory reform, we will repeal every word of Obamacare.

You want to know what I’ll do as president? It is real simple. We’ll kill the terrorists, we’ll repeal Obamacare, and we will defend the Constitution, every single word of it.

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: Well, you know, I was a radical Democrat before I started listening to Ronald Reagan. And he didn’t sound like what they said Republicans were. He sounded logical. And I hope that I sound logical also. Because when

I look at what is going on with the United States of America, I see a lot of things that are not logical.

I see us allowing people to divide us, when in fact our strength is in our unity. I see people exercising the most irresponsible fiscal habits that anyone could possibly do. And hiding it from the American people, so that the majority of people have no idea what our financial situation is.

So, when someone comes along and says, free college, free phones, free this and that, and the other, they say, “wow, that’s nice,” having no idea that they’re destabilizing our position. And I think also that Ronald Reagan was a master at understanding that a pinnacle nation has to be a nation that leads.

If we learn to lead in the Middle East right now, a coalition will form behind us, but never they do it if we just sit there and talk about it.

Real leadership is what I would hopefully bring to America.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: If I become president, we will do something really special. We will make this country greater than ever before. We’ll have more jobs. We’ll have more of everything.

We were discussing disease, we were discussing all sorts of things tonight, many of which will just be words, it will just pass on. I don’t want to say politicians, all talk, no action. But a lot of what we talked about is words and it will be forgotten very quickly.

If I’m president, many of the things that we discussed tonight will not be forgotten. We’ll find solutions. And the world will respect us. They will respect us like never before. And it will be actually a friendlier world.

And I have to say, it is a great honor to be here tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Six million more people are living in poverty than the day that Barack Obama got elected president. Six million more people. The middle class has had declining income, workforce participation rates are lower than they were in 1977.

For the first time in modern history, more businesses are failing than are being created. That is what the next president will have to deal with.

And I believe we can reverse course by creating a strategy of high sustained economic growth, not the new normal of 2 percent that all the left says we just have to get used to, but a 4 percent growth strategy where we reform how we tax, fix the broken regulatory system, embrace the energy revolution in our midst, fix the immigration system so we can turn it into an economic driver, deal with the structural fiscal problems that exist because of our entitlement problems that will overwhelm and create way too much debt.

If we grow at 4 percent, people are going to be lifted out of poverty. The great middle that defines our country will have a chance to be able to pursue their dreams as they see fit.

That should be the great challenge and the great opportunity for the next president of the United States, to forge consensus to go back to a high-growth strategy. And then we’ll be able to lead the world.

Without a high-growth strategy, our country will never have the resources or the optimism to be able to lead the world, which the world desperately needs our leadership.

(APPLAUSE)

WALKER: Well, I turned 13 years old two days before Ronald Reagan was first elected. A lot of people forget this, but just a few days before that election 1980, he was behind in the polls.

And I think what changed things was people in America realized they didn’t want to hear what was bad about America, they wanted to know how it was going to be better. Ronald Reagan wasn’t just a conservative Republican, he was an eternal optimist in the American people.

And I am too. So here’s what I think will make America better. We need to live in a world where our children are free, are free from the threats of radical Islamic terrorism.

We need to live in an America where we have an economy, where everyone can live their piece of the American dream, no matter what that dream is. And we need to live in an America where we have a federal government that is not too big to fail, but ultimately small enough to succeed, where we send powers back to the states and back to the people.

That’s what I did in Wisconsin. We took on the big government union bosses, the big government special interests, many of whom came in from Washington, to spend millions of dollars to try and take me out because we stood up to them, we didn’t back down in any of those instances.

If you give me the chance as your next president, I won’t back down any day, anyway, anyhow. I’ll fight and win for you and your families every single day I’m in office.

(APPLAUSE)

FIORINA: I think what this nation can be and must be is symbolized by Lady Liberty and Lady Justice. Lady Liberty stands tall and strong. She is clear-eyed and resolute. She doesn’t shield her eyes from the realities of the world, but she faces outward into the world nevertheless, as we always must.

And she holds her torch high, because she knows she is a beacon of hope in a very troubled world.

And Lady Justice, Lady Justice holds a sword by her side, because she is a fighter, a warrior for the values and the principles that have made this nation great. She holds a scale in her other hand. And with that scale she says all of us are equal in the eyes of God. And so all of us must be equal in the eyes of the law and the government, powerful and powerless alike.

And she wears a blindfold. And with that blindfold she is saying to us that it must be true, it can be true that in this country, in this century, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter how you start, it doesn’t matter your circumstances, here in this nation, every American’s life must be filled with the possibilities that come from their God-given gifts.

One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Well, as president, I will make this a nation that will solve problems. And how? By having the elected officials and the leaders realize they’re Americans before they’re Republicans or Democrats. I did it in Washington. And I’ve done it in Ohio by having the elected officials realize that they’re Ohioans before anything else.

Secondly, I will rebuild the relationships and show the respect to our allies around the world. We have no choice but to do that. We will be stronger when we are unified. And we’ll fight for freedom and for human rights.

And finally, a little bit of what Carly said. The people that are out there listening, America was never great because we ran America from the top down. America is great because we have run America from the bottom up, where we all live in the neighborhoods.

One more time in America, we need to revive the concept of citizenship, where everybody’s actions make a huge difference in changing the world. We have a Holocaust memorial on our state house grounds. And there is one line on there that stands out all the time. “If you’ve saved one life, you’ve changed the world.”

We need to adopt that as citizens and rebuild and reinspire our country. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CHRISTIE: I turned 18 in 1980, and my first vote was for Ronald Reagan. Boy, am I glad I did it. And I think the country is, too. A Christie presidency won’t be about me. It will be about you.

Tonight, you sit at home in your living room, frustrated that you play by the rules, you pay the taxes, you do the hard things to raise your family, yet you feel like America’s generosity is being taken advantage of. That you’ve been — system is being gamed, and that you’re turning out to fall further and further behind. Our presidency — our presidency — will be about ending that, about

enforcing the law, level the playing field for everybody, and once again reward those folks who play by the rules, and think that justice means more than just the word. But it means a way of life.

And I will tell you this, around the world, I will not shake hands with, I will not meet with, and I will not agree to anything with a country that says death to us and death to Israel and holds our hostages while we sign agreements with them.

It will be an America that be strong and resolute, and will once again be able to stick out its chest and say, “we truly are the greatest nation in the world, because we live our lives that way, each and every day.”

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: That concludes this Republican presidential debate. On behalf of everyone here at CNN, we want to thank the candidates, the Reagan Library, and the Republican National Committee. Thank you, also, to Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash.

The next presidential debate will also be right here on CNN, among the Democratic candidates, who will face off for the first time on October the 13th. That debate, a partnership with Facebook, will be moderated by my colleague, Anderson Cooper.

And Anderson picks up our coverage of tonight’s debate right now. Before I throw to Anderson, let’s have one final round of applause for the candidates.

(APPLAUSE)

 

February 22. 2012: CNN / Arizona Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Mesa, Arizona February 22, 2012

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATOR:
John King (CNN)

KING: Gentlemen, I want to ask you to take your seats. I’ll take a moment now to explain to you how our debate will work.

I’ll question the candidates, as well as we’ll also take some questions from members of our audience. I’ll follow up and guide tonight’s discussion.

Candidates, we’re going to try to make sure each of you get your fair amount of questions. And you’ll have a minute to answer and 30 seconds for rebuttal and follow-ups. And if you’re singled out for a particular criticism, I’ll make sure you get a chance to respond.

Now we’re going to have each of the candidates introduce themselves. And so we have more time to debate tonight, we’re going to ask them to keep it short.

Here’s an example. I’m John King from CNN. I’m honored to be your moderator tonight and I’m thrilled to be in a state that reminds us baseball season is just around the corner. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, we begin with you, sir.

PAUL: I’m Congressman Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas.

I am the defender of the Constitution. I’m the champion of liberty. This shows the roadmap to peace and prosperity. [applause]

SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum.

And we have a lot of troubles around the world, as you see, the Middle East in flames, and what’s going on in this country with gas prices and the economy. And I’m here to talk about a positive solutions that confront this country that include everybody from the bottom up. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney.

And there was a time in this country when you knew that if you worked hard and went to school, and if you learned the values of America in your home, that you could count on having a secure future and a prosperous life. That was an American promise and it’s been broken by this president.

I want to restore America’s promise, and I’m going to do that — [applause]That’s good enough. As George Costanza would say, when they’re applauding, stop. Right?

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich.

And I’ve developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again and so every American can look forward to $2.50 a gallon gasoline. [applause]

KING: Gentlemen, it’s good to see you again.

Let’s get started on the important issues with a question from our audience.

Sir, please tell us who you are and state your question.

UNKNOWN: My name is Gilbert Fidler from Gilbert, Arizona, and I’d like to ask this question to all the candidates if I could.

Since the first time in 65 years our national debt exceeds our gross national product, what are you going to do to bring down the debt?

KING: Thank you, sir.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Gilbert.

I put together a specific plan that cuts $5 trillion over five years, that spends less money each year for the next four years that I’ll be president of the United States. So it’s not inflation- adjusted, it’s not baseline-budgeting. We’re actually going to shrink the actual size of the federal budget, and we’re going to do so by dealing with the real problem.

And here’s where I differentiate myself from everybody else, including, obviously, the president. I actually have experience on tackling the toughest problems that we have in this country, and that’s the growth of entitlement spending.

Obviously, the first thing we need to do is repeal Obamacare. That’s the one entitlement that we can get rid of. [applause]

And that’s a couple trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years. But there’s bigger issues.

When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It’s now 60 percent of the budget.

Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It’s now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to.

Defense spending will not be cut under my administration, but we will go after all of the means-tested entitlement programs — Medicaid, food stamps, all of those programs — and do what we did with welfare.

We cut the welfare — we cut spending on welfare, froze it and then we block granted it to the states and gave them the flexibility to run that program they way they saw fit with two provisos. Number one, there would be a time limit on welfare and a work requirement. We were going to say that poverty is not a disability. That these programs need to be transitional in nature. We need to do the same thing with Medicaid. We need to do the same thing with — with food stamps. All of the other means tests of entitlement programs.

And unlike the Paul Ryan plan — I see I’m out of time, but unlike the Paul Ryan plan, we also will deal with Medicare and Social Security, not 10 years from now. But we need to start dealing with it now because our country is facing fiscal bankruptcy.

KING: Governor Romney, I’m wondering if that answer satisfied you? Just in recent days you said this, quote, “If you want a fiscal conservative, you can’t vote for Rick Santorum because he’s not.” Did he answer your questions there?

ROMNEY: Well I’m looking at his historic record, which voting for raising the debt ceiling five different times without voting for compensating cuts. Voting to keep in place Davis-Bacon, which cost about $100 billion over — over 10 years. A whole series of votes. Voting to fund Planned Parenthood, to expand the Department of Education. During his term in the Senate, spending grew by some 80 percent of the federal government. But I — but I want to respond to Gilbert’s question, which I think is a critical one.

And that is as you — as you look at this country, I’m a guy who has lived in the world of business. If you don’t balance your budget in business, you go out of business. So I’ve lived balancing budgets. I also served in the Olympics, balanced a budget there. And — and served in the states. And all four years I was governor, we balanced the budget. Here’s what I’d do at the federal level, I would divide all of the programs into three major places for opportunity to reduce costs.

Number one, I’m going to go through every single program and ask if we can afford it. And if not, I’m going to say, is this program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’m going to get rid of it. Number two, I’m going to take programs…[applause]…I’m going to take programs that are important, but that could be better run at the state level and send them back to the states as a block grant and that included Medicaid and — and housing vouchers and food stamps. These programs for the poor, to be run more efficiently and can be run with less fraud and abuse at the state level. And then finally number three, with what’s left of government, I’m going to cut the employment by 10 percent. And I’m going to link the pay of government workers with the pay in the private sector. Government servants shouldn’t get paid more than the people who are paying taxes. [applause]

KING: Senator, the governor singled you out. Take a few seconds. [applause]

SANTORUM: Well, the governor talks about raising the debt ceiling. There was a debt ceiling vote this summer and the governor was asked the question whether he would have voted to raise the debt ceiling ultimately and he said, yes. Because government has to pay their bills. We can’t default ultimately. What happened the — the 12 years I was in the United States Senate, we went from the debt to GDP ratio, which is now over 100 percent. When I came to the Senate it was 68 percent of GDP. When I left the Senate it was 64 percent of GDP.

So government as a size of the economy went down when I was in the United States Senate. Sure I had some votes. Look, I think we’ve all had votes that I look back on I — I wish I wouldn’t have voted — No Child Left Behind, you’re right, it lead to education spending. That’s why I’ve said that we need to cut and eliminate No Child Left Behind and — and education funding from the federal government, move it back to the local level where it belongs where parents and local communities can deal with that.

But if you look at my record on spending, on taking on entitlements, never having voted for an appropriation bill increase. You look at — at my record of never having raised taxes. Governor Romney raised $700 million in taxes and fees in Massachusetts. I never voted to raise taxes. Governor Romney even today suggested raising taxes on the top 1 percent, adopting the Occupy Wall Street rhetoric. I’m not going to adopt that rhetoric. I’m going to represent 100 percent of Americans. We’re not raising taxes on anybody. [applause]

KING: Governor, please quickly I want to bring the congressman and the speaker into the conversation, but respond.

ROMNEY: There were so many misrepresentations there, it’s going to take me a little while. Number one, I said today that we’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent. So that’s number one. Number two, I said yes we should increase the debt ceiling in this last vote, but only if we have a cut, cap and balance provision put in place. Only in that case. And, therefore, I did not agree with the deal that was done in Washington. That was the wrong way to go.

And finally, Senator during your term in Congress, the years you’ve been there, government has doubled in size. You voted to raise the debt ceiling five times without compensating cuts in spending. In my view, we should not raise the debt ceiling again until we get compensating cuts in spending. A cut, cap and balance approach must be taken. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker…[applause]

Mr. Speaker, join the conversation. Address Gilbert’s question and if you so choose, address some criticism you’ve received on this issue from this state’s senior Senator campaigning for governor Romney. He questioned your credentials on fiscal conservatism. He said when you were the speaker, earmarking became an art.

GINGRICH: Well when I was speaker, as I’m sure he remembers, we balanced the budget for four consecutive years, the only time in his lifetime. So I think that’s a good place to start with Gilbert’s question. We’re meeting tonight on the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. You go back and look at the founding fathers, they’d have had very clear messages. Hamilton would have said you have to have jobs and economic growth to get back to a balanced budget. You’re never going to balance the budget on the back of a highly unemployed country. And so I would be committed, first of all, to a program of jobs and economic growth.

Second, the energy issue is enormous. The leading developer of North Dakota oil estimated recently that, if we would open up federal land and open up offshore, you would have $16 trillion to $18 trillion — not billion — trillion dollars in royalties to the federal government in the next generation, an enormous flow which would drive down prices to $2.50 a gallon, would help us balance the budget and would create millions of jobs.

Finally, I agree generally with the need to reform government. I think that, if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws, go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system. And if we then applied the tenth amendment, as Governor Rick Perry has agreed to head up a project on, I think we can return to the states an enormous share of the power that’s currently in Washington, D.C. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, you’ve questioned the conservative — fiscal conservative credentials of all these gentlemen but particularly this week Senator Santorum. You have a new television ad that labels him a fake. Why?

PAUL: Because he’s a fake. [laughter] [applause] [booing] [applause]

SANTORUM: I’m real, John. I’m real.

PAUL: Congratulations.

SANTORUM: Thank you. [laughter]

PAUL: No. I find it really fascinating that, when people are running for office, they’re really fiscally conservative. When they’re in office, they do something different. And then when they explain themselves, they say, “Oh, I want to repeal that.”

So the senator voted for No Child Left Behind, but now — he voted for it, but now he’s running on the effort to get rid of it. So I think the record is so bad, you know, with the politicians.

And, you know, nobody accuses me of not having voted for too much. They’re always accusing me for not voting for enough. And I’ve been running in office, in office off and on for a good many years, and over all those years, I’ve never voted for a budget deficit. I never voted to increase the national debt.

As a matter of fact, there’s only one appropriation bill I voted for, and that was for veterans. I assumed, from the 1970s on, that we were embarking on a very dangerous path, and we’re involved in that danger right now.

So this idea of being fiscally conservative now that we’re running for office and we’re going to repeal something that we did before, I mean, this — it loses credibility is what our problem is. So… [applause] And — and the one thing that I think should annoy all Americans is the voting for foreign aid? I mean, just think there are foreign aid packages that are huge, and when the member votes for it, they don’t say, well, this money is going to A, B, C, because I love that country, but it’s the principle of the way the government works. You vote for foreign aid because, for some weird reason, it’s supposed to be good for America, but then it goes and helps all our enemies. That’s what I disapprove of. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, respond quickly.

SANTORUM: Ron, The Weekly Standard just did a review, looking at the National Taxpayers Union, I think, Citizens Against Government Waste, and they measured me up against the other 50 senators who were serving when I did and they said that I was the most fiscally conservative senator in the Congress in the — in the 12 years that I was there.

My — my ratings with the National Taxpayers Union were As or Bs. They were very high from the Citizens Against Government Waste. I got a hero award.

I was a leader, as you know, on taking on tough issues, which is the entitlement programs, not just welfare reform, but I also worked on Medicare reform and Medicaid reform and also was a leader on trying to deal with Social Security.

And I did that not representing one of the most conservative districts in the state of Texas but in the state of Pennsylvania, with the second largest per capita population of seniors in the country.

And I can tell you those seniors really cared about Social Security. Why? Because all my rich seniors moved to Florida and Arizona. And…[laughter]… and what’s left — what’s left in Pennsylvania is folks who relied on Social Security. And I was out there as a Republican senator, a conservative voting record, over a 90 percent conservative voting record from the American Conservative Union.

By the way, Ron, you ranked 145th in the bottom half of Republicans this year in a conservative voting record from that same organization.

We had a strong record in a tough state to be a conservative. If I can stand up in the state of Pennsylvania, which hasn’t elected a Republican president since 1988, and have a strong principled voting record on issues that were tough in my state, senior issues, imagine now, as president of the United States, with a Tea Party movement and a conservative — a riled-up conservative base, what we can accomplish in Washington, D.C. [applause]

KING: Congressman, quickly.

PAUL: You know, that’s always a cop-out when you compare yourself to the other members of Congress. The American people are sick and tired of the members of Congress. They get about a 9 percent rating. [applause]

But this whole thing about comparison of conservative votes, I think you make a very important point. I don’t rate what, at the top. If it’s spending or on taxes I’m at the very top because I vote for the least amount of spending and the least amount of taxes, which means that some of the conservative ratings — you have to realize sometimes conservatives want to spend money, too.

When it comes to overseas spending, you vote for the foreign aid. Conservatives are quite pleased with spending money overseas. But if you’re a strict fiscal conservative and a constitutionalist you don’t vote for that kind of stuff and so you can’t just go by the ratings.

KING: As you can see, this is a — it’s an important issue to the people in the audience. I think it’s one of the reasons this race has been so volatile. Voters are looking and they say which of these candidates can I trust? And each of you are trying to make your case to them.

As you try to do so, Governor Romney, you said recently that as governor you’re a severely conservative governor of Massachusetts. What did you mean by that?

ROMNEY: Well, severe, strict. I was, without question, a conservative governor in my state. We balanced the budget all four years I was in office. We cut taxes 19 times.

I enabled our state police to enforce illegal immigration laws so that people could be taken out of our state that were illegally. We drove our schools to have —[applause]— campaigned for and fought for English immersion in our school, and had that successfully implemented. My policies in Massachusetts were to — were conservative, and in a state, as Rick indicated, a state that was a relatively liberal state, I stood up and said I would stand on the side of life when the legislature passed a bill saying that life would not be defined not at conception but later.

I said no. When there was an effort to put in place embryo farming and cloning, I vetoed that. When the Catholic Church was attacked, saying, look we’re not going to allow you to continue to place children in homes where there’s a preference for a man and a woman being the mom and dad, I worked with the Catholic Church to put legislation in place to protect their right to exercise their religious conscience.

I have through my record as a governor demonstrated that kind of conservative belief. But also, look a step back and look at my record running the Olympics. Balanced the budget there, made it successful with the help of a terrific team.

Then look back into the business. You can’t be, I don’t believe, anything but a fiscal conservative and run a business, because if you don’t balance your budget, you go out of business.

KING: Mr. Speaker, as you know, often when deficit reduction —[applause]— when deficit reduction and economic growth are priorities at the same time, some people see a collision. Some people see a conflict. You’ve outlined your views on taxes. Governor Romney today outlined a tax plan that would cut the — put the top rate at 28 percent, eliminate capital gain taxes for incomes below $200,000, cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Is that the right approach? And is it consistent — and it’s a tough one sometimes — with spurring economic growth at a time this state and other states are looking for jobs? But as you have Gilbert’s question, also looking to make sure the next president works on the deficit?

GINGRICH: Well, look, first of all, I think that Governor Romney today moved in the right direction, and I think that that’s a serious step towards trying to find — closer to supply side. I wouldn’t agree with him on capping capital gains cuts at $200,000, because I think that’s, frankly, economically destructive, and I don’t believe in class warfare.

And that’s a number below Obama’s class warfare number. So we can argue later about capital gains cuts.

But I think there’s a different question. Everybody talks about managing the current government. The current government is a disaster. I mean, we don’t — you know —[applause]— this is — it is — the reason I started with the idea that came out of Strong America Now to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws and go to a modern management system, is you change everything.

And the fact is, if we’re serious — and, in a funny kind of way, Ron and I are closer on the scale of change. We’d approach it slightly different, but I think you’ve got to start and say what would a modern system be like?

And a modern system would be — just take control of the border. It is utterly stupid to say that the United States government can’t control the border. It’s a failure of will, it’s a failure of enforcement. [applause]

So let me just take that one example. Let’s assume you could, tomorrow morning, have a president who wanted to work with your governor, that instead of suing Arizona, helped Arizona, who actually worked with Arizona. Now —[applause]— what’s the fiscal reality three years from now in your emergency rooms, in your schools, in your prisons, of controlling the border? It’s a lot less expensive. You just took a major step towards a less expensive future. So I think it is possible to modernize the federal government and cut taxes and develop energy simultaneously. And the three lead you to Gilbert’s concern. Let’s get back to a balanced budget. [applause]

KING: The Speaker raises an important point about looking forward, and I hope we spend most of the night doing that. But as you know, there’s a lot of anger in the base of the party about some of the things that have happened in the past, and the Tea Party, especially.

Now, earmarks, the pork barrel spending, it’s a tiny slice of the budget. I think we all know that. But if you talk to a Tea Party activist, they think — an example, a gateway to corruption.

Senator, you have said there are good earmarks and bad earmarks. And you have talked about your earmarks in the past. Any that you specifically regret? And why have you criticized — why do you think the money that went to Governor Romney for security at the Olympics, why was that a bad earmark?

SANTORUM: I didn’t suggest it was a bad earmark. I voted for it and about half the money — a little over half the money that went to the Salt Lake games.

But Governor Romney asked for that earmark. That’s really the point here. He’s out there on television ads right now, unfortunately, attacking me for saying that I’m this great earmarker, when he not only asked for earmarks for the Salt Lake Olympics in the order of tens of millions of dollars, sought those earmarks and used them, and he did as the governor of Massachusetts, $300 million or $400 million. He said, I would be foolish if I didn’t go out and try to get federal dollars.

So the idea that somehow earmarks during the time that I was in Congress were this thing that drove up spending in Washington, D.C., if you actually look at it, as I said before, as a percentage of GDP, actually the deficits — the debt went down. What happened is there was abuse.

When abuse happened, I said we should stop the earmarking process. But I did say there were good earmarks and bad earmarks.

We wouldn’t have the V-22 Osprey, which was the most essential air platform for our Marines in particular in the war against the radical Islamists. We wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for an earmark. That program would have been killed under George Bush 41. Dick Cheney, the Defense Department, wanted to kill that program, and many of us, including myself, stood up and made sure that was there.

Congress has a role to play when it comes to appropriating money, and sometimes the president and the administration doesn’t get it right. What happened was an abuse of the process.

When that abuse occurred, I stepped forward, as Jim DeMint did, who, by the way, was an earmarker, as almost everybody else in Congress was. Why? Because Congress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong.

I defended that at the time. I’m proud I defended it at the time, because I think they did make mistakes. I do believe there was abuse, and I said we should stop it, and as president I would oppose earmarks.

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I didn’t follow all of that, but I can tell you this — I would put a ban on earmarks. I think it opens the door to excessive spending, spending on projects that don’t need to be done.

I think there are a lot of projects that have been voted for. You voted to the “Bridge to Nowhere.” I think these earmarks, we’ve had it with them.

SANTORUM: Yes.

ROMNEY: If Congress wants to vote in favor of a bill, they should take that bill, bring it forward with committees, have people say — vote it up or down on the floor of the House or the Senate, have the president say yes or no, and move forward. But the earmark process is broken. There are thousands and thousands of earmarks, money being used inappropriately.

And I’ll tell you this — he mentioned coming to the Olympics, coming to the United States Congress, asking for support. No question about it. That’s the nature of what it is when you lead an organization or a state.

You come to Congress and you say, these are the things we need. In the history of the Olympic movement, the federal government has always provided the transportation and security. So we came to the federal government asking for help on transportation and security.

I was fighting for those things. Our games were successful. But while I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

KING: Quickly. [applause]

SANTORUM: It’s really interesting, Governor, because the process you just described of an open process where members of Congress put forth their suggestions on how to spend money, have them voted on individually, is exactly how the process worked. So what you just suggested as to how earmarks should work in the future is exactly how they worked in the past. So I suspect you would have supported earmarks if you were in the United States Senate.

ROMNEY: I’m sorry. The 6,000 earmarks that were put in place under the Speaker’s term, for instance, were oftentimes tagged on to other bills —[booing]

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be critical.

That was the process. There were thousands — I mean, we’ve had thousands and thousands of earmarks. They are typically tagged on to — bundled on to other bills.

OK. Go ahead, Mr. Speaker. Go ahead.

SANTORUM: Wait a second. You’re entitled to your opinions, Mitt. You’re not entitled to —

ROMNEY: I’ve heard that line before. I’ve heard that before, yes.

SANTORUM: — misrepresent the facts, and you’re misrepresenting the facts. You don’t know what you’re taking about.

What happened in the earmark process — what happens in the earmark process was that members of Congress would ask, formally, publicly request these things, put them on paper, and have them allocated, and have them voted on a committee, have them voted on, on the floor of the Senate.

Congressman Paul — Congressman…

ROMNEY: Attached to a bill? Attached to a bill?

SANTORUM: As part of the bill. Congressman Paul…

ROMNEY: And the president can’t veto it?

SANTORUM: He can veto the bill.

ROMNEY: The whole bill, but he can’t veto the earmark?

SANTORUM: Well, we tried to do that, by the way. I supported a line-item veto.

ROMNEY: That’s what I support. That’s what I support. [applause]

SANTORUM: Hold on. Hold on.

Mitt, I agree with you. I support — I support the line-item veto. I voted for a line-item veto so we could do just that. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck it down. I would like to go back, as president, again, and give the president the authority to line-item veto.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is were they transparent? And the bottom line was, when I was in the United States Senate, there was transparency, and Congressman Paul, who is one of the most prolific earmarkers in the Congress today, is — would tell you…

And I’m not — I’m not criticizing; I’m just saying that’s a fact, that…[laughter]… that he — he…[applause] [booing]

ROMNEY: I think you need a chance to say a word. [crosstalk] [laughter]

KING: Mr. Speaker, you were referenced by the governor, you first, then Congressman Paul.

Don’t worry. We’ll get to you, Congressman. I promise. [booing]

GINGRICH: Now, look, let me just say flatly all of you need to think about this because this is one of those easy demagogic fights that gets you into a lot of trouble. If you have Barack Obama as president and you have a Republican House, you may want the House imposing certain things on the president.

Now, when I was speaker, for example…[applause]… and we had a liberal Democrat in the White House — I actually want to reinforce what the governor said. I helped the Atlanta Olympics get the support they needed from the U.S. government to be successful. I thought it was totally appropriate to help the Atlanta Olympics. And I actually went to — to your former governor and sat down with the people originally planning the Winter Olympics and said, look, this is what we did; this is what you need to do.

I think it was totally appropriate for you to ask for what you got. I just think it’s, kind of, silly for you to then turn around and run an ad attacking somebody else for getting what you got and then claiming what you got wasn’t what they got because what you got was right and what they got was wrong. [laughter] [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, answer Senator Santorum, please, sir.

PAUL: I followed that and I…[laughter]

You know, there’s reason for the confusion, because…[laughter]… because it’s all Congress’s fault. They’re all messed up and they don’t know what they’re doing in Congress is the real reason. [applause]

But this whole idea of earmarking — earmarking is designating how the money’s spent. What a lot of people don’t understand is if — if the Congress doesn’t say the way the money should be spent, it goes to the executive branch, and that’s the bad part. If you were actually cutting, it would make a difference. But you don’t want to give more power to the executive branch.

Even if I’m president, I don’t want more power over that — over that funding. That should be with the people and — and with the Congress. But earmarking — the reason we get into trouble is — is the irresponsibility of Congress.

Take your highway funds. We’re supposed to pay a user fee. If we pay our gasoline tax, we should get our fair share back. But what do they do? They take the highway funds and other of these trust funds and they spend this money overseas in these wars that we shouldn’t be fighting. And then when the highways need building, then you have to go and fight the political system and know who to deal with and maneuver and try to get some of your money back.

But if you say you’re against — against the earmarking and fuss and fume over, the answer is vote against the bill. That is what I do. I argue for the case of the responsibility being on the Congress, but it’s the responsibility of us who believe in fiscal conservatism to vote against the bill. We need to vote against the spending is what we need to do. [applause]

KING: Let’s take another important economic question. This one comes to us from CNNPolitics.com, and you can see it in the audience up on the board here.

“Why was George W. Bush wrong in his efforts to save the auto industry and why was Barack Obama wrong to continue the effort?”

Senator Santorum, I want to go to you first with this question. You, like your friends on the stage tonight, opposed the auto bailout. Michigan votes on Tuesday, along with Arizona. We assume folks are watching there tonight. Address your answer to an auto worker who may believe strongly that he or she has that job tonight because of the help — the bailout?

SANTORUM: I would just say to them that I in principle oppose government coming in and bailing out a sector of the economy or an industry with government dollars and — and with government manipulation of that market, which is exactly what happened twice, in 2008 and 2009.

The first time it happened was the Wall Street bailout. On principle, I opposed the Wall Street bailout, even though I understand people — reasonable people could disagree. I felt that having the government come in in such a major way and have a huge influence over the direction of that industry, that that would be damaging to what I believe is the best way to resolve these types of problems, which lets the market work, constructive capitalism, as Governor Romney was talking about in his days at Bain Capital, and destructive capitalism.

And that means pain. I understand that. But it also means limited government and allowing markets to work because we believe they’re more efficient over time. I held the same consistent position when it came to the auto bailouts. I can say that with respect to Governor Romney, that was not the case. He supported the folks on Wall Street and bailed out Wall Street, was all for it. And then when it came to the auto workers, the folks in Detroit, he said, no. That to me is not a consistent, principled position. I had one. I believe in markets, not just when they’re convenient for me.

KING: Governor? [applause]

ROMNEY: Nice — nice try, but now let’s look at the facts. All right, first of all — first of all let’s go back to the auto industry and — and go back to 2000, I think it was 2008, President Bush was still in office and the three chief executive officers of the three major auto companies got in their private planes and flew to Washington and said, please write us a check. I think they wanted $50 billion. And I wrote an Op-Ed in the paper and I said, absolutely not. Do not write a check for $50 billion.

These companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy, just like airlines have, just like other industries have. Go through a managed bankruptcy…[applause]…and — and if they go through that managed bankruptcy and shed the excessive cost that’s been put on them by the UAW and by their own mismanagement, then if they need help coming out of bankruptcy, the government can provided guarantees and get them back on their feet. No way would we allow the auto industry in America to totally implode and disappear. That was my view. Go through bankruptcy. When that happens, then the market can help lift them out. With regards to — to TARP it’s very simple, or — or the Wall Street. Look, I don’t want to save any Wall Street Banks.

I just don’t want [sic] make sure we lose all of our banks. And like — like President Bush at the time, I was concerned that if we didn’t do something, there were some pretty high risks that not just Wall Street banks, but all banks would collapse. And like many other people — many other economists, they were concerned that our entire currency system would go down. My view is this, we have to have industries that get in trouble, go through bankruptcy. Now, Senator you voted in favor of the bail out of the airline industry after 9/11.

I think that was the right thing to do. It was an emergency. You also voted for the bail out of the steel industry. I don’t think I agree with that one, but I do believe that the right course for the auto industry was to go through a managed bankruptcy process and then to get help getting out.

KING: Governor let me ask you…[applause]…you — you mentioned — you mentioned President Bush’s position on the Wall Street bail out. If you talk to people in the Bush administration at the time, they say they would have preferred the structured bankruptcy route that you talked about, but that there was no private capital available. That nobody would give the auto companies money and that their choice they say at the time, was to either give the government money or have them liquidate.

ROMNEY: Yeah, it was really interesting. Because, you know, I wrote my piece and I said look, these companies need to go through managed bankruptcy. And the head of the UAW said, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. The industry will disappear if that happens. And the politicians, Barack Obama’s people, oh no, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. Six months they wrote, I think it was $17 billion in checks to the auto companies. Then they finally realized I was right. They finally put them through managed bankruptcy. That was the time they needed the help to get out of managed bankruptcy.

Those monies they put in beforehand were — it was wasted money. And number two, because they put that money in, the president gave the companies to the UAW, they were part of the reason the companies were in trouble. Giving these companies to the UAW was wrong. [applause] [crosstalk]

KING: Mr. Speaker — one second. [applause] [crosstalk] [applause]

SANTORUM: As — as Governor Romney well knows, that the American government shut down the airline industry after 9/11. And the government by it’s action stopped the airline industry from functioning and yes, as a result of government action, which I thought it was appropriate for government since we shut down the industry…[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: I agree with you.

SANTORUM: …after the events of 9/11.

ROMNEY: I agree.

SANTORUM: But government didn’t shut down the banks. They didn’t shut down the financial service industry. So when you compare those, it’s not apples to apples, Mitt and that’s not a fair comparison.

KING: Mr. Speaker, come in on the conversation. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough one. It’s a major American industry, in a time of trouble.

GINGRICH: That’s not a tough…[crosstalk]

KING: That’s not tough, you say.

GINGRICH: It’s not tough. First of all, there’s a huge amount of the American auto industry that was just fine. BMW in South Carolina was terrific. Mercedes in Alabama was doing just fine. Honda in Ohio was just fine. So the — Toyota was just fine. What we have is the United Auto Workers and a management system that had grown very, I think incapable of tough decisions because they were used to selling out to the United Auto Workers. And so they came in and said, oh we can’t change. And this president on behalf of the United Auto Workers said, you’re exactly right.

Now, the fact is, Chrysler is now Fiat. So when we talk about saving the American auto industry, let’s be clear what they were doing. I think that they would have been much better off to have gone through a managed bankruptcy, I agree with Governor Romney. I think it would have happened. I think what would have happened is the UAW would have lost all of their advantages and the result was, what you had I thought was an unprecedented violation of 200 years of bankruptcy law by Barack Obama to pay off the UAW at the expense of every bondholder. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, as you join the conversation, the criticism of President Obama here, but I also want you to address the state’s current Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who supports Mitt Romney, but that’s irrelevant to this point. He says, “The bailout actually was something that really worked.”

Is that Republican governor wrong?

PAUL: Well, you know, it’s interesting when they argue that case.

First, I don’t like the idea that you have good bailouts and bad bailouts. If bailouts are bad, they’re bad, and we shouldn’t be doing it.

But this argument about maybe one that works, you know, well, now that the bankruptcy or the bailing out of GM worked, I said that’s sort of like if a criminal goes out and robs a bank, and he’s successful, therefore you endorse what he did, because he’s successful. But you have to rob people, you have to distort the law.

The government is supposed to protect contracts. They’re not supposed to regulate contracts and they’re not supposed to undermine contracts. And that’s what we’ve been doing. [applause]

In the housing bubble, we undermined contracts. And this is what we’re doing here. So you want to respect the contracts.

A lot of people will accuse me of advocating a free market, that there’s no regulations. Actually, the regulations are tougher, because you have to go through bankruptcy and you have to face up to this.

And it isn’t like General Motors would be destroyed. Newt made that point there, that there were good parts of General Motors. But politicians can’t figure this out. Then they serve the special interests, and then you have labor fighting big business.

I opt for the free market in defense of liberty. That’s what we need in this country. [applause]

KING: All right.

We’re off to a good start, Gentlemen. We’re going to take our first break of the evening.

In a moment, our Republican presidential debate here in Arizona continues. A lot more ground to cover, including two issues that are dominating the discussion here in Arizona in recent days, immigration and faith.

[commercial break]

KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Arts Center and the Arizona Republican Presidential debate. Let’s get right back to questioning the four contenders for the Republican nomination. We take a question now from cnnpolitics.com. You can see it up on the screen here.

Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why? As you can see — it’s a — it’s a very popular question in the audience, as we can see. Look, we’re not going to spend a ton of time on this but it is — please.

GINGRICH: Can I just make a point?

KING: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are giving you some feedback here, John.

KING: I see that. I see that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they’re making it very clear.

GINGRICH: No, I think — look, I think there’s — I want to make two — I want to make two quick point, John.

The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate. [applause]

KING: Sure is.

GINGRICH: But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. OK? So let’s be clear here. [applause]

If we’re going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans.

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: John, what’s happened — and you recall back in the debate that we had George Stephanopoulos talking out about birth control, we wondered why in the world did contraception — and it’s like, why is he going there? Well, we found out when Barack Obama continued his attack on religious conscience.

I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama. Most recently, of course —[applause]— most recently requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable.

And he retried to retreat from that but he retreated in a way that was not appropriate, because these insurance companies now have to provide these same things and obviously the Catholic Church will end up paying for them.

But don’t forget the decision just before this, where he said the government — not a church, but the government should have the right to determine who a church’s ministers are for the purposes of determining whether they’re exempt from EEOC or from workforce laws or labor laws.

He said the government should make that choice. That went all the way to the Supreme Court. There are a few liberals on the Supreme Court. They voted 9-0 against President Obama. His position —[applause]— his position — his position on religious tolerance, on religious conscience is clear, and it’s one of the reasons the people in this country are saying we want to have a president who will stand up and fight for the rights under our Constitution, our first right, which is for freedom of religion.

KING: So let’s focus the time — let’s focus the time we spend on this on the role of the president and your personal views and question the role of government.

And Senator Santorum, this has come up — yes, it has come up because of the president’s decision in the campaign. It’s also come up because of some of the things you have said on the campaign trail. When you were campaigning in Iowa, you told an evangelical blog, if elected, you will talk about what, quote, “no president has talked about before — the dangers of contraception.” Why?

SANTORUM: What I was talking about is we have a society — Charles Murray just wrote a book about this and it’s on the front page of “The New York Times” two days ago, which is the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active.

What we’re seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all — a host of other things when children have children.

And so, yes, I was talking about these very serious issues. And, in fact, as I mentioned before, two days ago on the front page of “The New York Times”, they’re talking about the same thing. The bottom line is we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing.

Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it’s so much harder to succeed economically? It’s five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax — we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything’s not going to be fine.

There are bigger problems at stake in America. And someone has got to go out there — I will — and talk about the things.

And you know what? Here’s the difference.

The left gets all upset. “Oh, look at him talking about these things.” You know, here’s the difference between me and the left, and they don’t get this. Just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it.

That’s what they do. That’s not what we do. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: As an OB doctor, I’ve dealt with birth control pills and contraception for a long time. This is a consequences of the fact the government has control of medical care and medical insurance, and then we fight over how we dictate how this should be distributed, sort of like in schools. Once the government takes over the schools, especially at the federal level, then there’s no right position, and you have to argue which prayer, are you allowed to pray, and you get into all the details.

The problem is the government is getting involved in things they shouldn’t be involved in, especially at the federal level. [applause]

But sort of along the line of the pills creating immorality, I don’t see it that way. I think the immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pills. So you don’t blame the pills.

I think it’s sort of like the argument — conservatives use the argument all the time about guns. Guns don’t kill, criminals kill. [applause]

So, in a way, it’s the morality of society that we have to deal with. The pill is there and, you know, it contributes, maybe, but the pills can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society. [applause]

KING: Governor, please.

ROMNEY: John, you know, I think as Rick has just said, this isn’t an argument about contraceptives, this is a discussion about, are we going to have a nation which preserves the foundation of the nation, which is the family, or are we not? And Rick is absolutely right.

When you have 40 percent of kids being born out of wedlock, and among certain ethnic groups the vast majority being born out of wedlock, you ask yourself, how are we going to have a society in the future? Because these kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they’re in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single-family homes. And we haven’t been willing to talk about this. And when we have programs that say we’re going to teach abstinence in schools, the liberals go crazy and try and stop us from doing that. We have to have a president who’s willing to say that the best opportunity an individual can give to their unborn child is an opportunity to be born in a home with a mother and a father. And I think —[applause]

KING: It’s an issue on which all of you have criticism on the Obama administration, it’s an issue on which some of you have also criticized each other.

Governor Romney, both Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have said during your tenure as governor, you required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

And Mr. Speaker, you compared the president to President Obama, saying he infringed on Catholics’ rights.

Governor, did you do that?

ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. Of course not.

There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their report. There was no such requirement.

Likewise, in Massachusetts health care bill, there’s a provision in Massachusetts general laws that says people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings. Churches also don’t have to provide that to entities which are either the church themselves or entities they control. So we have provisions that make sure that something of that nature does not occur.

That’s why when I worked closely with the leaders of the Catholic Church, I met with the cardinal a number of times, and with his emissaries. We talked about the issues we were concerned about.

We battled, for instance, to help the Catholic Church stay in the adoption business. The amazing thing was that while the Catholic Church was responsible for half the adoptions in my state — half the adoptions — they had to get out of that business because the legislature wouldn’t support me and give them an exemption from having to place children in homes where there was a mom and a dad on a preferential basis.

Absolutely extraordinary. We have to have individuals that will stand up for religious conscience, and I did and I will again as president. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, the reports we got were quite clear that the public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning-after abortion pill, and that the governor’s office issued explicit instructions saying that they believed it wasn’t possible under Massachusetts law to give them that waiver. Now, that was the newspaper reports that came out. That’s something that both Senator Santorum and I have raised before. But I want to go a step further, because this makes a point that Ron Paul has been making for a generation and that people need to take very seriously.

When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move towards tyranny, because the government has the power of force. [applause]

You inevitably — and I think this is true whether it’s Romneycare or Obamacare or any other government centralized system — you inevitably move towards the coercion of the state and the state saying, “If you don’t do what we, the politicians, have defined, you will be punished either financially or you will be punished in some other way like going to jail.”

And that’s why we are, I think, at an enormous crossroads in this country. And I think the fact is, for almost all of us who have been at this for any length of time, we’re now looking at an abyss that forces you to change what you may once have thought — and I suspect all four of us are much more worried today about the power of the state than we would have been — with the possible exception of Congressman Paul — than we would have been at any point in the last 25 years.

PAUL: John…[applause]

KING: Congressman, please.

PAUL: … have a quick follow-up? [applause]

You know, we talk about the morning-after pill. Actually, the morning-after pill is nothing more than a birth control pill, so if birth control pills are on the market, the morning-after pill — so if you’re going to legalize birth control pills, you really — you can’t separate the two. They’re all basically the same, hormonally.

But once again, the question is, if you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control pills. And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money — “Oh, I’ll buy birth control pills,” but then they have the money left over to do the abortion.

So that’s why you have to have a pretty strong resistance of voting for these bunches of bills put together. Planned Parenthood should get nothing, let alone designate how they spend. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum? [applause]

SANTORUM: As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including…[booing]… the funding for the National Institutes of Health, the funding for Health and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It’s a multi-billion-dollar bill.

What I did, because Title X was always pushed through, I did something that no one else did. Congressman Paul didn’t. I said, well, if you’re going to have Title X funding, then we’re going to create something called Title XX, which is going to provide funding for abstinence-based programs, so at least we’ll have an opportunity to provide programs that actually work in — in keeping children from being sexually active instead of facilitating children from being sexually active. And I pushed Title XX to — to accomplish that goal.

So while, yes, I — I admit I voted for large appropriation bills and there were things in there I didn’t like, things in there I did, but when it came to this issue, I proactively stepped forward and said that we need to do something at least to counterbalance it, A; B, I would say that I’ve always been very public that, as president of the United States, I will defund Planned Parenthood; I will not sign any appropriation bill that funds Planned Parenthood. [applause] [crosstalk]

KING: Senator [sic], go ahead.

PAUL: John, this demonstrates the problem that I’m talking about. There’s always an excuse to do this. Now…[applause]… Title XX — I don’t know whether you inferred that I would support Title XX for abstinence. No, it would cost money as a program. It’s not a program of the federal government to get involved in our lives this way. If you want laws like that, maybe the state, but…[applause]… the federal government shouldn’t even be having — spending money on abstinence. That’s way too much more. I don’t see that in the Constitution any… [crosstalk]

ROMNEY: Just a — just a brief comment. Senator, I just saw a YouTube clip of you being interviewed where you said that you personally opposed contraceptives but that you — you said that you voted for Title X. You… [crosstalk]

But you used that as an argument, saying this is something I did proactively. You didn’t say this is something I was opposed to; it wasn’t something I would have done. You said this — you said this in a positive light, “I voted for Title X.” [laughter]

SANTORUM: I think it’s — I think I was making it clear that, while I have a personal more objection to it; even though I don’t support it, that I voted for bills that included it. And I made it very clear in subsequent interviews that I don’t — I don’t support that…[booing]… I’ve never supported it, and — and have — and on an individual basis have voted against it. That’s why I proposed Title XX to counterbalance it.

So I — you know, Governor Romney, I can just say that — that, you know, we were talking about this issue before of, you know, religious conscience and protections. But this is — the whole reason this issue is alive is because of the bill that you drafted in Massachusetts, Romneycare, which was the model for Obamacare and the government takeover of health care. [booing]

ROMNEY: Wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second.

SANTORUM: And there was a study…

ROMNEY: Wait a second.

SANTORUM: There was a study that just came out about 10 days ago, two weeks ago, that listed 15 ways in which Romneycare was the model for Obamacare, everything from individual mandates, everything from — from fines. Yours is different. You required businesses over 10 employees; Barack — President Obama’s is over 50 employees.

But there — there’s a — and even the drafter of your bill, when they were working on Obama’s bill, said in fact it was the model. So here we have, as Newt said, the real fundamental issue here is government coercion and government coercion when you give governments the right to be able to take your responsibility to provide for your own health and — and — and care, and give it to the government.

That’s what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts. It would be a very — very, let say it would be a difficult task for someone who had the model for Obama Care, which is the biggest issue in this race of government in control of your lives, to be the nominee of our party. It would take that issue completely off… [crosstalk]

KING: Governor — Governor, take 30 seconds to respond and then I want to move the conversation on.

ROMNEY: Much longer than 30 seconds.

KING: I hope not.

ROMNEY: That’s a — that’s a long — that’s a long — that’s a long answer. First of all, let’s not forget that four years ago, well after Romney Care was put in place, four years ago, you not only endorsed me, you and Laura Ingram, and said and this is the guy who is really conservative and we can trust him. Let’s not forget you said, that number one. [applause]

Number two…[applause]…number two, under the tenth amendment, states have the right to do things that they think are in their best interest. I know you — you agree with that. But let’s — let’s point this out, our bill was 70 pages. His bill is 2700 pages. There’s a lot in that 2,700 pages I don’t agree with and let me tell you, if I’m president of the United States, I will repeal Obama Care for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t want to spend another trillion dollars. We don’t have that kind of money, it’s the wrong way to go. Number two, I don’t believe the federal government should cut Medicare by some $500 billion.

Number three, I don’t think the federal government should raise taxes by $500 billion and, therefore, I will repeat Obama Care. And let me — let me — let me mention one more — the reason we have Obama Care — the reason we have Obama Care is because the Senator you supported over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, the pro- choice Senator of Pennsylvania that you supported and endorsed in a race over Pat Toomey, he voted for Obama Care. If you had not supported him, if we had said, no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obama Care. So don’t look at me. Take a look in the mirror. [applause]

KING: Senator please, quickly? [applause]

SANTORUM: So, okay Governor, let’s — let’s get this straight. First off number one, you funded Romney Care through federal tax dollars through Medicaid. I know it well, it’s called disproportionate share provider tax. About $400 million that you got from the federal taxpayers to underwrite Romney Care to make sure you didn’t have to raise taxes right away. But of course you had to. Ask your governor, of the $8 billion of tax increases he had to put in place.

Yes governor, you balanced the budget for four years. You have a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes. I’m all for — I’d like to see it federally. But don’t go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years, does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don’t think so. [applause]

The bottom line is, what you did was you used federal dollars to fund the government takeover of health care in Massachusetts, used it as — and — and Barack Obama…[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter.

SANTORUM: Well, I’ll get to that in a minute. [applause] But — and then Barack Obama used it as a model for taking over this health care system in America. Why I supported Arlen Specter, number one because — because Arlen Specter was a — a Senator who was going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at a time when the most important issue that was coming up in the next session of Congress was two to three Supreme Court nominees that were going to be available. And one, and maybe two of them, or maybe all three were going to be out of the conservative block. And Arlen Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we had a conversation.

He asked me to support him. I said will you support the president’s nominees? We had a 51/49 majority in the Senate. He said I’ll support the president’s nominees as chairman. Every nominee Arlen Specter supported from the time he — he took on Judge Forks and saved Justice Thomas. Every nominee he supported, passed. Why? Because it gave Democrats cover to vote for it and it gave Republican moderates cover to vote for it. [crosstalk]

And just — no because he wouldn’t have been able to give the moderate Republicans and the conservative Democrats the — the leeway to then support that nominee, which is exactly what Arlen Specter did. He defended Roberts, defended Alito. We have a 5/4 majority on the court that struck down that case that you just talked about and is there as a guardian of liberty. And I did the right thing for our country. [crosstalk] [applause]

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter…[crosstalk] [applause]…supporting Arlen Specter — supporting Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, that was a — that was a very tortuous route…[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: Just about as tortuous as…[crosstalk]

KING: Let’s move the conversation along — let’s move the conversation along and take a question from a voter down here in our audience. All right, Sir identify yourself and ask your question please?

QUESTION: Gentleman my name is Jerry Lott and I’m from Key Man, Arizona. It seems that Arizona has come under federal attack just for wanting to secure its southern border. What will you and your administrations do to fix the situation? To secure our border and to protect the American people? [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, I want to go to you first on this one. You’re from a border state. As you answer Gary’s question, a recent federal analysis says the cost of secure fencing, which they have a good deal of the border along this state, would cost about $3 million per mile. Is that a good investment? Money well spent?

PAUL: Probably not, but we can do a better job, and the best way to do it is forget about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and deal with our borders, put our resources on this border. This is what we need. But we need to change the rules. We reward illegal immigration. They get benefits, Texas hospitals, and, you know, schools are going bankrupt.

The restraints on the states, and Obama’s restraints on the states to deal with it. Why is it if an illegal comes across the border and they go on private property, why isn’t that trespassing? And why don’t you have the right to stop it? So but there should be no mandates from the federal government about what you must do under the 9th and 10th. There would be essentially none.

But the federal government does have a responsibility for these borders. And I just hate to see all these resources — I think that we should have much more immigration service on the border to make it easier — it’s hard to even get to visit this country. We’re losing a lot of visitors and workers that could come to this country because we have an inefficient immigration service.

And then that invites the illegal. We have to deal — we can’t endorse the illegal, but the program today endorses the illegal problems. And a weak economy is always detrimental, too, because of the welfare state. We have welfare at home and some jobs go begging, we have jobs going begging in this country in the midst of the recession, has to do with the economy.

You can’t ignore the economy. But also the welfare state, allowing immigrants to come over and then get the benefits — if you subsidize something, you get more of. So there’s a lot we can do and should do and certainly this president is not doing a very good job. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, the fence has been a point of contention in the race. And one of your high-profile supporters, a gentleman who’s been up here during this campaign, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, is here tonight. He said this: if you build a 30-foot wall from El Paso to Brownsville, the 35-foot ladder business gets really good.

You signed a pledge to construct a double fence. Why is Governor Perry wrong?

GINGRICH: He’s not wrong. They’d have to have two 35-foot ladders because it’s a double fence. [laughter]

Look, the fact is I helped Duncan Hunter pass the first fence bill in San Diego when I was Speaker of the House. San Diego and Tijuana are the most densely populated border. It turned out it worked. It worked dramatically. Duncan and I would be glad to testify. He’s former chairman of the national — of the Defense Committee — how much it worked.

However, it stopped. It stopped in part because there was a wetlands. It turned out none of the illegal immigrants cared about wetlands policy. Then you had to go and build around the wetlands, which we did. The further we have gone with the fence, the fewer the people have broken into California.

Now, the thing that’s fascinating, though, John, is you quoted a government study of how much it would cost. That’s my earlier point. If you modernize the federal government so it’s competent, you could probably do it for 10 percent of the cost of that study.

The fact is —[applause]— what I would do, I would — I have — I have a commitment at newt.org, I would — to finish the job by January 1, 2014, I would initiate a bill that would waive all federal regulations, requirement and studies.

I would ask Governor Brewer here, I would ask Governor Martinez, Governor Brown, and Governor Perry to become the co-leaders in their state. We would apply as many resources as are needed to be done by January 1 of 2014, including, if necessary — there are 23,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel in the D.C. area.

I’m prepared to move up to half of them to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This is a doable thing. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney, the border security is part of the equation, what to do about whether it’s 8 million or 11 million illegal immigrants in the country now is another part of the equation. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s with us tonight from Maricopa County — he’s in the audience — he told me —[applause]— he told me this week here in Mesa — these are his words — “it’s called political garbage, if you will, to not arrest illegals already in this country.”

You’ve talked to the governor about self-deportation, if businesses do their job, asking for the right documents, the people will leave. What about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says — that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who’s here legally and who’s not here legally.

And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn’t doing. [applause]

And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I’ll also complete the fence. I’ll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E- Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E- Verify, they’re going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.

You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It’s time we finally did it. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, we had the conversation about the border and the fence. Governor Romney talks about E-Verify, making sure business is doing their part of the equation.

What about the individual? You said in our last debate employers should be sanctioned, as Governor Romney just said, if they hire illegal immigrants. About a quarter of all workers in private households are undocumented.

What about the homeowner who hires somebody as a household cleaning worker, as a nanny, perhaps? Does that person — if you’re going to be consistent, have enforcement across the board, should that person be sanctioned?

SANTORUM: I’m not going to require homeowners to do E-Verify. I think that’s one step too far. But I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they’re doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country, to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they’re found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment.

This is enforcing not just upon the employer, but on those who are here illegally and trying to do things that are against the law, like seeking employment here.

KING: It’s a tough policy question, obviously, and this state has been part of the driving force. It also becomes — especially for four gentlemen who would like to be the next president of the United States, it’s a difficult political question in the sense that the Latino population is the fastest-growing demographic in our country.

And some Republicans — some Republicans — Marco Rubio, for example, the senator from Florida that all of you have complimented, said — could be a leading force in your administration if you’re elected — he said this recently. He says he worries that some of the rhetoric used by Republican politicians on this issue has been harsh, intolerable, inexcusable.

Mr. Speaker, is he right?

GINGRICH: I don’t know who he’s referring to, so I’m not going to comment in general on a statement. Is there somebody somewhere who’s done that? Sure.

Was it also intolerable for President Obama to go to El Paso and make a totally demagogic speech in which he fundamentally — no. [applause]

The great failure here — I voted in 1986 for the bill which was supposed to solve all this, which Ronald Reagan solved — signed. And in Reagan’s diary, he says, I signed this bill because we have to get control of the border and we have to have an employer-sanctioned program with a guest worker program.

Now, all of us who voted for that bill got shortchanged on everything we were supposed to get. President Bush couldn’t get it through. President Obama can’t get it through.

I believe you cannot pass a single large comprehensive bill, the 2,700-page kind of bill you described. I think you’ve got to go one step at a time.

The first step is to control the border. I don’t believe anybody who’s here illegally — and I talked last night, for example, with folks who are of Hispanic background from Nogales who are in the import-export business dealing with Mexico every day. They don’t want a border that’s closed, they want a border that’s controlled, that has easy access for legality and impossible access for illegality. And that’s the model that I think you can talk about in my community of any ethnic background in this country. [applause]

KING: All right, Gentlemen. We’re going to take another quick break.

Our Arizona Republican presidential debate will continue in a moment, but here’s a question. One of these men could be president just 11 months from now. How would they deal with threats from Iran and North Korea? Plus, a great question sent to us at CNNPolitics.com. Define yourself using one word, Gentlemen, and one word only.

Can the candidates keep it that short? Stick around and find out.

[commercial break]

KING: That was a good exercise. Let’s move our conversation now —

UNKNOWN: It is.

KING: Let’s move our conversation now to the important responsibilities one of you gentlemen could have in just 11 months as the commander-in-chief of the United States.

And Governor Romney, I want to ask you first, 11 months from now, if you’re successful, you would be our commander-in-chief. The Pentagon recently announced plans to open up 14,000 new jobs to women, putting them closer and close to the front lines of combat. Senator Santorum says he sees a lot of things wrong with this.

What do you think?

ROMNEY: I would look to the people who are serving in the military to give the best assessment of where women can serve. We’ve had over 100 women lose their lives in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was with Governor Bob McDonnell. His daughter has served as a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He said that she doesn’t get emotional when she faces risk, he’s the one that gets emotional as she faces that kind of risk. And I believe women have the capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility, as we do throughout our society. [applause]

I do think that the key decisions that are being made by this administration, by President Obama, however, related to our military are seriously awry. This is a president who is shrinking our Navy, shrinking our Air Force, wants to shrink our active-duty personnel by 50,000 to 100,000, is cutting our military budget by roughly a trillion dollars.

The world is more dangerous. It is not safer.

North Korea is going through transition. The Arab Spring has become the Arab Winter.

Syria is in flux. And, of course, Pakistan, with 100 nuclear weapons or more, represents a potential threat. Northern Mexico is a real danger area.

I mean, looking around the world, you have Hezbollah in Latin America and Mexico. I mean, we face a very dangerous world. The right course is to add ships to our Navy, to modernize and add aircraft to our Air Force, to add 100,000 troops to our active-duty personnel, and to strengthen America’s military. [applause]

KING: I want to get to some of those hotspots Governor Romney just mentioned, but Speaker Gingrich, on the question of a more prominent role for women, good idea or bad idea?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think it’s a misleading question in the modern era. You live in a world of total warfare. Anybody serving our country in uniform virtually anywhere in the world could be in danger at virtually any minute. A truck driver can get blown up by a bomb as readily as the infantrymen.

So I would say that you ought to ask the combat leaders what they think is an appropriate step, as opposed to the social engineers of the Obama administration. [applause]

But everybody needs to understand — and by the way, we live in an age when we have to genuinely worry about nuclear weapons going off in our own cities. So everybody who serves in the fire department, in the police department, not just the first responders, but our National Guard, whoever is going to respond, all of us are more at risk today, men and women, boys and girls, than at any time in the history of this country. And we need to understand that’s the context in which we’re going to have to move forward in understanding the nature of modern combat.

I think this is a very sober period, and I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: The problem is the character of our wars. And I don’t like to think of people in groups. Individuals have rights, not groups. You don’t have women’s rights or men’s rights.

And we still have draft legislation. What I fear is the draft coming back because we’re getting way over-involved. And the draft — we keep registering our 18-year-olds. So when the draft comes, we’re going to be registering young women, and because of this they’re going to be equal.

Now, the wars we fight aren’t defensive wars, they’re offensive wars. We’re involved in way too much.

They’re undeclared, they’re not declared by the Congress, and so we’re in wars that shouldn’t be involved. So I don’t want even the men to be over there. I don’t want women being killed, but I don’t want the men being killed in these wars. [applause]

But because now we have accepted now for 10 years that we’re allowed to start war, we call pre-emptive war, preventive war. Well, that’s an aggressive war.

I believe in the Christian just war theory that you have to morally justify the wars in defense. Now, if we’re defending our country — and we need to defend, believe me — with men and women will be in combat and defending our country, and that’s the way it should be. But when it’s an offensive war, going where we shouldn’t be, that’s quite a bit different. So it’s the foreign policy that needs to be examined.

KING: Senator?

SANTORUM: I actually agree with the comments made by the two gentlemen to my left, that there are different roles of women in combat. They are on the front line right now. Their combat zone is, as Newt said, everywhere, unfortunately, in that environment.

My concern that I expressed, I didn’t say it was wrong. I said I had concerns about certain roles with respect to — and particularly in infantry.

I still have those concerns, but I would defer to at least hearing the recommendations of those involved. But I think we have civilian control of the military, and these are things that should be decided not just by the generals, but we should not have social engineering, as I think we’ve seen from this president. We should have sober minds looking at what is in fact the best proper — proper roles for everybody in combat.

KING: Let’s continue the conversation about the commander in chief question. We have a question from our audience, Sir?

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Ken Taylor from Wickenberg, Arizona and my question to all the candidates is, how do you plan on dealing with the growing nuclear threat in Iran?

KING: It’s a pressing question at the moment. Mr. Speaker, let’s go to you first on this one. I want to ask you in the context of the president’s and this country’s highest ranking military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey told CNN this last week, quote, “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and would not achieve Israel’s long term objectives.” If you win this election, General Dempsey would still be — would then be your chairman of the joint chiefs.

If the prime minister of Israel called you, said he wanted to go forward and questioned, Sir do you agree — Mr. President do you agree with your chairman of the joint chiefs? Would you say, yes, Mr. Prime Minister, please stand down? Or would you give Israel the green light?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all this is two different questions. General Dempsey went on to say that he thought Iran was a rational actor. I can’t imagine why he would say that. And I just cannot imagine why he would have said it. The fact is, this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad, who has said he doesn’t believe the Holocaust existed. This is a dictator who said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. This is a dictator who said he wants to drive the United States out of the Middle East. I’m inclined to believe dictators. Now I — I think that it’s dangerous not to. [applause]

If — if an Israeli prime minister, haunted by the history of the Holocaust, recognizing that three nuclear weapons is a holocaust in Israel, if an Israeli prime minister calls me and says, I believe in the defense of my country. This goes back to a point that Congressman Paul raised that we probably disagree on. I do believe there are moments when you preempt. If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons and you think that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons. [applause]

KING: But often…[applause] The American people often don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world until they have to, but this is an issue, this confrontation with Iran that is partly responsible for what we have seen daily at the gas pump. Prices going up and going up and going up. So I want — Governor Romney come into the conversation, we’ll continue it with everyone at the table. As we have this showdown, confrontation, call it what you will with Iran. Should our leadership, including the current president of the United States and the four gentleman here with me tonight, be prepared to look the American people in the eye and say — and I want to hear everybody’s plans, over the long run I think I can bring down the price of gasoline, or I can’t if that’s your plan.

But at the moment, we need to have a conversation about how as long as this continues, the prices are likely to keep going up.

ROMNEY: Look, the — the price of gasoline pales in comparison to the idea of Ahmadinejad with nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry. And — and — and this president has a lot of failures. It’s hard — it’s hard to think of — economically his failures, his — his policies in a whole host of areas have been troubling.

But nothing in my view is as serious a failure as his failure to deal with Iran appropriately. This president — this president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not. He decided to give Russia — he decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective, removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe and got nothing in return. He could have gotten crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not. When dissident voices took to the street in Iran to protest a stolen election there, instead of standing with them, he bowed to the election. This is a president…[applause]…who has made it clear through his administration in almost every communication we’ve had so far, that he does not want Israel to take action. That he opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They’re not just on the table. They are in our hand. We must now allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes. America will be at risk. And some day, nuclear weaponry will be used. If I am president, that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama, it will happen. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, please? [applause]

SANTORUM: I agree with Governor Romney’s comment. I think they are absolutely right on and well spoken.

I would say that if you’re looking for a president to be elected in this country that will send that very clear message to Iran as to the seriousness of the American public to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon, there would be no better candidate than me because I have been on the trail of Iran and trying to advocate for stopping them getting a nuclear weapon for about eight years now.

I was the author of a bill back in 2008 that talked about sanctions on a nuclear program that our intelligence community said didn’t exist and had the President of the United States, president bush oppose me for two years.

And, by the way, so did Joe Biden on the floor of the Senate, and Barack Obama. I always say if you want to know what foreign policy position to take, find out what Joe Biden’s position is and take the opposite opinion and you’ll be right 100 percent of the time.

But they opposed me. He actively opposed me. We did pass that bill eventually at the end of 2006, and it was to fund the pro- democracy movement, $100 million a year. Here’s what I said — we need to get this — these pro-American Iranians who are there, who want freedom, want democracy, and want somebody to help them and support them.

Well, we put — we put some money out there and guess what? Barack Obama cut it when he came into office. And when the Green Revolution rose, the pro-democracy prose, we had nothing. We had no connection, no correlation and we did absolutely nothing to help them.

In the meantime, when the radicals in Egypt and the radicals in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, when they rise against either a feckless leader or a friend of ours in Egypt, the president is more than happy to help them out.

When they’re going up against a dangerous theocratic regime that wants to wipe out the state of Israel, that wants to dominate the radical Islamic world and take on the great Satan, the United States, we do nothing. That is a president that must go. And you want a leader who will take them on? I’ll do that.

KING: Congressman Paul, all three of your rivals here make a passionate case that — all three of them make a passionate case that this is a vital U.S. national security interest. But you disagree.

PAUL: I disagree because we don’t know if they have a weapon. As a matter of fact, there’s no evidence that they have it. There is no evidence.

Israel claims they do not have it and our government doesn’t. I don’t want them to get a weapon. But I think what we’re doing is encouraging them to have a weapon because they feel threatened. If you look at a map of — if you look at a map of Iran, we have 45 bases around their country, plus our submarines.

The Iranians can’t possibly attack anybody. And we’re worrying about the possibility of one nuclear weapon. Now, just think about the Cold War. The Soviets had 30,000 of them. And we talked to them. The Soviets killed 100 million people and the Chinese, and we worked our way out of it.

And if you want to worry about nuclear weapons, worry about the nuclear weapons that were left over from the Soviet Union. They’re still floating around. They don’t have them all detailed. So we’re ready to go to war. I say going to war rapidly like this is risky and it’s reckless.

Now, if they are so determined to go to war, the only thing I plead with you for, if this is the case, is do it properly. Ask the people and ask the Congress for a declaration of war. This is war and people are going to die. And you have got to get a declaration of war.

And just to go and start fighting — but the sanctions are already backfiring. And all that we do is literally doing the opposite. When we’ve been — were attacked, we all came together. When we attacked the — when we — when we put them under attack, they get together and it neutralizes that. They rally around their leaders.

So what we’re doing is literally enhancing their power. Think of the sanctions we dealt with Castro. Fifty years and Castro is still there. It doesn’t work. So I would say a different approach. We need to at least — we talked — we talked to the Soviets during the Cuban crisis. We at least can talk to somebody who does not — we do not have proof that he has a weapon. Why go to war so carelessly?

KING: Let’s stay on this theme. We have a question from cnnpolitics.com, a question — you can see it up on the screen here. In regards to Syria, should the United States intervene and should we arm the rebellion?

Senator Santorum, let me start with you on this one. The American people have watched these videos that started months ago and has accelerated in recent days. What is the role for the United States today?

SANTORUM: Syria is a puppet state of Iran. They are a threat not just to Israel, but they have been a complete destabilizing force within Lebanon, which is another problem for Israel and Hezbollah. They are a country that we can do no worse than the leadership in Syria today, which is not the case, and some of the other countries that we readily got ourselves involved in.

So it’s sort of remarkable to me we would have — here again, it’s — I think it’s the timidness of this president in dealing with the Iranian threat, because Syria and Iran is an axis. And the president — while he couldn’t reach out deliberately to Iran but did reach out immediately to Syria and established an embassy there. And the only reason he removed that embassy was because it was threatened of being — of being overtaken, not because he was objecting to what was going on in Syria.

This president has — has obviously a very big problem in standing up to the Iranians in any form. If this would have been any other country, given what was going on and the mass murders that we’re seeing there, this president would have quickly and — joined the international community, which is calling for his ouster and the stop of this, but he’s not. He’s not. Because he’s afraid to stand up to Iran.

He opposed the sanctions in Iran against the — against the central banks until his own party finally said, “You’re killing us. Please support these sanctions.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president who isn’t going to stop them. He isn’t going to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon. We need a new president or we are going to have a cataclysmic situation with a — a power that is the most prolific proliferator of terror in the world that will be able to do so with impunity because they will have a nuclear weapon to protect — protect them for whatever they do. It has to be stopped, and this president is not in a position to do that.

KING: And the question of Syria…[applause]… Mr. Speaker, then Governor Romney, if you were president today, what would you do differently from this president tomorrow?

GINGRICH: Well, the first thing I’d do, across the board for the entire region, is create a very dramatic American energy policy of opening up federal lands and opening up offshore drilling, replacing the EPA. [applause]

We — the Iranians have been practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz, which has one out of every five barrels of oil in the world going through it. We have enough energy in the United States that we would be the largest producer of oil in the world by the end of this decade. We would be capable of saying to the Middle East, “We frankly don’t care what you do. The Chinese have a big problem because you ain’t going to have any oil.” [applause] But we would not have to be directly engaged. That’s a very different question.

But, first of all, you’ve got to set the stage, I think, here to not be afraid of what might happen in the region.

Second, we clearly should have our allies — this is an old- fashioned word — we have have our allies covertly helping destroy the Assad regime. There are plenty of Arab-speaking groups that would be quite happy. There are lots of weapons available in the Middle East.

And I agree with — with Senator Santorum’s point. This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe.

You know, the only people you’ve got to worry about is if you’re an American ally. [applause]

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I agree with both these gentlemen. It’s very interesting that you’re seeing, on the Republican platform, a very strong commitment to say we’re going to say no to Iran. It’s unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

And — and Rick is absolutely right. Syria is their key ally. It’s their only ally in the Arab world. It is also their route to the sea. Syria provides a — a shadow over Lebanon. Syria is providing the armament of Hezbollah in Lebanon that, of course, threatens Israel, our friend and ally.

We have very bad news that’s come from the Middle East over the past several months, a lot of it in part because of the feckless leadership of our president.

But one little piece of good news, and that is the key ally of Iran, Syria, is — has a leader that’s in real trouble. And we ought to grab a hold of that like it’s the best thing we’ve ever seen.

There’s things that are — we’re having a hard time getting our hands around, like, what’s happening in Egypt. But in Syria, with Assad in trouble, we need to communicate to the Alawites, his friends, his ethnic group, to say, look, you have a future if you’ll abandon that guy Assad.

We need to work with — with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria. This is a critical time for us.

If we can turn Syria and Lebanon away from Iran, we finally have the capacity to get Iran to pull back. And we could, at that point, with crippling sanctions and a very clear statement that military action is an action that will be taken if they pursue nuclear weaponry, that could change the course of world history.

KING: Let’s try to get another question. [applause]

PAUL: John?

KING: Congressman, quickly, please?

PAUL: No, I get a minute to go quickly. [applause]

You know, I — I’ve tried the moral argument. I’ve tried the constitutional argument on these issues. And they don’t — they don’t go so well. But there — there’s an economic argument, as well.

As a matter of fact, Al Qaida has had a plan to bog us down in the Middle East and bankrupt this country. That’s exactly what they’re doing. We’ve spent $4 trillion of debt in the last 10 years being bogged down in the Middle East.

The neoconservatives who now want us to be in Syria, want us to go to Iran, have another war, and we don’t have the money. We’re already — today gasoline hit $6 a gallon in Florida. And we don’t have the money.

So I don’t believe I’m going to get the conversion on the moral and the constitutional arguments in the near future. But I’ll tell you what, I’m going to win this argument for economic reasons. Just remember, when the Soviets left, they left not because we had to fight them. They left because they bankrupted this country and we better wake up, because that is what we’re doing here. We’re destroying our currency and we have a financial crisis on our hands. [applause]

KING: Let’s take another question from our audience, please.

Identify yourself and ask your question.

UNKNOWN: I’m Marsha Crossen from Scottsdale, Arizona.

What is your stand on education reform and the No Child Left Behind Act?

KING: This came up a bit earlier in the debate. Some of you mentioned it in a general way.

Senator Santorum, to you first. Specifically, what do you do about No Child Left Behind today if you’re president?

SANTORUM: Well, you know what? I supported No Child Left Behind. I supported it. It was the principal priority of President Bush to try to take on a failing education system and try to impose some sort of testing regime that would be able to quantify how well we’re doing with respect to education. I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. [booing]

You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was — and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea.

What was a bad idea was all the money that was put out there, and that, in fact, was a huge problem. I admit the mistake and I will not make that mistake again. You have someone who is committed.

Look, I’m a home schooling father of seven. I know the importance of customized education for our children. I know the importance of parental control of education. [applause]

I know the importance of local control of education. And having gone through that experience of the federal government involvement, not only do I believe the federal government should get out of the education business, I think the state government should start to get out of the education business and put it back to the state — to the local and into the community. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney, when you were governor, you had to deal with this law. So weigh in. And as you do, it’s designed, like it or not, to help the public school system, which has struggled. Senator Santorum, just the other day, called public schools in this country factories.

ROMNEY: Well, I’m not going to comment on that unless you’d like to.

With regards to your question, I came into a state where Republicans and Democrats had worked to — before I got there to make some very important changes. They said that they were going to test our kids every year.

They said to graduate from high school, you’re going to have to pass an exam in English and math. I was the first governor that had to enforce that provision.

There were a lot of people that said, oh, no, no, no. Let people graduate even if they can’t pass that exam. I enforced it. We fought it. It was hard to do.

We added more school choice. My legislature tried to say no more charter schools. I vetoed that, we overturned that.

With school choice, testing our kids, giving our best teachers opportunities for advancement, these kinds of principles drove our schools to be pretty successful. As a matter of fact, there are four measures on which the federal government looks at schools state by state, and my state’s number one of all 50 stays in all four of those measures, fourth-and-eighth-graders in English and math. Those principles, testing our kids, excellent curriculum, superb teachers, and school choice, those are the answers to help our schools.

And with regards to No Child Left Behind, the right answer there — President Bush stood up and said, you know what? The teachers unions don’t want school choice, I want school choice to see who’s succeeding and failing.

He was right to fight for that. There are things that should be changed in the law, but we have to stand up to the federal teachers unions and put the kids first and the unions behind. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, on that point, this is a conversation about what is the proper role of the federal government in the education issue? To the point the governor just raised about teachers unions, you have complimented President Obama to a degree on that issue, saying he had some courage to stand up to the teachers union. You went on tour with Al Sharpton and this president’s education secretary in support of the multibillion-dollar Race to the Top program that essentially — I think they used stimulus money for it, but incentives to states, to schools that perform, and that enact reforms.

GINGRICH: What we did is we went around, including Tucson, in this state, and we talked about the importance of charter schools, which was the one area where I thought the president did in fact show some courage, being willing to go into Philadelphia or into Baltimore or in a variety of places and advocate — we were in Montgomery, Alabama, for example — and say charter schools are an important step in the right direction.

There are two things wrong with the president’s approach. And the reason I would, frankly, dramatically shrink the Federal Department of Education down to doing nothing but research, return all the power under the Tenth Amendment back to the states.

And I agree with Rick’s point. I would urge the states, then, to return most of that power back to the local communities, and I’d urge the local communities the turn most of the power back to the parents. And I think the fact is — [applause]

We have bought — we bought over the last 50 years three huge mistakes. We bought the mistake that the teachers unions actually cared about the kids. It’s increasingly clear they care about protecting bad teachers.

And if you look at L.A. Unified, it is almost criminal what we do to the poorest children in America, entrapping them into places. No Nation Left Behind said if a foreign power did this to our children, we’d declare it an act of war because they’re doing so much damage. The second thing we bought into was the — the whole school of education theory that you don’t have to learn, you have to learn about how you would learn.

So when you finish learning about how you would learn, you have self esteem because you’re told you have self esteem, even if you can’t read the words self esteem. And the…[applause]…and the third thing we bought, which Rick eluded to, which is really important. We bought this notion that you could have Carnegie units and you could have state standards and you could have a curriculum everybody — every child is unique. Every teach is unique. Teaching is a missionary vocation. When you bureaucratize it, you kill it. We need a fundamental re-thinking from the ground up. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul? [applause]

PAUL: Newt — Newt’s going in the right direction, but not far enough. [laughter]

The Constitution is very, very clear. There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education. [applause]

There’s no — no prohibition in the Constitution for the states to be involved in education. That’s not a bad position and we can sort things out. But once — once again the Senators for — was for No Child Left Behind, but now he’s running for president, now he’s running to repeal No Child Left Behind once again. But — and he calls it a team sport. He has to go along to get along and that’s the way the team plays. But that’s what the problem is with Washington. That’s what’s been going on for so long. [applause]

So, I don’t accept that form of government. I understand it. That is the way it works. You were with the majority. You were the Whip and you organized and got these votes all passed. But I think the obligation of all of us should be the oath of office. We should take — and it shouldn’t be the oath to the party. I’m sorry about that, but it isn’t the oath to the party, it’s the oath to our office. [applause]

To obey the law and the law is the Constitution. [applause]

KING: Gentleman, thank you. One more break. When we come back, the final question of what could be the final Republican debate.

[commercial break]

KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Art Center, our Arizona Republican presidential debate, the four contenders on stage tonight.

Gentlemen, our time is short, so one last question.

Nine states have voted so far. We talked a bit earlier about the volatility in the race. The people of Arizona vote Tuesday. Michigan, on Tuesday. Wyoming and Washington State, then Super Tuesday, beyond that. Fourteen states over the next 10 days or so.

Republican voters are clearly having a hard time.

I want to close with this question: Help the voters who still have questions about you. What is the biggest misconception about you in the public debate right now?

Congressman Paul, we’ll start with you, sir.

PAUL: I would say the perpetuation of the myth by the media that I can’t win. [applause]

And the total ignoring some statistics that show it to be the opposite. Just recently, there was a poll in Iowa, and it matched all the four of us up against Obama. And guess what? I did the very best. [applause]

So I would say that is been the biggest myth. But let me tell you, though, public perception is one thing, but when you go around and talk to the American people and we have our rallies, that misconception isn’t there. And I think that’s the biggest misconception that I have to deal with.

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: I think that the fact is that the American public are really desperate to find somebody who can solve real problems. I think that’s why it’s been going up and down and why you have got all sorts of different folks as front-runners.

And all I can say is that my background of having actually worked with President Reagan, then having been Speaker, if there was one thing I wish the American people could know about me, it would be the amount of work it took to get to welfare reform, a balanced budget, a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, and that you’ve got to have somebody who can actually get it done in Washington, not just describe it on the campaign trail. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: We’ve got to restore America’s promise in this country where people know that with hard work and education, that they’re going to be secure and prosperous and that their kids will have a brighter future than they’ve had. For that to happen, we’re going to have to have dramatic fundamental change in Washington, D.C., we’re going to have to create more jobs, have less debt, and shrink the size of the government.

I’m the only person in this race —

KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is a misconception.

ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions want, I get to give the answers I want. Fair enough? [applause]

And I believe that there’s a whole question about, what do we need as the person that should be president? What is their position on this issue? Who can be the toughest going after Obama?

What we really need, in my opinion, is to say who can lead the country through the kind of fundamental change we have in front of us? And we have people here who all different backgrounds.

I spent 25 years in the private sector. I worked in business. I worked in helping turn around the Olympics. I worked in helping lead a state.

I believe that kind of background and skill is what is essential to restore the American promise. If people think there’s something else in my background that that is more important, they don’t want to vote for me, that’s their right, but I believe I have the passion, the commitment and the skill to turn America around, and I believe that’s what’s needed. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I think the thing I hear I have heard from the very beginning, can you defeat Barack Obama? And if you want to look at the people on the stage, we’re going to be running against the president who is going to have the national media behind him, he’s going to have more money, a lot more money, because he isn’t having to spend a penny in the primary. So he’s going to outspend whoever it is. He’s going to have the national media on his side.

Maybe you want a candidate who is not going to be able to win an election by beating the tar out of his opponent, spending four or five to one in order to win an election in a state, but actually can run a campaign based on issues and ideas and a vision that’s positive for America, to be able to be outspent and yet cut through because you have a strong vision, you have principles and convictions that is going to convince the American public that you’re on their side in making a big difference in our country and keeping us safe and prosperous.

So we’re looking for someone — I think people, they’re looking for someone who can do a lot with a little — run a campaign on a shoestring and win a bunch of states and rise in the polls. You’re looking for someone who can take what’s going on in Washington and look at what went on in my campaign and see someone who can do a lot with a little.

That’s what we need in Washington, not just after the election, but we’re going to need to have that before the election, and I’m the best person, from a state which is a key swing state, from a region of the country which is going to decide this election, right across the Rust Belt of America. We’ve got the programs; we’ve got the plan, and we can win and defeat Barack Obama and govern this country conservatively. [applause]

KING: Gentlemen, I want to thank you. I want to thank all of our candidates tonight. We also want to thank our partner tonight, the Republican Party of Arizona, and we’d like to thank our hosts here at the Mesa Arts Center, a beautiful venue here.

January 26, 2012: CNN / Republican Party of Florida Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Jacksonville, Florida January 26, 2012

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
Wolf Blitzer (CNN)

BLITZER: Candidates, please take your podiums while I tell you more about how this debate will work tonight.

I’ll be the moderator. And as I mentioned, our partners from the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network will also ask questions. I’ll follow up and try to guide the discussion.

Candidates, I’ll try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of questions. You’ll have one minute to answer, 30 seconds for follow ups and rebuttals. And I’ll certainly make sure you get time to respond if you’re singled out for criticism.

Now let’s have the candidates introduce themselves to Florida voters.

Please keep it short. Here is an example: I’m Wolf Blitzer and I’m thrilled to be here on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum, and I’m thrilled to be here on the campus of North Florida. [laughter] [applause]

And I’m especially thrilled because I’m here with a North Florida resident who lives right down the beach from Jacksonville, my mom, who is 93 years old, who is with me here tonight. [applause]

I better just stop right there.

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich, from the neighboring state of Georgia. I’m delighted to be in Jacksonville, which will be the site of the next nuclear aircraft carrier battle group. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney, and I’m pleased to be here with my wife and my oldest son Tagg Romney. We’re the parents of five sons, five daughters-in-law, 16 grandkids. And it’s great to be back in Jacksonville.

Thank you. [applause]

PAUL: I’m Ron Paul. I’m a congressman from Texas, 12 terms.

I am the champion of a sound monetary system, a gold standard, as it is under the Constitution, and a foreign policy based on strength which rejects the notion that we should be the policemen of the world and that we should be a nation builder. [applause]

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello.

Can you tell me what specific actions you’ll take to address the costly consequences of illegal immigration while preserving the rights of those who seek to immigrate legally?

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Santorum, let’s take that question. But also, in the course of that question, express your opinion on what we heard from Governor Romney, that self-deportation, or illegal immigrants leaving the country voluntarily, is a possible solution.

SANTORUM: Well, the possible solution is — I actually agree with Governor Romney. The bottom line is that we need to enforce the laws in this country.

We are a country of laws. People come to this country. My grandfather came to this country because he wanted to come to a country that respected him. And a country that respects you is a country that lives by the laws that they have. And the first act when they come to this country, is to disobey a law, it’s not a particularly welcome way to enter this country. What I’ve said is from the very beginning, that we — we have to have a country that not only do you respect the law when you come here, but you respect the law when you stay here.

And people who have come to this country illegally have broken the law repeatedly. If you’re here, unless you’re here on a trust fund, you’ve been working illegally. You’ve probably stolen someone’s Social Security number, illegally. And so it’s not just one thing that you’ve done wrong, you’ve done a lot of things wrong. And as a result of that, I believe that people should no — should not be able to stay here.

And so I think we need to enforce the law at the border, secure the border. Secondly, we need to have employer enforcement, which means E-verify and then we need to have not only employers sanctioned, but we have to have people who are found who are working here illegally, they need to be deported. That is again the principle of having a rule of law and living by it. I am very much in favor of immigration. I’m not someone — my dad came to this country and I’m someone who believes that — that we need immigration. We are not replacing ourselves.

We have — we need not only immigration for — to keep our population going, but we need immigration because immigrants bring a vitality and a love of this country that is — infuses this country with — with great energy. And so, I support legal immigration, but we need to enforce the law and in fact, if you don’t create an opportunity for people to work, they will leave because they can’t afford to stay here.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, you’ve suggested that self- deportation as advocated by Governor Romney is in your words, “An Obama level fantasy.” Why?

GINGRICH: Well look, I think that first of all, you should control the border, which I have pledged to do by January 1, 2014. You should fix legal immigration in terms of visas so people can come and go easily — more easily than doing it illegally. You should also make deportation easier so when you deport people who shouldn’t be here. The 13 gang members, for example. It should be very quick and very clear.

You should have a guest worker program, probably run by American Express, Visa or MasterCard so they minimize fraud, which the federal government won’t do. And you should have much stronger employer penalties at that point because you can validate it. I actually agree that self-deportation will occur if you’re single. If you’ve only been here a short time. And there are millions of people who faced with that, would go back home, file for a guest worker program and might or might not come back.

The one group I singled out, were people who have been here a very long time who are married, who may well have children and grandchildren. And I would just suggest that grandmothers or grandfathers aren’t likely to self-deport. And then you’ve got a question. I — I offered a proposal, a citizen panel to review whether or not somebody who had been here a very long time, who had family and who had an American family willing to sponsor them, should be allowed to get residency, but not citizenship so that they would be able to stay within the law, but would not have any chance of becoming a citizen, unless they went back home. I don’t think grandmothers and grandfathers will self-deport.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, the few times and I think it was only once, that they experimented with self-deportation, only a handful of individuals voluntarily left. What makes you think that — that program could work?

ROMNEY: Well, you’ve just heard the last two speakers also indicate that they support the concept of self-deportation. It’s very simply this, which is for those who come into the country legally, they would be given an identification card that points out they’re able to work here and then you have an E-verify system that’s effective and efficient so that employers can determine who is legally here and if employers hire someone without a card, or without checking to see if it’s been counterfeited, then those employers would be severely sanctioned.

If you do that, people who have come here illegally won’t be able to find work. And over time, those people would tend to leave the country, or self-deport. I don’t think anyone is interested in going around and rounding up people around the country and deporting 11 million Americans — or, excuse me 11 million illegal immigrants into America. Now, let’s look at — and — and I know people said, but isn’t that unfair to those 11 million that are here and have lived their lives here and perhaps raised children here? But I think it’s important to remember, that there are three groups of people that are of concern to us.

One are those that have come here illegally, 11 million. The second is the group of people who are brought over by coyotes and who are in many cases abused by virtue of coming into this country illegally. And the third, are the four to five million people who are waiting at home in their own nations trying to get here legally. They have family members here asking them to come here. Grandparents and uncles and aunts. Those are the people we have a responsibility for. And the second group as well, those that are abused. We — we’re concerned about them.

Let’s focus our attention on how to make legal immigration work and stop illegal immigration.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Paul — sorry, excuse me, Congressman Paul you’re from Texas. The state with the longest border with Mexico. Is this a viable option, what we just heard?

PAUL: Well, I’d talk about it, but I don’t see it as being very practical. I think it’s a much bigger problem.

You can’t deal with immigration without dealing with the economy. The weaker the economy, the more resentment there is when illegals come in. If you have a healthy, vibrant economy, it’s not a problem; we’re usually looking for workers.

Even under today’s circumstances, a lot of businesses are looking for workers and they don’t have them. They’re not as well-trained here.

But also, the way we’re handling our borders is actually hurting our economy because the businesspeople — you know, visitors have a hard time coming in. I mean, we don’t have a well-managed border. So I think we need more resources and I think most of the other candidates would agree we need more resources. But where are the resources going to come from?

I have a suggestion. I think we spend way too much time worrying about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Use some of those resources on our own border. [applause]

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, you had an ad, but you pulled it this week, in which you described Governor Romney as the most anti- immigrant candidate. Why did you do that?

GINGRICH: Why did we describe him that way?

Because, in the original conversations about deportation, the position I took, which he attacked pretty ferociously, was that grandmothers and grandfathers aren’t going to be successfully deported. We’re not — we as a nation are not going to walk into some family — and by the way, they’re going to end up in a church, which will declare them a sanctuary. We’re not going to walk in there and grab a grandmother out and then kick them out.

We’re not going — and I think you have to be realistic in your indignation. I want to control the border. I want English to be the official language of government. I want us to have a lot of changes. [applause]

I am prepared to be very tough and very bold, but I’m also prepared to be realistic, because I’ve actually had to pass legislation in Washington and I don’t believe an unrealistic promise is going to get through, but I do believe, if there’s some level of humanity for people who have been here a long time, we can pass legislation that will decisively reduce illegality, decisively control the border and will once again mean the people who are in America are here legally.

BLITZER: I just want to make sure I understand. Is he still the most anti-immigrant candidate?

GINGRICH: I think, of the four of us, yes.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Governor.

ROMNEY: That’s simply unexcusable. That’s inexcusable. And, actually, Senator Marco Rubio came to my defense and said that ad was inexcusable and inflammatory and inappropriate.

Mr. Speaker, I’m not anti-immigrant. My father was born in Mexico. My wife’s father was born in Wales. They came to this country. The idea that I’m anti-immigrant is repulsive.

Don’t use a term like that. You can say we disagree on certain policies, but to say that enforcing the U.S. law to protect our borders, to welcome people here legally, to expand legal immigration, as I have proved, that that’s somehow anti anti-immigrant is simply the kind of over-the-top rhetoric that has characterized American politics too long.

And I’m glad that Marco Rubio called you out on it. I’m glad you withdrew it. I think you should apologize for it, and I think you should recognize that having differences of opinions on issues does not justify labeling people with highly charged epithets.

GINGRICH: I’ll tell you what…[applause]

I’ll give you an opportunity to self-describe. You tell me what language you would use to describe somebody who thinks that deporting a grandmother or a grandfather from their family — just tell me the language. I’m perfectly happy for you to explain what language you’d use.

ROMNEY: Mr. Speaker, I think I described following the law as it exists in this country, which is to say, I’m not going around and rounding people up and deporting them.

What I said was, people who come here legally get a work permit. People who do not come here legally do not get a work permit. Those who don’t get work will tend, over time, to self-deport.

I’m not going to go find grandmothers and take them out of their homes and deport them. Those are your words, not my words. And to use that rhetoric suggests to people that somehow, if you’re not willing to keep people here who violated the law, that you’re anti- immigrant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am pro-immigrant. I want people to come to America with skill and vitality and vibrance. I want them to come legally. There are grandmothers that live on the other side of the border that are waiting to come here legally. I want them to come here, too, not just those that are already here. [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, so we have gone — we’ve gone from your Washington attack when I first proposed this and you said it was outrageous; it would be a magnet to you’re accepting the fact that, you know, a family is going to take care of their grandmother or their grandfather.

The idea that you are going to push them out in some form by simply saying they can’t go get a job — I think the grandmother is still going to be here. All I want to do is to allow the grandmother to be here legally with some rights to have residency but not citizenship, so that he or she can finish their life with dignity within the law. [applause]

ROMNEY: You know, our problem is not 11 million grandmothers. Our problem is — all right. [applause]

Our problem is 11 million people getting jobs that many Americans, legal immigrants, would like to have. It’s school kids in schools that districts are having a hard time paying for. It’s people getting free health care because we are required under the law to provide that health care.

And the real concern is the people who want to come here legally. Let’s let legal immigrants come here. Let’s stop illegal immigration. [applause]

BLITZER: The rhetoric on immigration, Governor, has been intense, as you well know, as all four of you know, and anyone who watches television knows. You had an ad running saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto.”

What do you mean by that?

ROMNEY: I haven’t seen the ad, so I’m sorry. I don’t get to see all the TV ads. Did he say that?

BLITZER: Did you say that?

GINGRICH: No. What I said was, we want everybody to learn English because we don’t — and I didn’t use the word “Spanish.” We do not want anyone trapped in a situation where they cannot get a commercial job, they cannot rise, and virtually every parent of every ethnic group — and by the way, they are 94 languages spoken at the Miami-Dade College — 94 languages. And that’s why I think English should be the official language of government, and that’s why I think every young American should learn English.

And my point was, no one should be trapped in a linguistics situation where they can’t go out and get a job and they can’t go out and work. So I would say as much as Governor Romney doesn’t particularly like my use of language, I found his use of language and his deliberate distortion equally offensive. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’d like — I doubt that’s my ad, but we’ll take a look and find out. There are a bunch of ads out there that are being organized by other people.

But I think our position on English in our schools and in our nation is the same, which I believe English should be the official language of the United States, as it is. I also believe that in our schools, we should teach kids in English.

So, when I was governor, I fought for — actually, before I was governor, I fought for, during my election and thereafter, a program to have English immersion in our schools so our kids could learn in English. I think we agree on this, which is, you know what? Kids in this country should learn English so they can have all the jobs and all the opportunity of people who are here.

BLITZER: I want to bring Congressman Paul and Senator Santorum into this. But let’s take this question from Miami.

CNN en Espanol’s Juan Carlos Lopez has a guest there.

LOPEZ: Hola, Wolf.

We’re at the viewing party for the Hispanic Leadership Network, and it really is a party. They are holding their yearly conference, a meeting of Hispanic Republican leaders. And I’m joined by Raquel Rodriguez. She’s an attorney in Miami. She practices business and international law, and she has a question for the candidates.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, good evening.

The U.S. has been largely away in its foreign and trade policy with Latin America. In the meantime, Iran and China have been increasing their influence over an involvement in Latin America through the leftist and left-leaning governments.

What would each of you do as president to more deeply engage in Latin America and, importantly, to support the governments and the political parties that support democracy and free markets?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, I think free trade is the answer. Free trade is an answer to a lot of conflicts around the world, so I’m always promoting free trade. And you might add Cuba, too. I think we would be a lot better off with Cuba, trading with Cuba. [applause]

So, I think the more you can do to promote this free trade, the better off we’ll be. But as far as us having an obligation, a military or a financial obligation to go down and dictate to them what government they should have, I don’t like that idea.

I would work with the people and encourage free trade, and try to set a standard here where countries in Central America or South America or any place in the world would want to emulate us and set the standards that we have. Unfortunately, sometimes we slip up on our standards and we go around the world and we try to force ourselves on others.

I don’t think the nations in South America and Central America necessarily want us to come down there and dictate which government they should have. And yet, I believe with friendship and trade, you can have a lot of influence, and I strongly believe that it’s time we have friendship and trade with Cuba. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, are you with Congressman Paul?

SANTORUM: No, I’m not with Congressman Paul and I’m not with Barack Obama on this issue.

Our policy in Central and South America under this administration has been abysmal. The way we have treated, in particular, countries like Honduras, Honduras, which stood up for the rule of law, which threw out a would-be dictator who was using the Chavez playbook from Venezuela in order to try to run for re-election in Honduras, and the United States government, instead of standing behind the — the people in the parliament, the people in the Supreme Court, who tried to enforce the constitution of Honduras — instead of siding with them, the Democrats, President Obama sided with two other people in South America — excuse me — Central America and South America. Chavez and Castro and Obama sided against the people of Honduras.

This is a consistent policy of siding with the leftists, siding with the Marxists, siding with those who don’t support democracy, not standing up for our friends in Colombia, not standing up for our friends who want to engage and support America, who want to be great trading partners and great allies for our country, to be able to form that kind of bond that is so essential in our own hemisphere.

The European Union understood how important it was for diverse people to be able to come together in an economic unit. We only — not only have to come together as an economic unit, but the threat of terrorism, the threat of Iran now in Venezuela and in other places, and Cuba and in Nicaragua, the threat of radical Islam growing in that region — is it important for — it’s absolutely important for us to have a president who understands that threat and understands the solution is closer ties. I will visit that area of the world, repeatedly, to solidify those ties when I become president.

BLITZER: Let me let Congressman Paul…[applause]… quickly respond. [applause]

PAUL: The — the senator mentioned standing up for some of these nations, but he doesn’t define it, but standing up for nations like this usually means that we impose ourselves, go and pick the dictators, undermine certain governments, also sending them a lot of money.

It doesn’t work. Most of the time, this backfires. They resent us. We can achieve what he wants in a much different way than us using the bully attitude that you will do it our way. This is the…[applause]

This is not a benefit to us. And besides, where do you get the troops and where are you going to get the money? Because you’re talking about force. And I — I know of a much better way than using force to get along with people.

SANTORUM: I don’t know where…[applause]

I don’t know what answer Congressman Paul was listening to. He obviously wasn’t listening to my answer. [applause]

What I talked about is building strong economic relationships, strong national security relationships. No one’s talking about force. Nobody’s talking about going into Cuba or going into Venezuela. It’s talking about the other countries in the region, which are being influenced greatly by those countries, that are tending and moving toward those militant socialists, instead of the United States.

Why? Because we’ve ignored them. You’ve got a president of the United States that held a Colombian free trade agreement — Colombia, who’s out there on the front lines, working with us against the narco- terrorists, standing up to Chavez in South America. And what did we do?

For political — domestic political purposes, the president of the United States sided with organized labor and the environmental groups and held Colombia hanging out to dry for three years. We cannot do that to our friends in South America. [applause]

BLITZER: All right, we’re going to — we’re going to come back to this. [applause]

We’re going to come back to Cuba, as well. But stand by for that.

We did double-check, just now, Governor, that ad that we talked about, where I quoted you as saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto” — we just double-checked. It was one of your ads. It’s running here in Florida in — on the radio. And at the end you say, “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this ad.”

So it is — it is here. [booing]

ROMNEY: Let me ask — let me ask a question.

Let me ask the speaker a question. Did you say what the ad says or not? I don’t know.

GINGRICH: It’s taken totally out of context.

ROMNEY: Oh, OK, he said it.

GINGRICH: I did not — no. I did not say it about Spanish. I said, in general, about all languages. We are better for children to learn English in general, period. [applause]

ROMNEY: Let’s take a look at what he said. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. We have a very important subject, housing. Not only here in Florida, foreclosures really, really bad, but all over the country. And a lot of people are wondering if the federal government contributed to the housing collapse in recent years.

We got a question that came in to us and — let me put it up there and I’ll read it to you. “How would you phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Does the private mortgage industry need additional regulation?” — that from William Schmidt.

Let me start with Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: Well, I think you know that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were a big part of why we have the housing crisis in the nation that we have. And we’ve had this discussion before.

Speaker Gingrich was hired by Freddie Mac to promote them, to — to influence other people throughout Washington, encouraging them to — not to dismantle these two entities. I think that was an enormous mistake. I think, instead, we should have had a whistle-blower and not horn-tooter.

He should have stood up and said, look, these things are a disaster; this is a crisis. He should have been anxiously telling the American people that these entities were causing a housing bubble that would cause a collapse that we’ve seen here in Florida and around the country. And are they a problem today? Absolutely. They’re offering mortgages, again to people who can’t possibly repay them. We’re creating another housing bubble, which will hurt the American people.

The right course for our — for our housing industry is to get people back to work so they can buy homes again. We have 9.9 percent unemployment in Florida. It’s unthinkable, 18 percent real unemployment here. Get people back to work. We’ll get people into homes. Get the foreclosures out of the system. Let people get into homes, rent properties if necessary and get America’s housing industry growing again.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Let me start by saying, Florida is one of the two or three most hard hit states on foreclosures. How many of you know somebody who has had a house foreclosed? Just raise your hand. Raise your hand. [applause]

Okay. The governor has cheerfully — the governor has cheerfully attacking me inaccurately and he knows it. The contracts we released from Freddie Mac said I would do no consulting, wrote in, no — I mean no lobbying, none. But this is a more interesting story. We began digging in after Monday night because frankly I’d had about enough of this. We discovered to our shock, Governor Romney owns shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Governor Romney made a million dollars off of selling some of that. Governor Romney owns share — has an investment in Goldman Sachs, which is today foreclosing on Floridians.

So maybe Governor Romney in the spirit of openness should tell us how much money he’s made off of how many households that have been foreclosed by his investments? And let’s be clear about that. [applause]

ROMNEY: First of all, my investments are not made by me. My investments for the last 10 years have been in a blind trust, managed by a trustee. Secondly, the investments that they’ve made, we’ve learned about this as we made our financial disclosure, have been in mutual funds and bonds. I don’t own stock in either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. There are bonds that the investor has held through mutual funds. And Mr. Speaker, I know that sounds like an enormous revelation, but have you checked your own investments? You also have investments through mutual funds that also invest in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [applause]

Let me — let me — I’ve got more time. Let me — let me — let me just — let me just continue. There’s a big difference between buying like U.S. savings bonds and getting a return. That’s a — that’s not taking money out of the United States, that’s loaning money to the United States. And what my trustee did, is he loaned money to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and — and they got paid interest of course, just like if you buy U.S. savings bonds. But what the speaker did, was to work as a spokesman to promote Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. To protect them from those people that wanted to take them down.

He got paid $1.6 million to do that. He said his first contract indicated there would be no lobbying. But his second contract didn’t have that prescription taken out of it. And so you have to ask yourself why is that? What he was doing was clearly promoting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in this case Freddie Mac to the tune of $1.6 million. That is one of the reasons we’re in the trouble we’re in.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, you’ll notice that the governor wasn’t aware of the ad he was running. He’s not aware of the investments that were being made in his name.

ROMNEY: Of course, I can’t it’s a blind trust.

[crosstalk]

GINGRICH: …compare my investments with his is like comparing a tiny mouse with a giant elephant. The fact — the fact is…[applause]…that there is a very substantial question. You didn’t give any instructions to — to say, gee, let’s not do this or let’s not do that? You’re very quick to draw the widest possible exaggeration. The fact is, the only time I ever spoke to the Congress about this issue was in July of 2008. The New York Times reported it. I told the Republicans in the House, vote no. Do not give them any money. They need to be reformed. And in answer to the question earlier, I would break each of them up into five or six separate units.

And over a five year period, I would wean them from all federal sponsorship because we need to get away from this gigantic systems.

BLITZER: Let me bring Congressman Paul, then Senator Santorum. [applause]

A follow up question to you both specifically. It seems they both acknowledge they both made money from Fannie and Freddie. Should they return that money?

PAUL: That — that subject really doesn’t interest me a whole lot. [applause]

But the question does. The — the question is, what are we going to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It should have been auctioned off right after the crash came. It would have been cleansed by now. [applause]

It should have been sold. [applause]

But maybe it’s my physician background, but I think an ounce of prevention is what we ought to talk about so we can quit doing this. But we know how the bubble came about. It was excessive credit, interest rates held too low, too long, the Federal Reserve responsible for that.

Community Reinvestment Act, which is Affirmative Action telling banks they have to make these risky loans. And at the same time, there was a line of credit which allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to, you know, make more money. And it was — it was assumed that they would always be protected.

Now, you can’t argue. I’ve talked a long time about cutting off that credit from the Fed. I was trying to prevent this stuff. [applause]

Also, I opposed the Community Reinvestment Act, as well as I had legislation in 10 years before the bust came to remove that line of credit to the Treasury.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, I would just say, in answer to the question, that as I mentioned last debate, in 2006, I went out and authored a letter with 24 other senators asking for major reform of Freddie and Fannie, warning of a meltdown and a bubble in the housing market. I stood out, I stood tall, and tried to get a reform, and we couldn’t do it. The reform we’d need is to gradually decrease the amount of mortgage that can be financed by Freddie — or underwritten by Freddie and Fannie over time, keep reducing that until we get rid of Fannie and Freddie.

The bigger issue here is, these two gentlemen, who are out distracting from the most important issues we have been playing petty personal politics, can we set aside that Newt was a member of Congress and used the skills that he developed as a member of Congress to go out and advise companies — and that’s not the worst thing in the world — and that Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy because worked hard and he’s going out and working hard? And you guys should that alone and focus on the issues. [applause]

BLITZER: We’re going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to discuss. Coming up, the debate questions go to space, the final frontier.

Stay with us.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: We’re continuing the debate here in Jacksonville, Florida.

Let’s get to the issue of transparency, because voters out there, they want to know as much about you four gentlemen as possible before they vote.

Tax returns — let me bring this to Speaker Gingrich.

Earlier this week, you said Governor Romney, after he released his taxes, you said that you were satisfied with the level of transparency of his personal finances when it comes to this. And I just want to reiterate and ask you, are you satisfied right now with the level of transparency as far as his personal finances?

GINGRICH: Wolf, you and I have a great relationship, it goes back a long way. I’m with him. This is a nonsense question. [applause]

Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we’ll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?

BLITZER: But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, “He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.” I didn’t say that. You did.

GINGRICH: I did. And I’m perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.

BLITZER: But if you make a serious accusation against Governor Romney like that, you need to explain that.

GINGRICH: I simply suggested — [booing]

You want to try again? I mean —

ROMNEY: Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here? [applause]

GINGRICH: OK. All right.

Given that standard, Mitt, I did say I thought it was unusual. And I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account. I’d be glad for you to explain that sort of thing.

ROMNEY: OK. I will. I will. I’ll say it again.

I have a trustee that manages my investments in a blind trust. That was so that I would avoid any conflicts of interest. That trustee indicated last week, when he was asked about this, he said that he wanted to diversify the investments that I had. And for awhile he had money in a Swiss account, reported in the U.S., full taxes paid on it, U.S. taxes.

There’s nothing wrong with that. And I know that there may be some who try to make a deal of that, as you have publicly. But look, I think it’s important for people to make sure that we don’t castigate individuals who have been successful and try and, by innuendo, suggest there’s something wrong with being successful and having investments and having a return on those investments.

Speaker, you’ve indicated that somehow I don’t earn that money. I have earned the money that I have. I didn’t inherit it.

I take risks. I make investments. Those investments lead to jobs being created in America.

I’m proud of being successful. I’m proud of being in the free enterprise system that creates jobs for other people. I’m not going to run from that.

I’m proud of the taxes I pay. My taxes, plus my charitable contributions, this year, 2011, will be about 40 percent.

So, look, let’s put behind this idea of attacking me because of my investments or my money, and let’s get Republicans to say, you know what? What you’ve accomplished in your life shouldn’t be seen as a detriment, it should be seen as an asset to help America. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, I’m ready to move on, if you are.

GINGRICH: What?

BLITZER: I said I’m ready to move on to the next subject if you are.

GINGRICH: I’m happy to. I’m happy to simply say, you know, it would be nice if you had the same standard for other people that you would like applied to you and didn’t enter into personal attacks about personal activities about which you are factually wrong. So I would be glad to have a truce with you, but it’s a two-way truce. [booing] [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m happy on any occasion to describe the things that I believe with regards to the Speaker’s background. We’ll probably get a chance to do that as time goes on.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, explain why you think the money that he made over these many years, recent years, under your tax — hold on. Mr. Speaker, under your tax plan — we’re talking about taxes right now. This is substance. Under your proposed tax plan, he would pay zero taxes. Explain that.

GINGRICH: Well, it would depend on whether the particular kind of payments he made were counted under that plan as capital gains or whether they were counted as regular income. But even as regular income, he would pay about the same. And I’ve said this.

This is where I’m the opposite of Obama. I believe we need to have somebody who fights for hardworking taxpayers.

My interest is in reducing everybody’s tax here to 15 percent, not trying to raise his to the Obama level. So I proposed an alternative flat tax — [applause]

You know, I have proposed an alternative flat tax that people could fill out where you could either keep the current system — this is what they do in Hong Kong — keep the current system with all of its deductions and all its paperwork, or you’d have a single page — I earned this amount, I have this number of dependents, here is 15 percent. My goal is to shrink the government to fit the revenue, not to raise the revenue to catch up with the government.

And I’d be happy…[applause]

Let me just say, I’d — I would be happy to have the Mitt Romney flat tax for every American to pay at that rate, and I haven’t complained about the rate he pays.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, most of the polls, almost all of the polls, want the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes in order to balance the budget. Why are they wrong, in your opinion?

SANTORUM: Because we need to have as much money funneling through this economy as possible. And the people who make those investments are people who have resources and wealth, and we want them to deploy that wealth in the most productive way possible.

And when you increase tax rates and you make things much more expensive to do — in other words, the rate of return is not as profitable, then they tend to do things like investing in — in nontaxable instruments and other things that don’t employ people.

And so what I believe is we need to reduce taxes. I don’t — look, I’m honest. I don’t reduce the higher — top rate as much as these other folks do. I take the Reagan approach. Ronald Reagan had a 28 percent top rate. If it was good enough for Ronald Reagan, it’s good enough for me. And that’s what we put the top rate as. [applause]

And — and we have a bottom rate of 10 percent. I believe in a differential. I don’t believe in a flat tax. I believe in a simplified tax code with five deductions and — and focus on simplify, creating two rates.

I disagree with Newt also on this. I don’t believe in a zero capital gains tax rate. I don’t think you need to get to zero to make sure that there’s an efficient deployment of capital and investment.

I think, if you get to zero, then, in fact, guys like Mitt Romney, who, again, I give him — I wish I made as much money as Mitt Romney, but…[applause]

But — you know, but he wouldn’t probably pay much at all in taxes. And I think that, as long as the tax is not one that deters a proper investment to be able to deploy capital and to get jobs created, then lower rates are better than zero when it comes to the issue of capital gains.

BLITZER: Are you with Ronald Reagan as far as the tax rates, as Senator Santorum has suggested, Congressman Paul?

PAUL: No, he taxed too much. My goal is to get rid of the 16th amendment. And the only way you can do that…[applause]

The only way you can do that is not run a welfare system and a warfare system in policing the world.

But I do want to address this subject about taxing the rich. That is not a solution. But I understand and really empathize with the people who talk about the 99 percent and the 1 percent.

Because there’s a characteristic about what happens when you destroy a currency. There is a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. And this has been going on for 40 years. So the middle class is shrinking. They are getting poorer and they’re losing their jobs and they’re losing their houses. But Wall Street isn’t getting poorer. And they are the ones who are getting the bailout.

So we have to address the bailout and the system that favors a certain group over another group. If you don’t have sound money and if you have a welfare state, no matter whether the welfare state is designed to help the poor, you know, the welfare system helps the wealthy.

And there has been this transfer of wealth. So, if we could stop all of these transfers to the wealthy class, but the solution isn’t to tax the wealthy. If you give an honest product and customers buy that product, you deserve to keep that money and earn that money. But there’s a big difference between those who earn money and those who rip us off through the government and the monetary system. [applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you’re a physician. You’re 76 years old. You would be the oldest president of the United States if you were elected. Are you prepared to release your medical records so voters out there know what your health is? [laughter]

PAUL: Oh, obviously, because it’s about one page, if even that long. But…[laughter]

But I’m willing to…[applause]

I’m willing to challenge any of these gentlemen up here to a 25- mile bike ride any time of the day in the heat of Texas. [applause]

And, you know — you know, that subject has come up and sometimes in fun but sometimes not in fun. But, you know, there are laws against age discrimination, so if you push this too much, you better be careful. [applause]

BLITZER: I raise the question because you remember, four years ago, the same question came up with John McCain and he released his records, finally. I remember our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent hours reviewing those records.

So let me go down and ask all of you. Are you ready to release your medical records?

ROMNEY: Happy to do so.

GINGRICH: I’m happy to. And I also want to attest I’m confident that Dr. Paul is quite ready to serve if he’s elected. Watching him campaign, he’s in great shape. [laughter] [applause]

BLITZER: All right, we have another question from the audience. I’ll look forward to seeing your medical records. [laughter]

Go ahead.

Let’s take a question right now. Please introduce yourself, as well.

QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Matthew Bathel. My question is, what would your plan be for the future of manned space flight and the future of NASA?

BLITZER: All right, let me go to Governor Romney on this one. An important issue, especially here in Florida where a lot of people have lost their jobs as a result of the decline of the space program. Yesterday Speaker Gingrich outlined a — a pretty long plan on what to do about it and he said that by the end of his second term, if he were elected president, there would be a permanent base on the moon. Good idea?

ROMNEY: That’s an enormous expense. And right now I want to be spending money here. Of course the space coast has been badly hurt and I believe in a very vibrant and strong space program. To define the mission for our space program, I’d like to bring in the — the top professors that relate to space areas and physics, the top people from industry. Because I want to make sure what we’re doing in space translates into commercial products. I want to bring in our top military experts on space needs.

And — and finally of course, the — the people from — the administration if I had an administration. I’d like to come together and talk about different options and the cost. I’d like corporate America as well as the defense network and others that could come together in a — in a part — in, if you will, a partnership basis to create a plan that will keep our space program thriving and growing. I — I believe in a manned space program. I’d like to see whether they believe in the same thing.

I’m not — I’m not looking for a — a colony on the moon. I think the cost of that would be in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions. I’d rather be rebuilding housing here in the U.S.

BLITZER: We have a question. I want to speaker to weigh in as well. [applause]

This question is related from — we got it from Twitter. Speaker Gingrich, how do you plan to create a base on the moon while keeping taxes down in eight years? [laughter]

GINGRICH: I think, look it’s a great question. You start with the question, do you really believe NASA in it’s current form is the most effective way of leveraging investment in space? We now have a bureaucracy sitting there, which has managed to mismanage the program so well that in fact we have no lift vehicle. So you almost have to wonder, what does the Washington office of NASA do? Does it sit around and think space? [laughter]

Does it contemplate that some day we could have a rocket? My point in the speech I made yesterday, which is on CSPAN and I’d love to have all of you look at it. It’s based on having looked at space issues since the late 1950’s when missiles and rockets was a separate magazine. And working with NASA and others. I believe by the use of prizes, by the use of incentives, by opening up the space port so that it’s available on a ready basis for commercial fight, by using commonsense for example the Atlas-V could easily be fixed into a man capable vehicle so you didn’t have to rely on — on a Russian launch or a Chinese launch.

There are many things you can do to leverage accelerating the development of space. Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000.00 prize. If we had a handful of serious prizes, you’d see an extraordinary number of people out there trying to get to the moon first in order to have billed (ph) that. And I’d like to have an American on the moon before the Chinese get there.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum? [applause]

SANTORUM: I — I believe America’s a frontier nation and obviously the frontier that — that we’re talking about is — is the next one, which is space. And that we need to inspire. One of the big problems we have in our country today is that young people are not getting involved in math and science and not dreaming big dreams. So NASA or the space program where space is important, NASA is one component that — our — our space defense is another area. I think both of — both of which are very, very important. I agree that we need to bring good minds in the private sector much more involved in NASA than the government bureaucracy that we have. But let’s just be honest, we run a $1.2 trillion deficit right now. We’re — we’re borrowing 40-cents of every dollar. And to go out there and promise new programs and big ideas, that’s a great thing to maybe get votes, but it’s not a responsible thing when you have to go out and say that we have to start cutting programs, not talking about how to — how to — how to grow them.

We’re going to cut programs. We’re going to spend — under my administration, we’re going to spend less money every year — every year. Year, to year, to year the federal government amount of spending will go down for four years until we get a balanced budget. And you can’t do that by — by — by grand schemes. Whether it’s the space program or frankly whether it’s the Speaker’s Social Security program, which will create a brand-new Social Security entitlement. Those are things that sound good and maybe make big promises to people, but we’ve got to be responsible in the way we allocate our resources.

BLITZER: We’re going to get to that in a moment, but…[applause]

Congressman Paul, Texas, the space program very important there as well. Where do you stand on this?

PAUL: Well, I don’t think we should go to the moon. I think we maybe should send some politicians up there. [applause]

But I went — I went into the Air Force in 1962 and studied aerospace medicine. Actually had a daydream about maybe becoming the first physician to go into space. That — that didn’t occur, but I see space — the amount of money we spend on space, the only part that I would vote for is for national defense purposes. Not to explore the moon and go to Mars. I think that’s fantastic. That’s — I love those ideas. But I also don’t like the idea of building government business partnerships. If we had a healthy economy and had more Bill Gateses and more Warren Buffetts, the money would be there. It should be privatized, and the people who work in the industry, if you had that, there would be jobs in aerospace.

And I just think that we don’t need a bigger, a newer program, when you think of the people — I mean, health care or something else deserves a lot more priority than going to the moon. So, I would be very reluctant, but space technology should be followed up to some degree for national defense purposes, but not just for the fun of it and, you know, for — you know, for scientific —

BLITZER: We’re going to leave this subject, but before we do, I want Speaker Gingrich to clarify what you said yesterday in that major speech you delivered on space. You said that you would support a lunar colony or a lunar base, and that if 13,000 Americans were living there, they would be able to apply for U.S. statehood from the moon.

GINGRICH: I was meeting Rick’s desire for grandiose ideas. But —

BLITZER: That’s a pretty grandiose idea.

GINGRICH: But let me make just two points about this.

It is really important to go back and look at what John F. Kennedy said in May of 1961 when he said, “We will go to the moon in this decade.” No American had orbited the Earth. The technology didn’t exist.

And a generation of young people went into science and engineering and technology, and they were tremendously excited. And they had a future.

I actually agree with Dr. Paul. The program I envision would probably end up being 90 percent private sector, but it would be based on a desire to change the government rules and change the government regulations, to get NASA out of the business of trying to run rockets, and to create a system where it’s easy for private sector people to be engaged.

I want to see us move from one launch occasionally to six or seven launches a day because so many private enterprises walk up and say, we’re prepared to go do it. But I’ll tell you, I do not want to be the country that having gotten to the moon first, turned around and said, it doesn’t really matter, let the Chinese dominate space, what do we care? I think that is a path of national decline, and I am for America being a great country, not a country in decline. [applause]

BLITZER: We’re going to move on, but go ahead, Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, “You’re fired.”

The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea, but it’s not a good idea. And we have seen in politics — we’ve seen politicians — and Newt, you’ve been part of this — go from state to state and promise exactly what that state wants to hear. The Speaker comes here to Florida, wants to spend untold amount of money having a colony on the moon. I know it’s very exciting on the Space Coast.

In South Carolina, it was a new interstate highway, and dredging the port in Charleston. In New Hampshire, it was burying a power line coming in from Canada and building a new VHA hospital in New Hampshire so that people don’t have to go to Boston.

Look, this idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, promising billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to make people happy, that’s what got us into the trouble we’re in now. We’ve got to say no to this kind of spending. [applause]

GINGRICH: I want to make two points.

First, I thought we were a country where one of the purposes of candidates going around was to actually learn about the states they campaigned in and actually be responsive to the needs of the states they campaign in. For example, the port of Jacksonville is going to have to be expanded because the Panama Canal is being widened, and I think that’s useful thing for a president to know. I think it’s important for presidents to know about local things.

Second — and at the other end of the state, the Everglades Restoration Project has to be completed, and it’s the federal government which has failed.

But, second, in response to what Rick said, when we balanced the budget with the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, and ultimately had four consecutive balanced budgets, we doubled the size of the National Institutes of Health because we set priorities. It is possible to do the right things in the right order to make this a bigger, richer, more exciting country.

You don’t just have to be cheap everywhere. You can actually have priorities to get things done. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to move on.

But go ahead, Ron Paul.

PAUL: I want to make a quick comment, because Newt’s mentioned this quite a few times about balancing the budget for four times. I went back and looked at the record.

The budget was — the national debt during those four years actually went up about a trillion dollars. What he’s talking about is, he doesn’t count the money he takes out of Social Security.

So, Reagan nor you had a truly balanced budget because the national debt goes up, and that’s what we pay the interest on. So I think you’ve stretched that a little bit more than you should have. [applause]

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond. And then Senator Santorum.

GINGRICH: No, I…

BLITZER: You want to respond to Congressman Paul?

GINGRICH: No, I would just say — I would just say, under the system that was used, we were $405 billion [inaudible]…[booing]

I agree with Ron — but let me finish. I actually agree with you, and I propose that we take Social Security off budget so no president can ever again get threaten, as Obama did in August, that he would not send the check out, and you could set Social Security back up as a free-standing trust fund. It does have enough money and you could in fact pay the checks without regard to politics in Washington.

BLITZER: Go ahead, quickly. [applause]

SANTORUM: Well, look, we just listened to the president of the United States the other night completely ignore the biggest problem facing this country when it comes to our financial health. We’ve been downgraded as a — as a — as a country and the president of the United States completely ignored any of the heavy work, the hard work in being honest with the American public about what we have to do to get our fiscal house in order.

And I think that’s the point I would make here. Going around and promising a whole bunch of new ideas and new projects and big ideas — that was fine. And maybe we need it; we can do that. I supported the doubling of the National Institutes of Health. But we didn’t have a $1.2 trillion deficit. We didn’t — we weren’t at over — we are now going to reach $16 trillion, which is more than our whole GDP. We were not in that situation 20, 15 years ago.

We are in a different world. We need leaders who are going to be honest with the people of this country, of the problems we have, and have bold solutions to make that happen. I’ll do that.

BLITZER: Let’s continue on this subject. [applause]

But let’s take a question from the audience.

Go ahead. Stand up and please introduce yourself.

QUESTION: My name is Lynn Frazier and I live here in Jacksonville. And for the Republican presidential candidates, my question is, I’m currently unemployed and I found myself unemployed for the first time in 10 years and unable to afford health care benefits.

What type of hope can you promise me and others in my position? [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s ask Congressman Paul.

PAUL: Well, it’s a tragedy because this is a consequence of the government being involved in medicine since 1965.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot, but my dad had a small insurance, but medical care costs weren’t that much. And you should have an opportunity — medical care insurance should be given to you as an individual, so if you’re employed or not employed, you have — you just take care of that and you keep it up. When you lose a job, sometimes you lose your insurance.

But the cost is so high. When you pump money into something, like housing, cost — prices go up. If you pump money into education, the cost of education goes up. When the government gets involved in medicine, you don’t get better care; you get — cost goes up and it distorts the economy and leads to a crisis.

But your medical care should go with you. You should get total deduction on it. It would be so much less expensive. It doesn’t solve every single problem, but you’re — you’re suffering from the consequence of way too much government and the cost going up because government has inflated the cost and we have a government-created recession, and that is a consequence of the business cycle.

BLITZER: Speaker — Speaker Gingrich, what should Lynn do? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, look, the first — she actually put her finger on two different problems. The largest challenge of this country is to get the economy growing so she can have a job so it’s easy for her to have insurance.

We — we need — and the president did nothing about this the other night. In fact, his proposal on taxes would make the economy worse.

We need to have a program which would start with, frankly, repealing Obamacare, repealing Dodd-Frank, repealing Sarbanes-Oxley. [applause]

And we need to give her a chance at a job.

Second, we need real health reform, not the Obama style, but we need health reform that allows her to buy in. And Dr. Paul is right. She ought to get the same tax break whether she buys personally or whether she buys through a economy.

She should also be able to buy into an association so that she’s buying with lots of other people so it’s not single insurance, which is the most expensive kind.

But you combine those two, reforming the insurance system and getting the economy growing again so people are back at work, you cure an awful lot of America’s problems with those two steps, and you put her back in a position where she’s in charge of her life; she’s not dependent on Barack Obama to take care of her. [applause]

BLITZER: That plan work for you, Governor?

ROMNEY: Actually, what both these gentlemen said is pretty much spot-on. And I’d — and I’ll add a couple of things.

One, I want to underscore something both of them said, and that is, right now in America, if you have insurance, you most likely got it through your employer. And the reason is, your employer gets a deduction for you when they buy the insurance for you.

That means that, if you change jobs, you’ve got to get a new insurance company, most likely. And if you become unemployed, you lose your insurance.

That doesn’t make sense. And if an individual wants to own their own insurance, they’re not part of a big group, and so as a result they get a very high rate.

What we should do is allow individuals to own their own insurance and have the same tax treatment as companies get. You do that and people like this young woman would be able to own her insurance. The rates would be substantial lower for her buying it individually than if she had to buy it individually today.

Secondly, getting people to work. This president has failed the American people.

He got up there and gave a speech last night. It was like Groundhog Day all over again. He said the same things and the same results we’re seeing today. People are not working. [applause]

And we know what it takes to put people back to work. He said some of those things last night — lowering corporate taxes, lowering regulations, opening up all of the above in energy, cracking down on China. He just doesn’t do any of those things, and if I’m president, I will do those things and I’ll get you back to work.

Thank you. [applause]

SANTORUM: All three of these folks sound great and I agree with them. I would just add that health savings account, which I introduced 20 years ago with John Kasich, is really the fundamental reform of getting consumers back involved in the health care system.

The problem with the answers from Congressman Gingrich and Governor Romney is that, well, they didn’t always say what they’re saying. Governor Romney was the author of Romneycare, which is a top- down government-run health care system which, read an article today, has 15 different items directly in common with Obamacare, everything from the increase in the Medicaid program, not just that government is going to mandate you buy something that’s a condition of breathing, mandate that you buy an insurance policy, something that Governor Romney agreed to at the state level, something Congressman Gingrich for 20 years advocated, that the federal government can force each and every person to enter into a private contract. Something that everyone now, at least up on this stage, says is radically unconstitutional, Congressman Gingrich supported for 20 years.

Governor Romney supported it in the state, a state that is a — pretty much a model for what Obamacare is going to look like — the highest health care costs in the country, 27 percent above the average, average waiting time — 94 percent of the people in Massachusetts are now insured, but there was just a survey that came out and said one in four don’t get the care they need because of the high cost. So, you have a card, you’re covered, but you can’t get care.

This is the top-down model that both of these gentlemen say they’re now against, but they’ve been for, and it does not provide the contrast we need with Barack Obama if we’re going to take on that most important issue. We cannot give the issue of health care away in this election. It is too foundational for us to win this election.

BLITZER: A quick rebuttal from Speaker Gingrich and then Governor Romney. [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, in my case, I think Rick is lumping us together rather more than is accurate.

If you go to healthtransformation.net, I founded the Center for Health Transformation. I wrote a book in 2002 called “Saving Lives and Saving Money.” It calls for you and your doctor and your pharmacist and your hospital have a relationship. I believe in something like patient power.

I didn’t advocate federal mandates. I talked about it at a state level, finding a way — which included an escape clause that people didn’t have to buy it — finding a way to try to have people have insurance, particularly for wealthy people who are simply free-riding on local hospitals. But the fact is, it was a personal system, dramatically different than either Romneycare or the version Rick just discussed.

BLITZER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: The system that we put in place in our state was something we worked out with the labor community, the health care community, business, and the citizens of the nation. We came together, it was voted by a 200-person legislature. Only two voted no.

Our system has a lot of flaws, a lot of things I’d do differently. It has a lot of benefits. The people of the state like it by about three to one.

We consider it very different than Obamacare. If I were president, day one I will take action to repeal Obamacare. It’s bad medicine. It’s bad economy. I’ll repeal it. [applause]

And I believe the people — I believe the people of each state should be able to craft programs that they feel are best for their people. I think ours is working pretty well. If I were governor, it would work a heck of a lot better.

BLITZER: All right.

And very quickly, go ahead.

SANTORUM: What Governor Romney just said is that government-run top-down medicine is working pretty well in Massachusetts and he supports it. Now, think about what that means —

ROMNEY: That’s not what I said.

SANTORUM: — going up against Barack Obama, who you are going to claim, well, top-down government-run medicine on the federal level doesn’t work and we should repeal it. And he’s going to say, wait a minute, Governor. You just said that top-down government-run medicine in Massachusetts works well.

Folks, we can’t give this issue away in this election. It is about fundamental freedom. Whether the United States government or even a state government — you have Amendment 1 here offered by Scott Pleitgen, who, by the way, endorsed me today, and it’s going to be on your ballot as to whether there should be a government mandate here in Florida.

According to Governor Romney, that’s OK. If the state does it, that’s OK. If the state wants to enforce it, that’s OK. Those are not the clear contrasts we need if we’re going to defeat Barack Obama and a —

BLITZER: Let’s go to Miami. [applause]

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Very quickly.

ROMNEY: Rick, I make enough mistakes in what I say, not for you to add more mistakes to what I say. I didn’t say I’m in favor of top- down government-run health care, 92 percent of the people in my state had insurance before our plan went in place. And nothing changes for them. They own the same private insurance they had before.

And for the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There’s no government plan.

And if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility.

Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached.

SANTORUM: Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy health care?

ROMNEY: Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care. Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea.

SANTORUM: So, in Massachusetts…[applause]

Just so I understand this, in Massachusetts, everybody is mandated as a condition of breathing in Massachusetts, to buy health insurance, and if you don’t, and if you don’t, you have to pay a fine.

What has happened in Massachusetts is that people are now paying the fine because health insurance is so expensive. And you have a pre-existing condition clause in yours, just like Barack Obama.

So what is happening in Massachusetts, the people that Governor Romney said he wanted to go after, the people that were free-riding, free ridership has gone up five-fold in Massachusetts. Five times the rate it was before. Why? Because…

ROMNEY: That’s total, complete…

SANTORUM: I’ll be happy to give you the study. Five times the rate it has gone up. Why? Because people are ready to pay a cheaper fine and then be able to sign up to insurance, which are now guaranteed under “Romney-care,” than pay high cost insurance, which is what has happened as a result of “Romney-care.”

ROMNEY: First of all, it’s not worth getting angry about. Secondly, the…[applause]

Secondly, 98 percent of the people have insurance. And so the idea that more people are free-riding the system is simply impossible. Half of those people got insurance on their own. Others got help in buying the insurance.

Look, I know you don’t like the plan that we had. I don’t like the Obama plan. His plan cuts Medicare by $500 billion. We didn’t, of course, touch anything like that. He raises taxes by $500 billion. We didn’t do that.

He wasn’t interested in the 8 percent of the people that were uninsured. He was concerned about the 100 percent of the people of the country. “Obama-care” takes over health care for the American people.

If I’m president of the United States, I will stop it. And in debating Barack Obama, I will be able to show that I have passion and concern for the people in this country that need health care, like this young woman who asked the question.

But I will be able to point out that what he did was wrong. It was bad medicine, it’s bad for the economy, and I will repeal it. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s move on, let’s move on.

SANTORUM: Wolf, what Governor Romney said is just factually incorrect. Your mandate is no different than Barack Obama’s mandate. It is the same mandate. He takes over… [applause]

BLITZER: All right. All right.

SANTORUM: You take over 100 percent, just like he takes over 100 percent, requires the mandate. The same fines that you put in place in Massachusetts are fines that he puts in place in the federal level. Same programs.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, who is right?

PAUL: I think they’re all wrong. [laughter] [applause]

I think this — this is a typical result of when you get government involved, because all you are arguing about is which form of government you want. They have way too much confidence in government sorting this out.

So, I would say there’s a much better way. And that is allow the people to make their decisions and not get the government involved. You know, it has only been…[applause]

When I started medicine, there was no Medicare or Medicaid. And nobody was out in the streets without it. Now, now people are suffering, all the complaints going on. So the government isn’t our solution.

So, I’m not too happy with this type of debate, trying to blame one versus the other, so, but — most likely we’re going to continue to have this problem unless we straighten out the economy. And that means…

BLITZER: I’ll give you 30 seconds, Mr. Speaker.

PAUL: … cut the spending. And they talk about these new programs and all, but how many of the other candidates are willing to cut anything? I’m willing to cut $1 trillion out of the first year. [applause]

BLITZER: All right.

GINGRICH: Well, I just want to say that I actually think if you look at what Ron Paul’s background is as a doctor, and you look at medicine in the early ’60s, and you look at how communities solved problems, it was a fundamentally more flexible and less expensive system.

And there’s a lot to be said for rethinking from the ground up, the entire approach to health care.

BLITZER: Let’s go to Miami. We have another question. [applause]

CNN Espanol’s Juan Carlos Lopez is standing by. Go ahead?

LOPEZ: Yes, Wolf, our question now comes from Jennifer Coryn she is a — the Executive Director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, our cosponsor and she is the spouse of a Marine Corps Gunnery Sargent and I believe, Jennifer, your question has to do with the future?

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much and good evening. We have many qualified, Hispanic leaders. Which of our Hispanic leaders would you consider to serve in your cabinet?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM:: Well, I mean I hate to throw one to Florida, but obviously your Senator Marco Rubio is a pretty impressive guy. [applause]

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I think that there are a number, and I think for example of — of when you think cabinet, I think for example of Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico. You know, at the cabinet level I think of somebody like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I actually thought about Marco Rubio on a slightly more dignified and central role, then being in the cabinet, but that’s another conversation. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor?

ROMNEY: We — we are blessed — we’re blessed to have an enormous number of highly qualified Hispanic-Americans in the Republican Party and leadership right now. Brian Sandoval, the governor of — of Nevada. You mentioned Susana Martinez in New Mexico. I — both of the Diaz-Belart brothers, one retired from Congress, the other currently there. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mel Martinez is back in the private sector. Who knows, he could be pulled back. Of course, Senator Marco Rubio a — a terrific Hispanic- American. I — I’m sure I’m missing many, many others, but we have a — a remarkable — Carlos Gutierrez, formerly secretary of Commerce.

These individuals can for membership in our — in our cabinet, I believe. And — and potentially as the — as the speaker indicates, other positions as well.

PAUL: I — I — I don’t have one particular name that I’m going to bring up, but my litmus test would be to get individuals, Hispanic or otherwise to understand monetary policy and understand the system. But also the Hispanic community is especially attuned to the foreign policy of non-intervention. They — they are more opposed to war than other communities, so I would think there’s plenty in the Hispanic community that could give me good advice and an understanding of why a non-intervention foreign policy is very attractive to the Hispanic people.

BLITZER: All right, gentleman stand by. Much more to discuss. I want to take a short break. We have many more topics to include — including this, we’ll get into this a little bit, what would your wife — why would your wife make the best first lady. I’ll ask these four candidates. Stay with us. [applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: I’m Wolf Blitzer.

We’re here in Jacksonville for CNN’s Florida Republican presidential debate. Many of you are watching online, commenting on Twitter, Facebook, at CNN.com. We have many more questions for the candidates, including one that hits close to home.

Stand by to find out why each man on this stage thinks his wife would be the best first lady.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Want to get right back to the rest of the debate, but first, on a lighter subject, I want to ask each of these gentlemen why they think their wife would make a great first lady.

Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, she’s been my wife for 54 years. And we’re going to have an anniversary on February 1st.

BLITZER: Congratulations.

PAUL: So — but she’s the mother of five of our children, and she’s a grandmother of 18 grandchildren, does an excellent job. And she’s also the author of a very famous cookbook, “The Ron Paul Cookbook.”

BLITZER: Governor?

ROMNEY: I’ve got to take a little bit more time, a little more seriousness.

My — nothing wrong with what you said — I’m sorry.

My wife is also a mom, as I pointed out early on, but in some respects, she is a real champion and a fighter. She was diagnosed in 1998 with Multiple Sclerosis, and more recently with breast cancer. She has battled both successfully. And as first lady, she will be able to reach out to people who are also struggling and suffering and will be someone who shows compassion and care.

And she’s also had a passion all of her adult life on helping people in troubled situations, young women in particular, understand the importance of getting married before they have babies and encouraging people to create families to raise kids in. [applause]

GINGRICH: Let me say, first of all, having gotten to know them, I think all three of the wives represented here would be terrific first ladies. Callista and I have gotten to know all three of them, and we think they’d be fabulous people. So I would rather just to talk about why I like Callista, and why I’d like her to be first lady, but she’s not necessarily in any way better. These are wonderful people, and they would be wonderful first ladies.

But Callista brings a couple of things. One is a tremendous artistic focus. She’s done a video in music education, why it really matters. She’s a pianist by background, plays the French horn in a community band, sings in the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She really cares about the arts and would bring a really strong feeling for music education and for art, and why it matters to people as part of their education.

She’s also very patriotic about American exceptionalism. She’s had a best-selling “New York Times” book, children’s book, and has really reached out to young people to get them to understand America.

And she’s helped produce and host seven movies now, so she would bring an entire, I think, artistic flavor.

But — and I, obviously, would be thrilled to be able to hang out with her at the White House. So it would be good.

BLITZER: And I suspect you would be.

Unfortunately, Senator Santorum, your wife is not here tonight.

SANTORUM: Yeah, she’s not. She’s — she’s doing what she does incredibly well, which is to be a mother to our seven children. And she is — she’s my hero. She’s someone who has been, you know, well- educated. She was a neo-natal intensive care nurse for nine years at one of the most advanced nurseries in the — in the country.

She went on to, because she saw all these ethical challenges there, so she went on and got a law degree so she could — she could deal with those in the — in the legal world.

And then when she got married, she gave that up; she walked away and walked into something that she felt called to do, which was to be a mom and to be a wife.

And we’ve — we’ve had eight children. We are blessed to be raising seven. We’ve been through a lot together, losing a child, having a child with a disability that we have now, our little Bella.

And the — the amount of love for these special kids is just palpable in her.

She wrote a book about our son that we lost called “Letters to Gabriel,” about that ordeal that we went through. That book, that little book has saved countless — I don’t — we know of at least hundreds of lives that were saved because people read that book and realized that the child they we’re carrying had the dignity to be love and nurtured irrespective of what malady may have — may have befallen that baby in the womb. And so many children were born and are alive today because of that book.

She’s also written a book on manners. That’s something that I — I — we have seven children, so we know that kids are not born good. And…[laughter]… and so manners is very important in our house. And she wrote a storybook because there were all sorts of how-to books on manners but there was no storybook, teaching manners through, well, how Christ taught us, through stories. And — and that’s what she did. And that book has hopefully somewhat civilized some children around this country. [laughter]

BLITZER: Very nice.

All right, let’s get back to the debate — the debate now. [applause]

Governor Romney, you criticized Speaker Gingrich for not being as close to Ronald Reagan as he says he was. When you ran for the Senate, you said you were, quote, “You weren’t trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”

So the question is, do you think you can claim the Reagan mantle more than Speaker Gingrich?

ROMNEY: Oh, of course not. No, I — I was — at the time Ronald Reagan was — was president, I was just getting started. I went through school, came out of school, got my first job, worked my way up in a consulting company, and then, after awhile, started a business of my own. I was looking at politics from afar and learning as time went on.

I didn’t get involved in politics early in my life. I instead spent my time building a business. And then later, as my business had been successful and we’d been involved in some turnaround situations, some businesses in trouble that we were able to help — not all worked out as we’d hoped, but a number did — I got asked to go off and help get the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 on track and put aside my business and went — went to Utah. And it was perhaps the greatest professional experience of my life, going there and spending three years helping getting those games on track.

I — I happen to believe the Olympics is one of the great showcases of the — of the human spirit that exists in the media world. And it was very successful. And then — and then, after that, I was asked by some friends to come back and run for governor, did that. And that’s when I became terribly politically involved.

And in that involvement, I learned a lot of lessons. Being governor taught me a lot of things. I became more conservative, by the way, as I was governor, and found the importance of lowering taxes, making it easier for businesses to grow, the importance of driving schools to be the best in the country. Those are the things I did.

And so I’m not suggesting — the speaker was a congressman at the time Ronald Reagan was president, so he — he, of course, was closer to the Ronald Reagan era than I.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, you’ve heard the criticism lately that you weren’t necessarily as close to the president as you suggest?

GINGRICH: Well, it’s increasingly interesting to watch the Romney attack machine coordinate things. And all of a sudden, today, there are like four different articles by four different people that randomly show up.

The fact is, I’m thrilled that Michael Reagan has endorsed me and will be campaigning with me here in Florida. I remember very fondly, in 1995, when we were at the Goldwater Institute and Nancy Reagan said, you know, “Barry gave Ronnie the torch, and now Ronny’s passing the torch to Newt and his team in Congress. So I think it’s reasonable to say, and I think the governor said it fairly, I am vastly closer to Reagan. In that period the governor was an independent business person. In ’92 he was donating to the Democrats for Congress and voted for Paul Tsongas in the Democratic primary. In ’94 running against Teddy Kennedy, he said flatly, I don’t want to go back to the Reagan-Bush era, I was an independent.

So there’s a pretty wide gap. Now, he’s more mature. He’s more conservative, I accept that. I think it’s a good thing. But those of us who were in the trenches fighting in the ’80’s, it would be nice to be recognized for what we actually did and not to have orchestrated attacks to try to distort the history of that period.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, you can respond please. [applause]

ROMNEY: Just a — just a short clarification. I — I’ve never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot. And — and in my state of Massachusetts, you could register as an independent and go vote in which — either primary happens to be very interesting. And any chance I got to vote against Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy, I took. And so I — I’m…[applause]…I have voted — I have always voted for a Republican any time there was a Republican on the ballot. With regards to the Speaker’s involvement in the Reagan years, he can speak for himself. The Reagan Diaries and the other histories that were written at that time can lay that out as well. I — I — I think, I think what he said speaks for itself and I’m proud of the things I was able to accomplish.

BLITZER: Let’s take another question from the audience. Go ahead. Please stand up and give us your name?

QUESTION: Hi, my name is George Miatus, I live here in Jacksonville and when I was 3-years-old I was very blessed that my parents brought me here from Cuba. They brought me here so that I could be raised in freedom and in liberty. President Obama has recently announced that he is liberalizing trade and travel policies. What would be your position as president toward the island of Cuba?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I would oppose it. I’ve been 100 percent in support of the Cuban people and their right to have a free Cuba and the United States should stand on the side of the Cuban people against these despots who are not just reigning terror, continuing reign of terror in Cuba. But now have their — their — their puppet, Chavez in — in Venezuela and Noriega and Morales and it keeps — it keeps like a cancer growing. So the idea that a president of the United States would take the heart of the cancer that is in Central and South America, and begin to reward behavior that has spread this cancer because of our dilly-dallying and our inattentiveness to the problems in Central and South America.

Now, we’re going to reward the secret police. We’re going to [inaudible] president of Venezuela as they are in Cuba. We’re going to reward this type of thuggery, this type of Marxism in our region. We’re going to reward a country that is now working with these other countries to harbor and bring in Iran and the terrorist — the Jihadist’s who want to set up missile sites and to set up training camps. And so we’re going to reward this behavior by opening up and liberalizing. This is the exact wrong message at the exact wrong time.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul…[applause]…you said the U.S. should talk to everyone. Imagine you’re in the Oval Office, you speak to Raul Castro. What would you say to him?

PAUL: Well, I’d ask him what he called about, you know? [laughter]

What was the purpose of his call? No, I would ask him what can — what can we do to improve relations? Because I wouldn’t see them as likely to attack us. When I was drafted in October of ’62, that was a different world. I mean there were nuclear weapons in Cuba. That was a different story. But — but today to — not to talk to them and take the call and see what you can work out, helps — helps Castro. It hurts the people, the dissidents, the people who want to overthrow him have always had to be, you know, nationalistic and unified behind the leader.

So as well intended as these sanctions are, they almost inevitably backfire and they help the dictators and hurt the people. [applause]

So it’s time to change. The Cold — the Cold War — the Cold War is over. They’re not going to invade us and I just think that a better relationship and trade relationship, so many people — I think — I’ve noticed already since I’ve been talking about this issue the last four of five years, I think the people have changed their mind. It’s very — the American people are getting much more open. Not nearly as frightened. And people — I don’t think they see a Jihadist under the bed every night…[laughter]…and we have to worry about that. I think there’s — I — I worry about overreaction, over concern and lack of ability to talk to them when they call you.

BLITZER: I want both of you to weigh in, Governor Romney first?

ROMNEY: Two — two major flaws with President Obama’s foreign policy.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Well what about Ron Paul’s policy?

ROMNEY: Well, I’m talking about President Obama right now. We can get back to Ron Paul in a moment. [applause]

First of all, I think the president has largely ignored Latin America, Cuba in particular, Venezuela, and other nations. I think we have to change that dramatically.

I think we have to have economic initiatives to build trade throughout Latin America, particularly with Colombia and Panama, now part of free trade agreements. I want more of that throughout Latin America. But that’s the first flaw, ignoring Latin America.

And number two is reaching out with accommodations to some of the world’s worst actors, whether it was Putin in Russia, giving him what he wanted, or Castro, saying we’re going to let you have remittances coming from the U.S. to fund your future, or relaxed trade restrictions. Throughout the world, with Ahmadinejad opening an open hand, tyrants look for weakness to take advantage. That’s the wrong course.

The right course for Cuba is to continue to honor Helms-Burton. And if I’m president of the United States, I will use every resource we have, short of invasion and military action, Congressman Paul. I’ll use every resource we can to make sure that when Fidel Castro finally leaves this planet, that we are able to help the people of Cuba enjoy freedom.

They want it. It’s a God-given right. And it is our responsibility to help share the gift of freedom with people throughout the world that are seeking it. [applause]

BLITZER: Are you open — Mr. Speaker, are you open to improving relations with Cuba?

GINGRICH: Well, let me start with where the governor correctly pointed out. I was very proud as Speaker to be able to make sure that the Helms-Burton Act passed, and I’m delighted that Congressman Dan Burton is here tonight and is campaigning with me, because it was a very important step towards isolating the Castro regime.

I think it’s amazing that Barack Obama is worried about an Arab Spring, he’s worried about Tunisia, he’s worried about Libya, he’s worried about Egypt, he’s worried about Syria, and he cannot bring himself to look south and imagine a Cuban Spring. And I would argue that we should have, as a stated explicit policy, that we want to facilitate the transition from the dictatorship to freedom. We want to bring together every non-military asset we have, exactly as President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher and Pope John Paul II did in Poland and in Eastern Europe.

They broke up the Soviet empire without a general war by using a wide range of things, one of which is just psychological, saying to the next generation of people in Cuba, the dictatorship is not going to survive. You need to bet to moving to freedom in order to have prosperity in Cuba, and we will help you get to that freedom. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s take another question from the audience.

Please give us your name and tell us where you are from.

UNKNOWN: Abraham Hassel from Jacksonville, Florida.

How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people? As a Palestinian-American Republican, I’m here to tell you we do exist.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s ask Governor Romney, first of all.

What would you say to Abraham?

ROMNEY: Well, the reason that there’s not peace between the Palestinians and Israel is because there is — in the leadership of the Palestinian people are Hamas and others who think like Hamas, who have as their intent the elimination of Israel. And whether it’s in school books that teach how to kill Jews, or whether it’s in the political discourse that is spoken either from Fatah or from Hamas, there is a belief that the Jewish people do not have a right to have a Jewish state.

There are some people who say, should we have a two-state solution? And the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution. It’s the Palestinians who don’t want a two-state solution. They want to eliminate the state of Israel.

And I believe America must say — and the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say, we stand with our friend Israel. We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel.

This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip. This president threw — [applause]

I think he threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the ’67 borders as a starting point of negotiations. I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I think he has time and time again shown distance from Israel, and that has created, in my view, a greater sense of aggression on the part of the Palestinians. I will stand with our friend, Israel.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. [applause]

Speaker Gingrich, you got into a little hot water when you said the Palestinians were an invented people.

GINGRICH: It was technically an invention of the late 1970s, and it was clearly so. Prior to that, they were Arabs. Many of them were either Syrian, Lebanese, or Egyptian, or Jordanian.

There are a couple of simple things here. There were 11 rockets fired into Israel in November. Now, imagine in Duvall County that 11 rockets hit from your neighbor. How many of you would be for a peace process and how many of you would say, you know, that looks like an act of war.

You have leadership unequivocally, and Governor Romney is exactly right, the leadership of Hamas says, not a single Jew will remain. We aren’t having a peace negotiation then. This is war by another form.

My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom. and they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say Israel has a right to exist, we give up the right to return, and we recognize that we’re going to live side-by-side, now let’s work together to create mutual prosperity.

And you could in five years dramatically improve the quality of life of every Palestinian. But the political leadership would never tolerate that. And that’s why we’re in a continuous state of war where Obama undermines the Israelis.

On the first day that I’m president, if I do become president, I will sign an executive order directing the State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to send the signal we’re with Israel. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s go to Miami. Let’s take another question from Miami. Juan Carlos, go ahead?

LOPEZ: Thank you, Wolf. I’m joined now by Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder. She is the CEO and founder of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce in Florida. She is based out of Tampa.

And I’m pretty sure, Elizabeth, your question has to do with the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

CUEVAS-NEUNDER: [speaking in Spanish]. Good evening. [speaking in Spanish]. I am bilingual, proud of it. My question to the candidates, we have 4 million Puerto Ricans in the United States, voters, 3.8 in Puerto Rico.

We have been treated as second class citizen and just now our governor’s name was not mentioned as a V.P. possibility, a great governor. My question to you is, where do you stand for Puerto Rico to become a state? And secondly, how do you — where do you stand on domestic trade between Florida and Puerto Rico, between Tampa Bay and Ponce ports which have been neglected? Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Santorum, let’s throw that question to you. The question about, do you support Puerto Rico potentially as the 51st state?

SANTORUM: Well, first, I will give a shout-out to Governor Luis Fortuno, who is a good friend of mine, and someone — I know him and his family, we have known each other for many years, we actually used to go to church together.

And so I spoke to Luis this week. And I’ve been to Puerto Rico many times. And actually, when I was a United States senator, we did a lot of work with Puerto Rico. Because of my relationship with many friends down there, I was made aware of problems, for example, in the Medicaid program.

We went down and we actually passed things to help with reimbursement rates, which were deplorably low in Puerto Rico. We also worked on hurricane relief and a whole lost of other things as a result of my relationship with many Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania, and developed those relationships on the island.

I believe that — I believe in self-determination. That, you know, the Puerto Rican people should have the opportunity to be able to be able to speak on this. I have supported that. I don’t take a position one way or the other on statehood, commonwealth, independence, that’s for the people of Puerto Rico to decide.

But I also supported a lot of things to help the Puerto Rican economy. Puerto Ricans are United States citizens, and the poverty, the unemployment rates simply are — are simply not something that we as Americans should allow to occur in our country.

And we need to make sure that there are pro-growth, supply side economics to make sure that Puerto Rico can be successful as an economy on that island, and I believe they can. And under my administration, that’s something that I would work towards.

BLITZER: I’ll take that as a maybe. Statehood, not statehood.

SANTORUM: No, I take no position on that. That’s — I would — I’ve supported, you know, the opportunity for them to make that decision.

BLITZER: Let’s take another question from the audience here. Go ahead, please. What is your name?

SUZANNE BASS: Suzanne Bass, I’m an attorney in Jacksonville. Welcome to the great city of Jacksonville.

My question, how would your religious beliefs, if you’re elected, impact the decisions that you make in the office of the presidency?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, my religious beliefs wouldn’t affect it. My religious beliefs affect my character in the way I treat people and the way I live. The only thing it would affect…[applause]

The only thing that would affect me in the way I operate as a president or a congressman is my oath of office and my promises that I’ve made to the people.

BLITZER: Governor?

ROMNEY: Ron Paul makes very good point. I concur with that. I would also seek the guidance of — of providence in making critical decisions.

And of course, ours is a nation which is based upon Judeo- Christian values and ethics. Our law is based upon those values and ethics. And in some cases, our law doesn’t encompass — encompass all of the issues that we face around the world.

The conviction that the founders, when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, were writing a document that was not just temporary and not just for one small locale but really something which described the relationship between God and man — that’s something which I think a president would carry in his heart.

So when they said, for instance, that the creator had “endowed us with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I would seek to assure that those principles and values remain in America and that we help share them with other people in the world, not by conquering them, but by helping them through our trade, through our various forms of soft power, to help bring people the joy and — and — and opportunity that exists in this great land.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker? [applause]

GINGRICH: I would say that there are three ways in which religion would affect me.

The first is, I agree with Governor Romney. I think anyone who is president is faced with decisions so enormous that they should go to God. They should seek guidance. Because these are decisions beyond the ability of mere mortals to truly decide without some sense of what it is we should be doing.

I would say, second, that we have a real obligation to recognize that, if you’re truly faithful, it’s not just an hour on Sundays or Saturdays or Fridays. It’s in fact something that should suffuse your life, to be a part of who you are. And in that sense, it is inextricably tied in with how you behave.

But I would say, third, one of the reasons I am running is there has been an increasingly aggressive war against religion and in particular against Christianity in this country, largely by…[applause]… largely by a secular elite and the academic news media and judicial areas. And I frankly believe it’s important to have some leadership that stands up and says, enough; we are truly guaranteed the right of religious freedom, not religious suppression by the state. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator?

SANTORUM: Faith is a very, very important part of my life, but it’s a very, very important part of this country. The foundational documents of our country — everybody talks about the Constitution, very, very important. But the Constitution is the “how” of America. It’s the operator’s manual.

The “why” of America, who we are as a people, is in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”

The Constitution is there to do one thing: protect God-given rights. That’s what makes America different than every other country in the world. No other country in the world has its rights — rights based in God-given rights, not government-given rights.

And so when you say, well, faith has nothing to do with it, faith has everything to do with it. If rights come…[applause]

If our president believes that rights come to us from the state, everything government gives you, it can take away. The role of the government is to protect rights that cannot be taken away.

And so the answer to that question is, I believe in faith and reason and approaching the problems of this country but understand where those rights come from, who we are as Americans and the foundational principles by which we have changed the world.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. [applause]

We have one more break to take, but we have a lot more to discuss. Don’t go too far away. Coming up, the final debate question before Florida votes. [applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: All right. We’re in the last few minutes of the last question to these four presidential candidates before the Florida primary on Tuesday in this debate format. Here is the question, and it involves the president of the United States. I want you to tell voters who are watching or are here on this campus right now why you are the one person on this stage that is most likely to beat Barack Obama.

Congressman?

PAUL: Well, you know, so far, we have some pretty good evidence that I’ll do quite well and have a better chance than the rest to beat him, because if you do a national poll, I do very, very well against Obama. But one of the reasons is, is that the freedom message in the Constitution is very appealing to everybody in all political beliefs because it includes free markets, which conservatives endorse, but it also protects civil liberties, the way people run their lives.

If it is a God-given life, and it’s your life, you should have the right to run your life as you so choose as long as you don’t harm other people. This means a lot more tolerance that some would like to give. So that brings people in who are concerned about civil liberties, and all of a sudden, my position undermines Obama completely and totally because the foreign policy is different.

He promises to end the wars, but the wars expand. A constitutional foreign policy will end the wars. And if you want somebody to talk about peace and prosperity, it has to be somebody who understands money and a foreign policy and free markets. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney, why are you the one person on this stage most likely to beat President Obama?

ROMNEY: The people of America recognize that this is a critical time. This is not just an average election.

This is a time where we’re going to decide whether America will remain the great hope of the 21st century, whether this will be an American century, or, instead, whether we’ll continue to go down a path to become more and more like Europe, a social welfare state. That’s where we’re headed.

Our economy is becoming weaker. The foundation of our future economy is being eroded. Government has become too large. We’re headed in a very dangerous direction.

I believe to get America back on track, we’re going to have to have dramatic, fundamental, extraordinary change in Washington to be able to allow our private sector to once again reemerge competitively, to scale back the size of government and to maintain our strength abroad in our military capacities.

I believe that, to change Washington in such a dramatic way, you cannot do it by people who have been there their entire careers.

I believe, if you just elect the same people to change chairs in Washington, not much happen. I think, if you want to change Washington, you’re going to have to bring someone in who has been on the outside.

I have lived in the private sector. I know how it works. I’ve competed with businesses around the world. I know how to win.

I know what it takes to keep America strong. I know how to work in government. I’ve had experience for — four years, rather, working as the governor of Massachusetts.

I will use the experience of my life to get America right. And I will be able to convince the American people that someone with my experience is very different than Barack Obama. And that experience is how I’ll beat him. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker…[applause]… why are you the one person on this stage most likely to beat President Obama?

GINGRICH: You know, I have participated in the two largest Republican sweeps in modern time, 1980, in the Reagan campaign, and 1994, with the Contract with America, which had the largest one-party increase in American history, 9 million extra votes.

I believe that what we need this fall is a big-choice election that goes to the heart of who we are. I’m running more than anything for my two grandchildren, Maggie and Robert. I’d like them to be able to look back 50 years from now and say that what we did, what we the American people did, the choice we made in 2012 to unleash the American people, to rebuild our country based on the core values, to pose for the American people a simple choice: Do you want freedom and independence and a paycheck and a job, or do you want dependence and big government and food stamps and a lack of future?

And I believe, if we have a big election with truly historic big choices, that we can defeat Barack Obama by a huge margin. But it won’t be by running just as a Republican. It will be an American campaign open to every American who prefers a paycheck to food stamps, who prefers the Declaration of Independence to Saul Alinsky and who prefers a strong national security to trying to appease our enemies. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator? [applause]

I’ll repeat the question for you. Why do you think you’re the best, most qualified person on this stage to beat President Obama?

SANTORUM: I agree with the previous two speakers that this is a big election. This is an election about fundamental freedom. It’s about who America is going to be. Are we a country that’s going to be built great from the bottom up, as our founders intended, or from the top down?

I just think I’m a lot better than the previous two speakers to be able to make that case to the American people. I’m not for a top- down government-run health care system. I wasn’t for the Wall Street bailouts like these two gentlemen were.

Governor Romney talks about the private sector and how he’s going to bring private sector. When the private sector was in trouble, he voted for government to come in and take over the private sector and be able to — and to bail them out.

Cap-and-trade — both of them bought into the global warming hoax, bought into the cap-and-trade, top-down control of our energy and manufacturing sector.

If you look at President Obama’s speech the other night, what did he lead with? He lead with manufacturing. He led with manufacturing why? Because the base of his party, the ones that are always the ones — not the base — the swing vote in his party, the ones that Ronald Reagan was able to get — we call them Reagan Democrats up in Pennsylvania. Those are the blue-collar working people of America who know that this president has left them behind. He has a plan for them, and it’s more dependency, not work, not opportunity.

So he went out and tried to make a play for manufacturing. That’s been the center point of my campaign. The center point of my campaign is to be able to win the industrial heartland, get those Reagan Democrats back, talking about manufacturing, talking about building that ladder of success all the way down so people can climb all the way up.

That’s why I’m the best person to be able to go out and win the states that are necessary to win this presidency and govern with the mandate that Newt just talked about.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. [applause]

And thank you to the four presidential candidates. [applause]

I also want to thank our partners in this debate, the Republican Party of Florida, the Hispanic Leadership Network. Thank you very much to them. [applause]

We’d also like to thank our hosts here on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

January 19, 2012: CNN  /  Southern Republican Leadership Conference Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Charleston, South Carolina January 19, 2012

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
John King (CNN)

KING: From the North Charleston Coliseum, this is the Southern Republican Presidential Debate. Tonight, the four remaining Republican candidates are with us with their ultimate goal now in sight.

Welcome this evening. I’m John King. This is the final debate before the South Carolina presidential primary. That’s on Saturday. Republican leaders from here in South Carolina, 13 other southern states in this audience tonight, along with members of the Tea Party Patriots.

Some of our audience members will get a chance to directly question the candidates. You can also take part in this debate by sending us your questions online. On Twitter, make sure to include the hash tag #CNNdebate. On Facebook, at Facebook.com/CNNpolitics. And of course as always, on CNNPolitics.com.

It’s time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders. Joining us on stage first, the Texas congressman, Ron Paul. [applause]

The former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. [applause]

The former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. [applause]

And the former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. [applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican presidential candidates. [applause]

Now, just before we came on the air tonight we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Now please rise for our national anthem.

We’re blessed tonight to have it performed by military cadets from The Citadel right here in Charleston, South Carolina.

[singing of the National Anthem]

KING: That was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

I want to ask the candidates to get comfortable at their podiums, have our audience take their seats, while I tell you a bit about how tonight’s debate will work.

I’ll ask questions, as will some members of our audience tonight. I’ll follow up and guide the discussion.

Candidates, I promise you, we’re going to try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of the time and the questions. You’ll have one minute to answer and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. And I’ll make sure you get time to respond if you are singled out for criticism.

Now let’s have the candidates introduce themselves. We’re going to ask them to keep it short. And here’s an example. I’m John King from CNN. I’m rooting for the Patriots this weekend, and I’m honored to be your moderator this evening.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum, and I want to thank the people of the Lowcountry for their hospitality to my wife Karen and our seven children.

And I also want to thank the people of Iowa for a little delayed but most welcome victory there. Thank you to the people of Iowa. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney. It’s good to be back in South Carolina. I see many good friends here.

It’s also great to be here with my wife and some of my kids. I’m married now 42 years. I have five sons, five daughters-in-law, 16 grandkids, and they’re the joy of my life.

Thank you. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich. I want to thank the people of South Carolina for being so hospitable. As a Georgian, it feels good to be back at home in the South, and I look forward to this evening. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul.

PAUL: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here tonight.

I’m a congressman from Texas. I’ve been elected for 12 times. And also, I practiced OB/GYN for a 30-year period. I’ve also served five years in the military, and I’m the only U.S. veteran on this stage tonight. [applause]

KING: You’ve met the candidates. It’s time now to begin the debate, an event that has quite a dramatically different feel than just a few hours ago.

Just this morning, as Senator Santorum just noted, we learned he, not Governor Romney, won the Iowa caucuses. There were five podiums on the stage when the sun came up. Four now because of Governor Rick Perry’s decision to drop out.

And just as Speaker Gingrich surged into contention here in South Carolina, a direct fresh character attack on the Speaker.

And Mr. Speaker, I want to start with that this evening.

As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with “The Washington Post.” And this story has now gone viral on the Internet.

In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage.

Would you like to take some time to respond to that?

GINGRICH: No, but I will. [applause]

I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that. [applause]

KING: Is that all you want to say, sir?

GINGRICH: Let me finish.

KING: Please.

GINGRICH: Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine. [applause]

My — my two daughters — my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate. [applause]

KING: As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation on the campaign. I’m not — I get your point. I take your point.

GINGRICH: John — John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it. [applause]

Let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period said the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor. They’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul.

I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans. [applause]

KING: As I noted — as I noted at the beginning, we have four podiums on this stage tonight, not five. And when he exited the race this morning, Governor Perry quickly and forcefully endorsed Speaker Gingrich. And in that remark, he said that, “No, Mr. Gingrich is not a perfect man.” Senator Santorum, he said “none of us are.” And he said he believes in his Christian faith that guides him to the value of redemption.

Speaker Gingrich doesn’t believe this is an issue. Governor Perry says this is not an issue. I just want to start with you, sir, and go down. Do you believe it is?

SANTORUM: I’ve answered this question repeatedly throughout the course of this campaign. I am a Christian, too. And I thank God for forgiveness. But, you know, these — these are issues of our lives and what we did in our lives. They are issues of character for people to consider. But the bottom line is those are — those are things for everyone in this audience to look at. And they’re going to look at me, look at what I’ve done in my private life and personal life, unfortunately.

And what I say is that this country is a very forgiving country. This country understands that we are all fallen and I’m very hopeful that we will be judged by that standard and not by a higher one on the ultimate day.

KING: Governor Romney? [applause]

ROMNEY: John, let’s get on to the real issues is all I’ve got to say.

KING: Congressman? [applause]

PAUL: I think too often all of us are on the receiving ends of attacks from the media. It’s very disturbing because sometimes they’re not based on facts and we suffer the consequences. You know, sometimes it reminds me of this idea of getting corporations out of running campaigns. But what about the corporations that run the media? I mean, they’re always…[applause]

And I think our responsibility, since sorting facts and fiction, the people have to sort this out. But I think setting standards are very important and I’m very proud that my wife of 54 years is with me tonight. [applause]

KING: All right. As I said at the top of the debate — as I said at the top of the debate, we’ll take some questions from the audience. We’ve reached out to people online. We’ve also reached out to a number of votes, some who wish they could be here tonight, but can’t be here tonight.

I want to turn to a question from one of those voters. Her name is Jane Gallagher. She’s from here in South Carolina. As all of you know, and as everyone in this audience in South Carolina knows, we’re in a state with 9.9 percent unemployment. And Jane asked this question: List three or more specific programs that will put American people back to work?

Congressman Paul, I want to begin with you. Do you believe we need specific federal programs to put the American people back to work?

PAUL: Well, most of the things the federal government could do to get us back to work is get out of the way. I’d like to…[applause]

I’d like to see the federal government have a sound currency. That creates a healthy economy. [applause]

I — I would like to see massive reduction of regulations. I would like to see income tax reduced to near zero as possible. And that is what we have to do. We have to get the government out of the way. We have to recognize why we have unemployment. And it comes because we have a deeply flawed financial system that causes financial bubbles. The bubbles burst and you have the unemployment.

Now, the most important thing to get over that hump that was created artificially by bad economic policies is to allow the correction to occur. You have to get rid of the excessive debt and you have to get rid of the malinvestment.

And you don’t do that by buying the debt off the people who were benefiting from it. So we, the people, shouldn’t be stuck with these debts on these mortgage derivatives and all. We need to get that behind us, which means the government shouldn’t be doing any bailouts.

So most of the things to improve the environment is getting the government out of the way and enforce contract laws and enforce bankruptcy laws. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, come in on that point, as you address what you would like to do but also specifically the question, do we need federal programs?

GINGRICH: Well, there are three things that can be done at a specifically South Carolina level. There’s one easy thing to do at a national level, and that’s repeal the Dodd-Frank bill, which is killing small business, killing small banks. [applause]

That would help overnight. [applause]

But three specifics. One, there’s $29 billion-plus of natural gas offshore. In Louisiana, jobs for that kind of production are $80,000 a year. That would help us become energy independent from the Middle East. Part of the royalties of the natural gas could be used then to modernize the Port of Charleston and the Port of Georgetown.

Charleston has to be modernized to meet the largest ships that will come through the Panama Canal in 2014. One out of every five jobs in South Carolina is dependent on the Port of Charleston.

The third thing you could do, frankly, is fundamentally, radically overhaul the — the Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers today takes eight years to study — not to complete — to study doing the port. We won the entire second World War in three years and eight months. [applause]

KING: A subset of the jobs conversation among the candidates in this state over the past week, Mr. Speaker, has been from you and from the now-departed Governor Perry, pretty sharp criticism of Governor Romney’s tenure as the CEO of Bain Capital.

I want you to be specific. What do you think he did wrong that makes you question his ability as a president to create jobs?

GINGRICH: I think there are specific cases — Georgetown Steel would be a case here, and a company in Gaffney, South Carolina — specific cases where Bain Capital’s model, which was to take over a company and dramatically leverage it, leave it with a great deal of debt, made it less likely to survive.

I think the governor ought to explain — because it started because he cited his experience as a key part of his preparation for being president. And so I think the underlying model of that kind of investment, which is very different from venture capital, ought to be explained, and those cases ought to be looked at.

KING: Well, Governor Romney, let me give you a chance. Explain.

ROMNEY: Well, I hope I get a chance to talk about the topic you began with. We’ll come back to the — the direct attack from Speaker Gingrich in a moment. [applause]

So let’s go back and talk about first what you do to get the economy going. And of course we’ve spoken time and again about our tax code that’s out of alignment with other nations. We’ve spoken about the fact that regulation is overwhelming us, that we need to take care of our energy resources and become energy secure. We have to open up markets. And we have to crack down on China when they cheat.

But I’d like to talk about something else that President Obama has been doing. He’s been practicing crony capitalism. And if you want to get America going again…[applause]… you’ve got to stop the spread of crony capitalism. He gives General Motors to the UAW. He takes $500 million and sticks it into Solyndra. He — he stacks the labor stooges on the NLRB so they can say no to Boeing and take care of their friends in the labor movement. [applause]

You go across the country with regards to energy because he has to bow to the most extreme members of the environmental movement. He turns down the Keystone Pipeline, which would bring energy and jobs to America. [booing] [applause]

This — this president is the biggest impediment to job growth in this country. And we have to replace Barack Obama to get America working again. [applause]

KING: So — so let’s go — let’s go back. I’m glad you had that opportunity. I do want to go back, see if we can clear this up.

Now, the questions about Bain, many have been about the number. You have said 120,000 jobs that you can tie back to decisions you made at Bain Capital. I want you to take your time, sir, and do the math. Do the math and how you get to 100,000 or 120,000 jobs?

ROMNEY: I’ll do the math, but let me tell you, I know we’re going to get attacked from the left, from Barack Obama, on capitalism. I know that people are going to say, oh, you should only practice it this way or that way and think they know better than the private market.

My view is capitalism works. Free enterprise works. And I…[applause]… and I find it — I find it, kind of, strange, on a stage like this with Republicans, having to describe how private equity and venture capital work and how they’re successful and how they create jobs. [applause]

But let me tell you the answer. We started a number of businesses. Four in particular created 120,000 jobs as of today. We started them years ago. They’ve grown well beyond the time I was there, to 120,000 people that have employed by those enterprises.

There are others we’ve been with, some of which have lost jobs. People have evaluated that since — well, since I ran four years ago, when I ran for governor. And those that have been documented to lost jobs lost about 10,000 jobs.

So 120,000 less 10,000 means that we created something over 100,000 jobs. And there’s some, by the way, that were businesses we acquired that grew and became more successful like Domino’s Pizza and a company called Duane Reade and others.

I’m very proud of the fact that throughout my career, I have worked to try and build enterprises, hopefully to return money to investors. There’s nothing wrong with profit, by the way. That profit — [applause]

That profit went to pension funds, to charities. It went to a wide array of institutions. A lot of people benefited from that. And by the way, as enterprises become more profitable, they can hire more people.

I’m someone who believes in free enterprise. I think Adam Smith was right. And I’m going to stand and defend capitalism across this country, throughout this campaign. I know we’re going to get hit hard from President Obama, but we’re going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, join the conversation, specifically to the initial question from Jane. What should the federal government be doing? And do you believe in specific programs? And I also want to ask you if you share the Speaker’s concern about Governor Romney’s tenure at Bain.

SANTORUM: Well, on the first question, I believe in capitalism, too. I believe in capitalism for everybody. Not necessarily high finance, but capitalism that works for the working men and women of this country who are out there paddling alone in America right now, who have an unemployment rate 2.5 times those who are college educated and feel that no party cares about them. Because you have the Democratic Party, and Barack Obama, and all he wants to do is make them more dependent, give them more food stamps, give them more Medicaid.

I was talking to a state official the other day in Iowa that told me that the state of Iowa is being fined because they’re not signing up enough people on to the Medicaid program. This is what the answer is for the economic squalor that Barack Obama has visited on working men and women in this country, and it’s creating more government programs and getting them more dependent on those programs.

We need a party that just doesn’t talk about high finance and cutting corporate taxes or cutting the top tax rates. We need to talk about how we’re going to put men and women in this country, who built this country, back to work in this country in the manufacturing sector of our economy. [applause]

And there’s one candidate that has done that. I have done that. I’ve done that throughout the course of this campaign.

I talked about who we’re going to target and make sure that we can be competitive. I was in Boeing today and I was up at BMW yesterday. South Carolina can compete with anybody in this world in manufacturing. [applause]

We just need to give them the opportunity to compete. And we are 20 percent more costly than our top nine trading partners, and that’s excluding labor costs.

That’s why I said we need to cut the corporate tax and manufacturing down to zero. We need to give manufacturers a leg up so they can compete for the jobs, half of which went from 21 percent of this country in manufacturing, down to nine percent. And we left the dreams of working men and women on the sideline.

We need to show that we’re the party, we’re the movement that’s going to get those Reagan Democrats, those conservative Democrats, all throughout the states that we need to win to win this election, to sign up with us, and we’ll put them back to work. [applause]

KING: Let’s stay on the economy and let’s stay on the South Carolina experience all you gentlemen have had.

As you know, and as this audience reflects, this is a state incredibly proud of its military tradition and incredibly proud of its veterans. Many of those veterans who have served post-9/11, served honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan, are coming back to a terrible economy. Right now, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans aged 18 to 24 is at 22 percent.

Congressman Paul, to you first, sir. Should the federal government be specifically targeting that part, our veterans coming back, saying the unemployment rate is so high among that sub group, that the federal government should offer tax incentives to employers or take other steps to help them to incentivize the economy to help them get jobs?

PAUL: To some degree, but you really want to make the environment — the economy healthy for everybody and not designate special places. But to help them out to come back is probably necessary on some occasions now.

But we have to think about how serious our problems are here, because we face something much, much greater. After World War II, we had 10 million came home all at once. But what did we do then? There were some of the liberals back then that said, oh, we have to have more work programs and do this and that. And they thought they would have to do everything conceivable for those 10 million. They never got around to it because they came home so quickly.

And you know what the government did? They cut the budget by 60 percent.

They cut taxes by 30 percent. By that time, the debt had been liquidated. And everybody went back to work again, you didn’t need any special programs.

So…[applause]

But the one thing, talking about concern about the — the military and the veterans, I’m very proud that, you know, I get twice as many donations from the military, active military people, then all the rest put together. [applause]

So I am very concerned about them. I think where the real problem is, is we can create a healthy economic environment if we did the right things. Where the veterans really deserve help, both as a physician and as a congressman, is the people who come back and aren’t doing well health-wise. They need a lot more help.

We have an epidemic now of suicide of our military coming back. So they need a lot of medical help. And I think they come up shortchanged. They come up shortchanged after Vietnam war, Persian Gulf war, and even now. They don’t get care from the Veterans Administration. [applause]

KING: I think we all agree there’s a generational challenge for the country with the brain injuries and the other injuries and the suicide, as you mentioned.

I want to stay on the economy for a minute, though. Senator Santorum, you started to shake your head. Again, specifically, it’s a role of government question. Should the government be stepping in and saying we need to help this subgroup in the economy that’s hurting, the veterans?

SANTORUM: Well, obviously, we have — we have and should continue to have veterans preferences. People who went out and served this country should have — should have preferences when it comes to job positions when they come back to work in this economy. [applause]

My dad and mom worked for the Veterans Administration. I grew up on a V.A. grounds, lived in an apartment in those — on those V.A. grounds for the first 18 years of my life.

And I saw the — the impact of the Vietnam war on — on those veterans who came back. And they came back very damaged, not just — not just with — with physical wounds, but a lot of psychological ones. And that’s, I’m sure, a very big part of the high unemployment rate that we’re dealing with.

And we need to be much, much more aggressive. We have the president of the United States who said he is going to cut veterans benefits, cut our military, at a time when these folks are four, five, six, seven tours, coming back, in and out of jobs, sacrificing everything for this country. And the president of the United States can’t cut one penny out of the social welfare system and he wants to cut a trillion dollars out of our military and hit our veterans and that’s disgusting. [applause]

KING: So, Governor, Governor, and then Mr. Speaker, Senator Santorum passionately makes the case. It also is a time, as all of you know, of very tough budget decisions the next president’s going to have to make, setting priorities.

How do you do it? How — what specifically do you do to help the veterans?

ROMNEY: Well, let’s distinguish between what gets done at the federal level and what gets done at the state level.

In our state we found a way to help our — our veterans by saying, “Look, if you’re going to come back, particularly if you’re in the National Guard, we’ll pay for your education, college degree, both the fees and tuition. We give you a full ride.”

And we also had a plan that said, “If you come back and you’ve been out of work for a year or more, we’re going to put like a bonus on your back, which if anyone hires you, that bonus goes to them to pay for your training.”

So we can encourage that to occur. But let’s do it at the state level. Let’s not have the federal government continue to extend its — its tentacles into everything that goes on in this country. Let’s take the…[applause]

Let’s take the — let’s take the money that — that we use to help people who have real needs and instead of having it all administered by the federal government, that thinks they know how to do everything, let’s take that money, bundle up South Carolina’s fair share and every other state’s fair share, send it to them and say, “You care for your people in the way you feel best.” Let’s do that at the state level.

And I agree with what — what Senator Santorum said with regards to our military budget. Right now for the president to be cutting $350,000 from our military budget, planning to cut another $650,000 — $650 billion, excuse me, $350 billion, another $650 billion, a trillion dollars, his secretary of defense says that represents a doomsday scenario.

We’ve got an aging Navy. We’ve got an aging Air Force. They’re planning on cutting our number of active duty personnel. They can’t possibly keep up with the needs of our veterans.

It is absolutely wrong to balance our budget on the backs of our military. We need a strong military, so strong no one in the world would ever think of testing it. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, please come in. We’re going to have — we’ll have some conversations about commander in chief. You have the floor now. Specifically veterans who need jobs.

GINGRICH: Let me just say two things about Congressman Paul’s history.

The U.S. government did two dramatic things after World War II. They created a G.I. Bill, which enabled literally millions of returning veterans to go to college for the very first time. My father, who was in the Second World War, went to college on a G.I. Bill. So there was an enormous expansion of opportunity that enabled them to integrate into a new, emerging society.

GINGRICH: The second thing they did is they dramatically cut taxes and the economy took off and grew dramatically and it absorbed the workforce.

So I would say we ought to both have a transition process for veterans to enable them to have a real advantage at getting a job when they come home, and we ought to have a very aggressive economic program of regulatory cuts and tax cuts and American energy so that the entire population is absorbed by getting back to about 4 percent unemployment, in which case virtually every veteran would have a very good job at the end of the transition period.

KING: Let’s turn to our audience now. [applause]

Let’s turn now and take a question from down in our audience tonight. Go ahead, sir.

QUESTION: My name is Sonny Cohen. I’m from Sevier County, Tennessee. My question to any of the candidates is: Do any of you sincerely believe that Obamacare can either be repealed or reversed in its entirety?

KING: Let me go first to Governor Romney on that one.

Governor, you had said you would do it on day one with an executive order that would free the states up to opt out, waivers essentially to get out of that program. I know your friend, the South Carolina governor might like to have that option.

Help me understand as you do that how would it play out? And what happens to those, someone with a preexisting condition for example, who now has coverage under the president’s health care plan, or a young American, 22, 23, 24, who because of the changes in the law, can now stay a few extra years on their parents’ health care? What happens to them when you sign that executive order?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, the executive order is a beginning process. It’s one thing, but it doesn’t completely eliminate Obamacare. It’s one thing I want to get done to make sure that states could take action to pull out of Obamacare.

But number two, we have to go after a complete repeal and that’s going to have to happen…[applause]… that — that’s going to have to happen with a House and a Senate, hopefully that are Republican. If we don’t have a Republican majority, I think we’re going to be able to convince some Democrats that when the American people stand up loud and clear and say, “We do not want Obamacare; we do not want the higher taxes; we do not want a $500 billion cut in Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” I think you’re going to see the American people stand with our president and say, “Let’s get rid of Obamacare.”

But we’ll replace it, and I’ve laid out what I’ll replace it with. First, it’s a bill that does care for people that have preexisting conditions. If they’ve got a preexisting condition and they’ve been previously insured, they won’t be denied insurance going forward.

Secondly, I’d allow people to own their own insurance, rather than just be able to get it from their employer. I want people to be able to take their insurance with them if they go from job to job.

So — so we’ll make it work in the way that’s designed to have health care act like a market, a consumer market, as opposed to have it run like Amtrak and the post office. That’s what’s at risk…[applause]… at stake here. Do we — we — we go back to this. Ours is the party of free enterprise, freedom, markets, consumer choice. Theirs is the party of government knowledge, government — government domination, where Barack Obama believes that he knows better for the American people what’s best for them. He’s wrong. We’re right. That’s why we’re going to win. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, you heard the skepticism. This is a southern Republican voter, but he’s skeptical. He knows how Washington works. He’s watched Washington work. He’s asking it be reversed in its entirety.

You — you were the speaker of the House. You understand how this works. How — how can it be repealed in this current political environment?

GINGRICH: Well, let me say first of all, if you’ve watched Washington and you’re not skeptical, you haven’t learned anything. [laughter]

I mean, this — this system is a total mess right now.

Second, can you get it repealed in total? Sure. You have to elect a House, a Senate and a president committed to that. It has to be major part of the fall campaign. And I think that, frankly, on our side with any of us, it’s going to be a major part of the fall campaign.

The American people are frightened of bureaucratic centralized medicine. They deeply distrust Washington and the pressure will be to repeal it. And a lot of what Governor Romney has said I think is actually a pretty good, sound step for part of the replacement.

I would always repeal all of it because I so deeply distrust the congressional staffs that I would not want them to be able to pick and choose which things they cut.

But let me make one observation. He raised a good example. Why is President Obama for young people being allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26? Because he can’t get any jobs for them to go out and buy their own insurance. [applause]

I mean I have — I have an offer — I have an offer to the parents of America: Elect us and your kids will be able to move out because they’ll have work. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, you heard Governor Romney and you heard Speaker Gingrich. Do you trust them if one of them is the Republican party’s nominee and potentially the next president of the United States to repeal this?

SANTORUM: The biggest — the biggest thing we have to do is elect a president. I think Newt’s right. The problem is that two of the people up here would be very difficult to elect on, I think, the most important issue that this country is dealing with right now, which is the robbing of our freedom because of Obamacare.

Governor Romney tells a very nice story about what his plan is now. It wasn’t his plan when he was in a position to do a plan. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he put forth Romneycare, which was not a bottom-up free market system. It was a government-run health care system that was the basis of Obamacare, and it has been an abject failure. And he has stood by it. He’s stood by the fact that it’s $8 billion more expensive…[applause]… than under the current law. He stood by the fact that Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country. It is 27 percent more expensive than the average state in the country.

Doctors — if you’re in the Massachusetts health care system, over 50 percent of the doctors now are not seeing new patients — primary care doctors are not seeing new patients. Those who do get to see a patient are waiting 44 days on average for the care. It is an abject disaster. He’s standing by it. And he’s going to have to run against a president — he’s going to have to run against a president who’s going to say, well, look, look at what you did for Massachusetts, and you’re the one criticizing me for what I’ve done? I used your model for it. And then…[applause]… then we have Speaker Gingrich, who has been — who has been for an individual mandate, not back when the time that just was — Heritage was floating around in the ’90s, but as late as comments since 2008, just a few years ago.

He stood up and said that you should have an individual mandate or post $150,000 bond. How many $150,000 bond holders do we have here who can post a bond for their health insurance?

These are two folks who don’t present the clear contrast that I do, who was the author of health savings accounts, which is the primary basis of every single conservative reform of health care. [applause]

I was the author of it back in 1991 and ’92, 20 years ago. I’ve been fighting for health reform, private sector, bottom up, the way America works best, for 20 years, while these two guys were playing [inaudible] with the left. [applause]

KING: I want to bring Congressman Paul — bring you into the discussion in just a moment. But Senator Santorum directly challenged the governor and then the speaker. Governor, you first.

ROMNEY: Well, so much of what the senator said was wrong. Let me mention a few of the things. First of all, the system and my state is not a government-run system. Ninety-two percent of the people had their own insurance before the system was put in place and nothing changed for them. They still had the same private insurance. And the 8 percent of the uninsured, they brought private insurance, not government insurance.

And the people in the state still favor the plan 3-1. And it certainly doesn’t work perfectly. Massachusetts, by the way, had the highest insurance costs before the plan was put in place and after. But fortunately, the rate of growth has slowed down a little less than the overall nation.

And one of the things I was proud of is that individuals who wanted to buy their own insurance saw their rates — when they were not part of a big group — saw their rates drop by some 40 percent with our plan.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But I do believe that having been there, having been in the front lines, showing that I have compassion for people that don’t have insurance but that the Obama plan is a 2,700-page massive tax increase, Medicare-cutting monster. I know how to cut it. I’ll eliminate it. I will repeal it. And I’ll return to the — I’ll return the power to the states, where the power for caring for the uninsured ought to reside constitutionally. Thank you. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, he says your facts are wrong.

SANTORUM: Well, they’re simply not wrong. The fact is that, yes, you’re right, Governor Romney. Ninety-two percent of people did have health insurance in — in Massachusetts. But that wasn’t private-sector health insurance. A lot of those people were, as you know, on Medicare and Medicaid. So they’re already on government insurance, and you just expanded.

In fact, over half the people that came on the rolls since you put Romneycare into effect are fully subsidized by the state of Massachusetts. And a lot of those are on the Medicaid program.

So the idea that you have created this marketplace in — with this government-run health care system, where you have very prescriptive programs about reimbursements rates. You have very prescriptive programs just like what President Obama is trying to put in place here.

You’re arguing for a plan; you’re defending a plan that is top-down. It is not a free-market health care system. It is not bottom-up. It is prescriptive and government. It was the basis for Obamacare. [applause]

And you do not draw a distinction that’s going to be effective for us just because it was the state level, not the federal level. [applause]

KING: If you want, Governor, quickly?

ROMNEY: Sure, absolutely. First of all, as you probably know, Medicaid is not a state program.

SANTORUM: Of course it is. It’s a state and federal program.

ROMNEY: Medicaid is as demanded by the federal government and it is — it’s a mandate by the federal government and it’s shared 50/50, state and federal.

The people of Massachusetts who are on Medicaid — I would like to end that program at the federal level, take the Medicaid dollars and return them to the states and allow states to craft their own plans. That would make the plan we had in Massachusetts a heck of a lot better.

My view is get the federal government out of Medicaid, get it out of health care. Return it to the states. And if you want to go be governor of Massachusetts, fine. But I want to be president and let states take responsibility for their own plans. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker — it may seem like a while ago, Mr. Speaker, but Senator Santorum made the point, in his view, you don’t have credibility on this issue.

GINGRICH: No, what he said, which I found mildly amazing, was that he thought I would have a hard time debating Barack Obama over health care. Now, in fact, I — as Republican whip, I led the charge against Hillarycare in the House. As Speaker of the House, I helped preside over the conference which wrote into law his idea on health savings accounts. So I was delighted to help him get it to be a law.

And the fact is, I helped found the Center for Health Transformation. I wrote a book called “Saving Lives and Saving Money” in 2002. You can go to healthtransformation.net and you’ll see hundreds of ideas, none of which resemble Barack Obama’s programs.

So I’d be quite happy to have a three-hour Lincoln/Douglas style debate with Barack Obama. I’d let him use a teleprompter. I’ll just rely on knowledge. We’ll do fine. [applause]

KING: Senator, I want to bring Congressman Paul in. You’re shaking your head. Quickly.

SANTORUM: The core of Obamacare is an individual mandate. It is what is being litigated in the Supreme Court right now. It is government, top-down, telling every business, every American what kind of health care you will have. That is the problem with Obamacare at the core of it, and the Speaker supported it repeatedly for a 10-year period.

So when he goes and says, I can, you know, run rings around President Obama in a Lincoln/Douglas debate, you can’t run rings around the fact, Newt, that you supported the primary, core basis of what President Obama’s put in place.

GINGRICH: Look, just one —

KING: Quickly, Mr. Speaker. The congressman’s getting lonely down here. Let’s go.

GINGRICH: Just one brief comment. Of course you can. I can say, you know, I was wrong and I figured it out. You were wrong and you didn’t. [applause]

SANTORUM: Newt, you held that position for over 10 years. And, you know, it’s not going to be the most attractive thing to go out there and say it took me 10 or 12 years to figure out I was wrong when guys like Rick Santorum knew it was wrong from the beginning. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, you have the floor. Do you trust these men to repeal Obamacare?

PAUL: Thank you. [applause]

I thought you were — I thought maybe you were prejudiced against doctors and a doctor that practiced medicine in the military or something.

No, I want to address the question. The gentleman asked whether he thinks we can repeal Obamacare.

Theoretically, we can. The likelihood isn’t all that good.

We can diminish some of the effect, but I’m more concerned about a bigger picture of what’s happening. And that is, government involvement in medicine.

I had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early ’60s before we had any government. It worked rather well and there was nobody out in the street suffering with no medical care.

But Medicare and Medicaid came in and it just expanded. But even when we had the chance to cut back on it, when we had a Republican Congress and a Republican president, we gave them prescription drug programs. Senator Santorum supported it. You know, that’s expanding the government. [applause]

So — and most of them are bankrupt. Prescription drugs, they’re not going to be financed. Medicare’s not financed. Medicaid’s in trouble. But nobody talks about where the money’s going to come from.

Now, even in my budget proposal, which is very, very tough, because I’m going to cut $1 trillion the first year, but I try to really — [applause]

Even though these programs should have never started but a lot of people depend on it, I want to try to protect the people who are dependent on medical care.

Now, where does the money come? My suggestion is, look at some of the overseas spending that we don’t need to be doing. [applause]

We have troops in Korea since the Korean War, in Japan since World War II, in Germany since — those are subsidies to these countries. And we keep fighting these wars that don’t need to be fought. They’re undeclared. They never end.

Newt pointed out that World War II was won in less than four years. Afghanistan, we’re there for 10 years. Nobody says where’s the money coming from?

We could work our way out of here and take care of these people with these medical needs. But we can’t do it with the current philosophy of the government taking care of everybody forever on medical care, cradle to grave, and being the policeman of the world.

We will get rid of all this government program, unfortunately because we’re going bankrupt and you’re going to have runaway inflation, and our checks are going to bounce. And that’s going to be a lot worse problem than we’re facing tonight. [applause]

KING: All right.

Going to ask our candidates to stand by, our audience as well. We have a couple breaks tonight. We’re going to take one of them now.

One candidate on this stage suggested this week that two candidates should get out of the race. One of them listened. We’ll get the reaction from the other coming up.

And also coming up, this is just in. While we’ve been on the air having this debate, Speaker Gingrich has released his tax returns. He’s put them online. We’ll ask him what’s in them when we come back. [applause]

[commercial break]

[applause]

KING: Back in Charleston, South Carolina, and our Southern Republican Presidential Debate. Let’s get back to questioning the four gentlemen who would like to be the Republican nominee for president and the next president of the United States.

Part of the political conversation during the crackling campaign in this great state this week, Senator Santorum, Speaker Gingrich said he thought it would be preferable for the conservative movement if one candidate, in his view, had a direct campaign against Governor Romney. He suggested — said it was up to you — but he suggested perhaps Governor Perry and Senator Santorum should get out of the race.

In suggesting that, he said this: You don’t have, quote, “any of the knowledge for how to do something on this scale.”

What do you say to that?

SANTORUM: Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich. He — he handles it very, very well. [applause]

And that’s really one of the issues here, folks. I mean, a month ago, he was saying that, “Oh, I’m — it’s inevitable that I’m going to win the election. And it’s I’m destined to do it.”

I don’t want a nominee that I have to worry about going out and looking at the paper the next day and figuring out what is he — worrying about what he’s going to say next.

And that’s — that’s what I think we’re seeing here. [applause]

For him to suggest that — that someone who was tied for first and eventually won the Iowa caucuses and finished with twice as many votes as he did and finished ahead of him in New Hampshire, in spite of the fact that he spent an enormous amount more money in both those places, plus had the most important endorsement in the state, the Manchester Union Leader, and I was 10 points behind him a week before the election, and then finished ahead of him.

So I was 2-0 coming into South Carolina, and I should get out of the race?

These are — there are not — there are not cogent thoughts. I mean, and — and let’s just be honest. [laughter] [applause]

I mean, Newt’s — Newt’s a friend. I love him. But at times, you’ve just got, you know, sort of that, you know, worrisome moment that something’s going to pop. And we can’t afford that in a nominee.

We need someone — I’m not the most flamboyant, and I don’t get the biggest applause lines here. But I’m steady. I’m solid. I’m not going to go out and do things that you’re going to worry about. I’m going to be out there. I’m going to make Barack Obama the issue in this campaign. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, take some time to respond.

As you do so, what exactly did you mean, “doesn’t have any of the knowledge for how to do something on this scale”?

GINGRICH: Well, it’s a very simple question. How big a scale of change do we want in Washington? I started working with Governor Reagan in 1974. I helped with Jack Kemp and others the development of supply-side economics in the late ’70s.

I participated in the ’80s in an enormous project of economic growth and, with President Reagan’s leadership, the American people created 16 million jobs. With President Reagan’s leadership, the Soviet Union disappeared.

I came back — I spent 16 years on a grandiose project called creating a Republican majority in the House — 16 years. And most of the Republican leaders in the House thought it was a joke. Even the night before the election, they thought it was a joke.

And we created the first majority. We then worked for two solid years, reformed welfare. Two out of three people went back to work or went to school. We ultimately became the first re-elected Republican majority since 1928.

We then went on to cut taxes for the first time in 16 years, the largest capital gains tax cut in American history. In the four years I was speaker, the American people created 11 million new jobs. We balanced the budget for four consecutive years.

You’re right. I think grandiose thoughts. This is a grandiose country of big people doing big things. And we need leadership prepared to take on big projects. [applause]

KING: Quickly? [applause]

SANTORUM: I will give Newt Gingrich his due on grandiose ideas and grandiose projects. I will not give him his — his — his due on executing those projects, which is exactly what the president of the United States is supposed to do.

Four years into his speakership, he was thrown out by the conservatives. It was a coup against him in three. I served with him. I was there. I knew what the problems were going on in the House of Representatives when Newt Gingrich was leading this — leading there. It was an idea a minute, no discipline, no ability to be able to pull things together.

I understand your taking credit for the 1994 election, and you did have a lot of plans. As you know, I worked with you on those, and we had meetings early in the morning on many — many a week. And so we worked together on that.

But you also have to admit that this freshman congressman who wasn’t supposed to win a race came and did something you never did, which is blew the lid off the biggest scandal to hit the Congress in 50 years. You knew about it for 10 or 15 years because you told me you knew about it. And you did nothing because you didn’t have the courage to stand up to your own leadership, the Democratic speaker of the House, take to the floor of the Senate, demand the releasing of the checks that were being kited by members of Congress, risk your political career, risk your promotion within the ranks and do what was right for America. And that had more or as much to do with the 1994 win as any plan that you put together. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, respond. [applause]

GINGRICH: You know, campaigns are interesting experiences for all of us. And each of us writes a selective history that fits our interest.

As a freshman in 1979, I moved to expel a member who was a convicted felon, for the first time since 1917, against the wishes of our leadership. In the page scandal in the 1980s, I moved and threatened to expel them unless they were punished much more severely, against the wishes of the leadership. In the late 1980s, I initiated charges against the speaker of the House, Jim Wright, at rather considerable risk for a back-bench member. In 1990, I opposed the president of the United States of my own party when he tried to raise taxes. I said I actually thought he meant “Read my lips,” and I led the fight against raising taxes, against the wishes of my party’s leadership.

I think, long before Rick came to Congress, I was busy being a rebel, creating the Conservative Opportunity Society, developing a plan to win a majority in the Congress. And if you talk to anybody who worked at the Congressional Campaign Committee from December of 1978 on, for 16 years, I worked to help create the Republican Party nationally to become a majority. I worked to create GOPAC to train a majority. Those are just historic facts, even if they’re inconvenient for Rick’s campaign. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney, you’re raising your hand to come in the conversation. I want to let you in on the conversation, but also, as I do, you put an ad on the air paid by your campaign, not one of the super PAC ads, calling the Spea, ker an unreliable leader. Why?

ROMNEY: Well, let me go back and address first what you just heard.

What you’ve listened to, in my view, and the Speaker’s rendition of history going back to 1978 and his involvement in Washington, is, in my view, a perfe, , ct, example of why we need to send to Washington someone who has not lived in Washington, but someone who’s lived in the real streets of America, working in the private sector, who’s led a business, who started a business, who helped lead the Olympics, who helped lead a state. We need to have someone outside Washington go to Washington.

If we want people who spent their life and their career, most of their career, in Washington, we have three people on the stage — well, I take that back. We’ve got a doctor down here who spent most of his time in the surgical suite — well not surgery, in the birthing suite. [applause]

But I think America has to make a choice as to whether we’re going to send people who spent their life in Washington go represent our country or, instead, whether we’re going to lead — have someone who goes who’s been a leader in the private sector and knows how the economy works at the grassroots level.

Now, you asked me an entirely different question.

GINGRICH: It beats me. I don’t know.

Where are we at, John? [laughter]

ROMNEY: Let me tell you, one of the things I find amusing is listening to how much credit is taken in Washington for what goes on, on Main Street.

I mean, Mr. Speaker, it was — you talk about all the things you did with Ronald Reagan and the Reagan revolution and the jobs created during the Reagan years and so forth. I mean, I looked at the Reagan diary. You’re mentioned once in Ronald Reagan’s diary.

And in the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn’t a very good idea and he dismissed it. That’s the entire mention.

I mean, he mentions George Bush 100 times. He even mentions my dad once.

So there’s a sense that Washington is pulling the strings in America. But you know what? The free people of America, pursuing their dreams and taking risk and going to school and working hard, those are the people that make America strong, not Washington. [applause]

KING: Quickly respond, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: This is probably a fundamental difference in our background and our experience.

Under Jimmy Carter, we had the wrong laws, the law regulations, the wrong leadership, and we killed jobs, we had inflation, we went to 10.8 percent unemployment. Under Ronald Reagan, we had the right jobs, the right laws, the right regulators, the right leadership. We created 16 million new jobs.

We then had two consecutive tax increases, one by a Republican, one by a Democrat. The economy stagnated. When I became Speaker, we went back to the Ronald Reagan playbook: lower taxes, less regulation, more American energy, and 11 million jobs showed up.

Now, I do think government can kill jobs, and I do think government can create the environment where entrepreneurs create jobs. And the truth is, you did very well under the rules that we created to make it easier for entrepreneurs to go out and do things. You’d have been much poorer if Jimmy Carter had remained president.

ROMNEY: Let me just —

KING: Go ahead, quickly.

ROMNEY: Let me just tell you, Mr. Speaker, you were Speaker four years.

GINGRICH: Right.

ROMNEY: I was in business 25 years.

GINGRICH: Right.

ROMNEY: So you’re not going to get credit for my 25 years, number one.

Number two, I don’t recall — I don’t recall a single day saying, oh, thanks heavens Washington is there for me. Thank heavens. I said, please get out of my way, let me start a business and put Americans to work. [applause]

KING: All right. Let me get out of the way for a second and go back out to our audience and take a question from an audience member.

Sir.

JOHN MARCOUX, RETIRED STOCK TRADER: John Marcoux from the great city of Charleston. [applause]

MARCOUX: Gentlemen, when will you release your tax returns specifically?

GINGRICH: An hour ago. [laughter]

KING: Mr. Speaker posted his online an hour ago. We know that.

Congressman Paul — we’ll come down the line. Congressman Paul, I want to start with you.

We reached out to your campaign this week, and they said you would not release your tax returns. Why?

PAUL: Well, I hadn’t thought it through. I don’t have an intention of doing it, but for a different reason. I’d probably be embarrassed to put my financial statement up against their income. And I don’t want to be embarrassed because I don’t have a greater income. [applause]

Now, I mean, it may come to that, but right now, I have no intention of doing that.

I think with our financial statements, congressional financial statements, I think you know more about me than I know about myself. That’s how my wife found out so much about what we were doing, you know, from my financial statements.

No, we don’t need — I don’t think people need that because nobody’s challenging me, because I have no conflict of interest. And I don’t even talk to lobbyists and I don’t take that kind of money. So there’s no conflicts. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney, when will we see yours?

ROMNEY: When my taxes are complete for this year, and I know that if I’m the nominee, the president’s going to want to insist that I show what my income was this last year and so forth. When they’re completed this year in April, I’ll release my returns in April and probably for other years as well.

I know that’s what’s going to come. Every time the Democrats are out there trying their very best to — to try and attack people because they’ve been successful. And — and I have been successful. But let me tell you, the — the challenge in America is not people who’ve been successful. The challenge in America, and President Obama doesn’t want to talk about this, is you’ve got a president who’s played 90 rounds of golf while there are 25 million Americans out of work, and — and you’ve got…[applause]… and while the price of gasoline has doubled, he said “no” to the Keystone pipeline. And while we’ve got $15 trillion of debt, he — he said, “Look, I’m going to put another $1 trillion of debt for Obamacare.” That’s the problem in America, not the attacks they make on people who’ve been successful.

KING: But some of the questions about when you release your taxes have not come — the president has raised them; his campaign has raised them — you’re right on that — but so have some of your rivals up here. Speaker Gingrich has said you owe them to the people of South Carolina before they vote. Governor Perry made that point as well before he left the race.

Why not should the people of South Carolina before this election see last year’s return? [applause]

ROMNEY: Because I want to make sure that I beat President Obama. And every time we release things drip by drip, the Democrats go out with another array of attacks. As has been done in the past, if I’m the nominee, I’ll put these out at one time so we have one discussion of all of this. I — I obviously pay all full taxes. I’m honest in my dealings with people. People understand that. My taxes are carefully managed and I pay a lot of taxes. I’ve been very successful and when I have our — our taxes ready for this year, I’ll release them.

KING: Speaker Gingrich, is that good enough?

GINGRICH: Look, he’s got to decide and the people of South Carolina have to decide. But if there’s anything in there that is going to help us lose the election, we should know it before the nomination. And if there’s nothing in there — if there’s nothing in there, why not release it?

I mean, it’s a very simple model, but he’s got to decide. It’s his decision and everybody’s got to run their own campaign based on what they think is a reasonable risk. I have filed — I released mine this evening. We also released the little small charitable foundation we have so people can see what we do and how we did it and what our values are.

KING: Senator Santorum, when will we see yours?

SANTORUM: Well, I do my own taxes and they’re on my computer and I’m not home. So…[laughter]… and there’s nobody at home right now. Until I get home, I won’t get them. When I get home, you’ll get my taxes. [applause]

KING: But you — you did call on the governor to release his.

SANTORUM: No, someone asked me, “would it be OK for the governor,” and I said “yes.” I didn’t think — I don’t think it’s a big deal. I mean, if Governor Romney’s told what his tax rate is. Mine’s higher than that, I can assure you, but I can’t tell you what it was. All I know it was very painful writing the check last April. That’s all I can tell you. [applause]

KING: I want to — Governor Romney, you mentioned the Democratic attacks. I want to ask you to go back in history a little bit. Back in 1967, your father set a groundbreaking — what was then a groundbreaking standard in American politics. He released his tax return. He released them for not one year, but for 12 years. And when he did that, he said this: “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.”

When you release yours, will you follow your father’s example?

ROMNEY: Maybe. [laughter]

You know, I don’t know how many years I’ll release. I’ll take a look at what the — what our documents are and I’ll release multiple years. I don’t know how many years, and — but I’ll be happy to do that.

Let me tell you, I know there are some who are very anxious to see if they can’t make it more difficult for a campaign to be successful. I know the Democrats want to go after the fact that I’ve been successful. I — I’m not going to apologize for being successful. [applause]

And I’m not — I’m not suggesting — I’m not suggesting these people are — are doing that, but I know the Democrats will go after me on that basis and that’s why I want to release these things all at the same time. And — and I — you know, my — my dad, as you know, born in Mexico, poor, didn’t get a college degree, became head of a car company. I could have stayed in Detroit like him and gotten pulled up in a car company.

I went off on my own. I didn’t inherit money from my parents. What I have I earned. I worked hard, the American way, and…[applause]… I’m going to be able — I’m going to be able to talk to President Obama in a way no one else can that’s in this race right now, about how the free economy works, what it takes to put Americans back to work, and make sure he understands that this divisiveness, of dividing Americans between 99 and one is dangerous. We are one nation under God. [applause]

KING: You’ve raised the topic of putting America back to work. I think we’re ready for another question from our audience. Am I right?

Not quite yet. All right. So let’s stay up here for a second.

Let’s move — you mentioned putting America back to work. Let’s talk about something: Apple Computer. Apple computer is a breathtakingly important American company.

Senator Santorum, it’s one of the most respected companies in the country. I’ve handed it off, but I carry Apple products to do my work every day. It employs about 500,000 people in China. It is based in the United States, has some employees here, about 40-something thousand, I think 46,000. Most of them in retail stores and at the headquarters. Five hundred thousand of them are in China.

As a president of the United States, what do you do about that?

SANTORUM: I’m the only person on this stage that will do something about it. I’ve got a specific plan in place that — that I’ve put out there, called the Made in the USA Plan, for exactly these kinds of companies that have great technology and then go somewhere else to make them because America is uncompetitive.

And that’s why we have to cut the corporate tax to zero for all corporations who manufacture and process in this country. People have said, “Well, why are you doing it for corporations and only cutting it in half?” which I do, to 17.5 percent for the rest. It’s because the local pharmacy’s not going to move to China. They’re not going to — the jobs that we’re losing are jobs that we have to compete with other countries, and those are manufacturing jobs.

The reason they’re going there is not because our — our — our workers or our management in this country are not productive. We have great productivity gains. It’s amazing the transformation that has been made in the last decade or two about our manufacturing processing here. It is simply government getting in the way.

None of these folks do anything. I do dramatic things that send a signal: Apple, you want — you — you have all those employees over there, you make all those profits over there, if you want to bring that money back, right now you pay a 35 percent tax. Under our plan, if you bring it back and invest it in plant and equipment here in Charleston, you pay nothing. You put that money to work. If you invest it, you pay nothing. [applause]

It’s a powerful incentive. You throw on top of that the energy policy that we put out there to revitalize the energy sector. You — which will create — again, manufacturing, energy cost is a big deal. So we have an energy piece.

We also a piece having to do with regulations. The Obama administration has promulgated two and a half times the number of regulations that cost American businesses over $100 million a year. Two and a half time the last 16 years of presidents.

This president is putting a burden on manufacturers and business. It’s the reason they’re not — we’re not making things here. I’ll repeal every single one of those regulations on day one. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, how do you revive made in America?

PAUL: You have to create the right conditions to bring these companies back and they have to bring their capital back and should be taxed.

But Apple’s a great company, but the way you asked the question, it infers that because there’s a bunch of workers overseas it hasn’t benefited a lot of people here. The consumers obviously have been benefited by a good company well run. But obviously there’s a lot of employees with Apple in this country as well.

I don’t think that’s the number that you have to be concerned about. A lot of people worry about us buying and money going overseas. But if you send money to China, let’s say they’re paying wages other there and we send dollars over there, they don’t put the dollars in a shoe box. They have to spend those dollars.

Unfortunately, they’re buying our debt and perpetuating our consumerism here and our debt here. But immediately there’s a benefit to us because those dollars come back.

But also when you get products, if they’re buying products cheaper over there, let’s say the computer cost $100 instead of $1,000. Well, the person’s just saved $900. That helps the economy. That $900 stays in that person’s pocket. So whether it’s shoes or a computer.

So we shouldn’t be frightened about trade or sending money on. But we have to look at the reason why they’re doing this. I mean, even the car companies, there’s obviously a problem with car companies here. They’re in bigger trouble. We had to bail them out.

But there are foreign companies that build cars in this country and they make a living out of it. So it’s more complex than that. But we have to do whatever we can.

I think the — I think the — the union problem, the right to work states, and of course I’ve chided Senator Santorum on this…[applause]… because he has voted, you know, against right to work. But we have to change these conditions to invite people back. But believe me, the regulations and the fact that we are the issuer of the reserve currency of the world is a real temporary blessing for us because it’s easy for us to export our money. That’s unfortunately our greatest export and they’re still taking our money. Soon, though, they’re going to quit and this whole ball game is going to end and we better get prepared for it. [applause]

KING: He mentioned you, Senator Santorum. Go ahead, quickly.

SANTORUM: Congressman Paul knows because we’ve talked about this before. I’ve already signed a pledge and said I would sign a national right to work bill. And when I was a senator from Pennsylvania, which is a state that is not a right to work state, the state made a decision not to be right to work. And I wasn’t going to go to Washington and overturn that from the federal government and do that to the state.

That’s a very different position.

KING: Quickly, sir.

PAUL: Yes, the response should be — yes, I understand that, that’s the way politics works. You voted the way you thought —

SANTORUM: Representative government works.

KING: Yes, for your state. But, as president, are you going to represent South Carolina or Pennsylvania? That’s really the question. [applause]

SANTORUM: Well, maybe you didn’t hear what I said. I said I would support a national right to work law and sign it into law, and would support and advocate for one.

KING: Let’s continue the economic conversation with some input from a question from Twitter. If you look up here you can see it, CNNDebate.

“What is your take on SOPA and how do you believe it affects Americans?”

For those who have not been following it, SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act, a crackdown on Internet piracy, which is clearly a problem. But opponents say it’s censorship. Full disclosure, our parent company, Time Warner, says we need a law like this because some of its products, movies, programming, and the like, are being ripped off online.

Let me start with you, Mr. Speaker. There’s two competing ends, two engines, even, of our economy here at on this.

How do you deal with it?

GINGRICH: Well, you’re asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood. [applause]

And I’m weighing it. I’m weighing it. I’m not rushing in. I’m trying to think through all of the many fond left-wing people who are so eager to protect.

On the other hand, you have virtually everybody who is technologically advanced, including Google and YouTube and Facebook and all the folks who say this is going to totally mess up the Internet. And the bill in its current form is written really badly and leads to a range of censorship that is totally unacceptable.

Well, I favor freedom. And I think that if you — I think we have a patent office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue. But the idea that we’re going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporations, economic interests, strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, Governor Romney, these companies complain — some of them are based in Hollywood, not all of them are — that their software, that their publishing, that their movies, that their shows are being ripped off.

ROMNEY: I think he got it just about right. The truth of the matter is that the law, as written, is far too intrusive, far too expensive, far too threatening, the freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet. It would have a potentially depressing impact on one of the fastest growing industries in America, which is the Internet, and all those industries connected to it.

At the same time, we care very deeply about intellectual content that’s going across the Internet. And if we can find a way to very narrowly, through our current laws, go after those people who are pirating, particularly those from off shore, we’ll do that.

But a very broad law which gives the government the power to start stepping into the Internet and saying who can pass what to whom, I think that’s a mistake. And so I’d say no, I’m standing for freedom. [applause]

KING: I mean, it’s a big issue in the country right now.

Congressman Paul and Senator Santorum, your views on this one quickly.

PAUL: I was the first Republican to sign on with a host of Democrats to oppose this law. And we have worked — [applause]

We have had a concerted effort, and I feel like we’re making achievement. This bill is not going to pass. But watch out for the next one.

And I am pleased that the attitude has sort of mellowed up here, because the Republicans unfortunately have been on the wrong side of this issue. And this is a good example on why it’s good to have somebody that can look at civil liberties and work with coalitions and bring people together. Freedom and the Constitution bring factions together. I think this is a good example. [applause]

KING: Those who support the law, Senator, argue tens of thousands of jobs are at stake.

SANTORUM: I don’t support this law. And I agree with everybody up here that is goes too far. But I will not agree with everybody up here that there isn’t something that can and should be done to protect the intellectual property rights of people.

The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people, and particularly when we’re talking about — in this case, we’re talking about entities offshore that are doing so, that are pirating things. So, the idea that the government — that you have businesses in this country, and that the government has no role to try to protect the intellectual property of people who have those rights in this country from people overseas pirating them and then selling them back into this country, it’s great.

I mean, I’m for free, but I’m not for people abusing the law. And that’s what’s happening right now, and I think something proper should be done. I agree this goes too far.

But the idea that, you know, anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from? Where in America does it say that anything goes? We have laws, and we respect the law. And the rule of law is an important thing, and property rights should be respected.

KING: All right.

Gentlemen, I want to thank you. I’ll ask our audience — applaud if you wish. Stand by one second. We’ll take one more break.

Much more of our Southern Republican Presidential Debate to come, including this question: After months of campaigning, if these candidates could do one thing over, what would it be? [applause]

[commercial break]

[applause]

KING: I’m John King. We’re live in Charleston, South Carolina, and this is the CNN Southern Republican Presidential Debate. Many of you are watching online, commenting on Twitter, Facebook and at CNN.com.

When we come back, we’ll ask the four candidates for president this question: After months and months of campaigning, if you could do one thing over, what would it be? Stay with us. [applause]

[commercial break]

KING: Welcome back to the Southern Republican Presidential Debate. I’m John King. We’re live in Charleston, South Carolina. A lot more issues to wander through tonight.

But I just want to take this moment. After months and months of campaigning, maybe this is fun; maybe it isn’t.

Speaker Gingrich, I want to start with you. You’re at this for months and you’re out there. If there’s one thing, just one thing in this campaign you could do over, what would it be?

GINGRICH: I would skip the opening three months where I hired regular consultants and tried to figure how to be a normal candidate. And I would just go straight to being a big ideas, big solutions, Internet-based campaign from day one.

Just didn’t work. I mean, it’s not who I am. I’m not capable of being a sort of traditional candidate. I’m a very ideal-oriented candidate and I think the Internet makes it possible to create a momentum of ideas that’s very, very exciting.

KING: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Well, I would have worked to get 25 more votes in Iowa, that’s for sure. [applause]

And — well, let’s see. I guess — I guess I also would go back and take every moment I spent talking about one of the guys on the stage and spent that time talking about Barack Obama because…[applause]… the — the truth is that — that Barack Obama is just way over his head and he’s taking our country down a path that is very dangerous. He’s making us more and more like a European social welfare state. He’s making us an entitlement society. He’s taking away the rights of our citizens. He believes government should run this country.

Look, the right course for America is to return to our fundamental principles, and I would be talking about that more, and probably about my colleagues less because frankly, any one of them would be a better president than the one we’ve got. [applause]

KING: Senator?

SANTORUM: I just thought about that, and you know what? I wouldn’t a change a thing. It’s — for me to be standing here in the final four is about as amazing a thing that I could have ever conceived of happening; someone who had no money; who lost his last race; who everyone basically ignored as I traveled around South Carolina, Iowa and — and New Hampshire and just talked to people. A town hall meeting — after 700 town hall meetings, just going around.

And it proved that good ideas and hard work still pay off in America and it just was an affirmation to me of the great process that we have. [applause]

KING: Congressman?

PAUL: I can’t — I can’t think of any one thing that I would do differently, but I would continue to do what I’m always trying to do. One thing that I believe about a free society is it provides the opportunity for us to work for our own virtue and excellence. And in campaigning, I think I can still learn a lot about becoming a better deliverer of a message.

And the conviction I have that I think if I spoke a little slower and maybe more conviction, that I could do a better job. So I think in general, I could — I will continue to work on delivering a message which I think is a great message.

KING: All right, gentlemen. Thank you.

Let’s get back to our issues discussion and let’s begin with a question down in our audience.

QUESTION: Hi. I would like to ask on the issue of amnesty of the illegal aliens, would you — how would you secure that the American citizens would get — keep the jobs in line first for them?

KING: Mr. Speaker, let’s start with you on that. She mentioned the word “amnesty.” You have explained your position in this campaign. And as you know, some conservatives have said, “No, Mr. Speaker, you say you can’t deport maybe it’s 10 million, 11 million, some people say as high as 20 million people illegally in this country. You say it’s unrealistic to deport them all. So some would have to be given a path to legal status.”

And as you know, many conservatives say, “No, that’s amnesty, Mr. Speaker.”

GINGRICH: Right. What I say, we’ll start with I think you have to first of all control the border. I don’t think you can pass a comprehensive bill because nobody trusts the government. So first, you control the border. We have a bill that would have it controlled by January 1, 2014. And I’m prepared both to waive all federal regulations to get it built and controlled by 2014 and I’m prepared to move up to half the people who work for Homeland Security — about 20,000 — they have 23,000 employees in Washington. I’d be prepared to move half of them to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico if that’s what it took to control the border. [applause]

Second, I favor English as the official language of government. And I think that creates a continuity. [applause]

Third, I would actually modernize the legal system of visas, because currently we make it too difficult to come here legally and too easy to come here illegally. [applause]

Fourth, I would make it much easier to deport people. So if you are a non-citizen who belonged, say, to MS-13, an El Salvadorian gang, we should be able to get rid of you in two weeks, not two years. And we should have a much easier deportation.

Fifth, I favor a guest worker program. And I would outsource it to American Express, Visa or MasterCard, because they can run it without fraud and the federal government’s hopeless. So you want a system that is accurate and that is anti-fraud, which leads you then to be able to say to private employers, if you hire somebody who’s illegal, we’re going to have an enormous economic sanction, because there will be no excuse once you have a guest worker program that’s legal.

Then you get down to the question of people who are already here. I believe in what I just described most of them will go home.

The one group I signaled out — and we do have a lively debate on this up here. There are people who have been here 25 years. They’ve been working. They’ve been paying their bills.

They’re married. They have children. They may have grandchildren. They may be in your church.

Now, I don’t think we’re going to deport grandmothers and grandfathers who have 25 years of networking and relationships in a community. So I’ve suggested a World War II-style draft board where local citizens would review the applications. You could only apply if you proved that you were financially responsible, you proved you had genuine family ties, and you had an American family sponsor you.

You still wouldn’t get amnesty. You wouldn’t get citizenship. You would get a residency permit.

In order to apply for a citizenship, you would have to go back to your own country and get in line behind everybody else and be processed as a person from that country. But I think this is a doable, solvable, practical solution. And I think trying to deport grandmothers and grandfathers will never pass the Congress and would never be accepted by the American people. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney, is that the doable, practical solution?

ROMNEY: You know, the issue of illegal immigration is relatively straightforward compared to the tough issues we face, issues like how we’re going to compete with China as it grows a military which is of extraordinary scale and a navy of that scale; how we’re going to deal with radical violent jihadists; Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, making sure they’re solvent. We’ve got real challenges that are tough. This one is not tough.

You build a fence. You have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And you also have a system of giving to people who come here legally an identification card, and you expect employers and insist that employers check that card before they hire someone.

If they don’t check the card, if they don’t run it through the U.S. database and get an instant response from the government or from MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or whomever, then those employers are going to get severely sanctioned. If you do that, we solve the problem of illegal immigration.

And with regards to those that have come here illegally now, we’re not going to round them all up and deport them, but we’re also not going to give them a preferential pathway to become permanent residents or citizens. They need to go back home, apply for citizenship, apply for permanent residency, like everyone else. Coming here illegally should not give you an advantage being able to become a permanent resident of the United States. [applause]

KING: Do you have the same view, Senator?

SANTORUM: Well, I come at it from — as being the son of an immigrant. And my grandfather came to this country and brought my dad when he was 7 years old. And that’s the story that I love and am familiar with, and believe in my heart of hearts that immigration is — people who want to come to this country and be Americans is really the continuing infusion of freedom and enthusiasm for our country. But when you come here illegally, the first act you take is to break our law, that’s a different story.

And we have two folks here, both Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich. Mitt Romney has a position now that people have to go home. But as of just a few years ago, he said that there could be a pathway to citizenship. He’s repeatedly said that.

Now he’s changed his position. I understand that. He’s done that on a couple of occasions.

And you have Speaker Gingrich, who believes there needs to be a legal pathway. That’s where President Obama’s position is.

Again, just like health care, we need a clear contrast, someone who can say, look, I have always been for making sure that the law is enforced and enforced fairly. I agree for people who have been here 25 years and maybe have to be separated from their family if they were picked up and deported, but my father grieved for his father when he came to this country and lived here five years.

And other folks who sacrificed, who came here to America, did it the right way according to the law. Because America was worth it. And if you want to be an American, the first thing you should do is respect our laws and obey our laws. And…[applause] And the idea that someone, whether it’s either of these two gentlemen, the idea that someone who came here and lived here 25 years has only broken one law — if they’ve worked for 25 years, they’ve been breaking the law for 25 years. [applause]

If they’ve been working, they have probably stolen someone’s Social Security number and they’ve committed Social Security fraud. They — this is not just a single occurrence. It’s an ongoing issue. And if we treat people like that differently than we do with a mother who, out of a desperate situation, goes out and shoplifts or does something and gets thrown in jail, what are we saying, that we’re going to treat people in this country who do things for their family differently than those who are here illegally? [applause]

I don’t think so. [applause]

KING: You mentioned both Governor Romney and the speaker. Take a moment, quickly. I want to bring Congressman Paul into the conversation. He is essentially saying he doesn’t trust you on this.

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I ran for president four years ago. This was the position I described when I ran four years ago. I wrote a book, laid out my position. I actually agreed, I think, with what you just said, which is I believe those people who have come here illegally should not be given a preferential path to become permanent residents or citizens of this country.

You shake your head…

SANTORUM: I’ll be happy to show you the quotes of what you said…

ROMNEY: OK, good. Good.

SANTORUM: … that people should have a pathway to citizenship.

ROMNEY: And the…

SANTORUM: Not — not — not citizens, a pathway to be legal in this country, not citizenship.

ROMNEY: And the pathway that I’ve described is that those individuals who have come here illegally should be able to register in this country, have a temporary period to arrange their affairs and return home and get at the — at the back of the line like everyone else.

And the position I’ve had is that the people who have come here illegally should not be given a preferential pathway relative to others but should be able to get in the same line at the back of the line.

And I agree with the senator. I’m sorry you don’t acknowledge my agreement, but I agree with you, that this is a nation of laws. At the same time, I think it’s important. I’m glad you mentioned this because I didn’t in my answer.

And that is we need to underscore the fact that we’re a party of legal immigration. We like legal immigration. We want legal immigration. [applause]

And to protect…[applause]… to protect legal immigration, we want to stop illegal immigration. And we don’t want to do anything that would suggest to people, “Come on in here, just wait long enough, whether it’s five years or 10 years, wait long enough and we’ll take you all in on an amnesty basis.” I want people to get in line legally. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, you’re from a border state. If this is a problem, you’ve heard your colleagues talk about making sure employers, companies that hire large numbers of people, making sure they get the message they can’t hire illegals.

What about individuals? About a quarter of the illegal immigrants in the country work for individuals. If this is a problem — if I hired an illegal immigrant, say, to clean my home, should I be prosecuted for doing that?

PAUL: I don’t believe you should be. Because I think those laws are misdirected. That makes you the policeman, or the businessman the policeman, or the Catholic Church the policeman, if they do anything to help an illegal immigrant.

It should be the law enforcers, and that is the border guards. And the federal government’s in charge of immigration. So, no, I don’t agree with those laws. But it doesn’t mean that I’m soft in the issue of illegal immigration.

Illegal — I can’t imagine anybody standing up here and saying, oh, I’m for illegal immigration. We’re all against illegal immigration. But I think what we fail to do is — is look at the incentives.

And it has a lot to do with economics. There’s an economic incentive for them to come, for immigrants to come. But there’s also an incentive for some of our people in this country not to take a job that’s a low-paying job. You’re not supposed to say that, but that is true.

But there’s also an economic incentive in the welfare state for immigrants to come in. In Texas, we suffer from the fact that there are federal mandates that we have to take care of their medical needs and their educational needs, and it bankrupts some of our — our school districts and our hospitals. So it’s those mandates.

But we need a more generous immigration policy. It should be legal, but we need more resources.

But I find that the resources are all overseas. When I was in the military, I was on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and that is a no-man’s-land. You can’t see the border. At least we can — we can see the river south of Texas. We know where the Rio Grande is. Over there, we can’t see it. But we’re over there fighting and dying over that border, looking for problems. Why don’t we take those resources and quit pretending we can defend those borders and put them on our borders and take care of our needs here? [applause]

KING: The Speaker? [applause]

GINGRICH: John, I just think, if you’re going to raise immigration, I want to make the point, on the very first day that I’m inaugurated, I will issue an executive order to the Justice Department to drop the lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona.

The federal government should enforce the law, not stop states from helping it enforce the law. [applause]

KING: I think we have nodding heads. I assume we have agreement on that. But let’s move on to another issue that came up in the campaign right here in South Carolina this week, and that’s the life issue.

Mr. Speaker, your campaign sent out a mailing to South Carolina Republicans across this state essentially questioning Governor Romney’s commitment on this issue, saying that he has changed his position on the abortion issue.

If you’ll recall, I moderated a debate back in New Hampshire in June. There were seven candidates then. We have four tonight. But when this came up, we talked about it briefly, and then I asked, is this fair game, an issue in this campaign, or is it case closed?

Mr. Cain, who was with us at the time, said case closed, and I paused. No one else took the opportunity to speak up.

If it was case closed then, why is a legitimate issue now?

GINGRICH: You just said nobody else spoke. So nobody else said, yes, it’s case closed. I mean, Herman Cain said it was case closed, the rest of us, it wasn’t a particular issue we wanted to fight that night.

I mean, we are allowed to run our own campaigns, John. It’s not an automatic requirement that we fit in your debate schedule. [applause]

This is — look, this is a very straightforward question. Governor Romney — and I — and I accept this — I mean, Governor Romney has said that he had a experience in a lab and became pro-life, and I accept that.

After he became pro-life, Romneycare does pay for tax-paid abortions. Romneycare has written into it Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, by name. Does not have any right to life group written into it.

He did appoint pro-abortion judges. And a branch of the government which included his appointees did agree to fund an abortion clinic for Planned Parenthood. All that occurred after he had become pro-life.

Now, those are all facts which we validated, and it seems to me that’s a legitimate part of the campaign, is to say, “OK, if you’re genuinely pro-life, how come these things are occurring?”

KING: Governor Romney, he questions whether you’re genuinely pro-life. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m not questioned on character or integrity very often. And I don’t feel like standing here for that. But let me clarify the things which are wrong in what the speaker just said. And — and he can get a scintilla of truth in there to make it seem like this is a significant issue. But let’s go through one by one.

First, in Romneycare there’s no mention of abortion whatsoever. The courts in Massachusetts, the supreme court was the body that decided that all times if there was any subsidy of health care in Massachusetts that one received abortion care. That was not done by the legislature. Would not be done by me either. I would have vetoed such a thing. That was done by the courts, not by the legislature or by me.

Number two, it’s true, somewhere in that bill of ours, 70 pages, there’s the mention of the word Planned Parenthood, but it describes a person at a technical advisory board about payment structures. There’s no requirement or no participation of Planned Parenthood in our health care plan.

With regards to judges, I appointed probably 50 or 60 judges, at the trial court level mostly, the great majority. These were former prosecutors, 80 percent of them former prosecutors. We don’t have a litmus test for appointing judges, asking them if they’re pro-life or not pro-life. These are people going after crimes and — and — and the like. I didn’t get to appoint any supreme court justices.

I am pro-life. And the Massachusetts Citizens for Life and several other family-oriented groups wrote a letter two weeks ago and said they’d watched my record, that I was an avidly pro-life governor. I’m a pro-life governor. I am a pro-life individual.

And — and I — I have to be honest here. It is — this is not the time to be doubting people’s words or questioning their integrity. I’m pro-life.

By the way, is there any possibility that I’ve ever made a mistake in that regard, I didn’t see something that I should have seen? Possibly. But you can count on me as president of the United States to pursue a policy that protects the life of the unborn, whether here in this country or overseas. And I’ll reverse the policies of this president.

Thank you. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, he says you’re questioning his integrity.

GINGRICH: I’ll yield to Senator Santorum.

KING: Senator?

SANTORUM: I just want to make one point. And a lot of legislatures here — legislators here in the room and they — and they know this to be the truth, that if you write a piece of legislation and you — and you say medical care and you do not specifically mention that abortion is not covered, we know from every court decision at the state and federal levels that the federal courts and state courts will require it.

That is someone every governor knows, every state legislator knows. And so when Governor Romney did not put that in the bill, you can’t say, “Oh, gee, surprise, the court made us cover abortions.” He knew very well that the court would make them cover abortions. That’s number one.

Number two…[applause]

Number — number two, what we’re talking about here is someone who’s not going to just check the boxes and say, “Yes, I’m pro-life.”

We’ve got a lot of folks who just whisper into the microphone that they’re pro-life, and then you have other people who go out and fight the battle and defend life and come out of the trenches and actually work to make sure that the dignity of every human life, innocent human life in this country is protected.

And I’ve done that. [applause]

And I — and I would say to you in — in contrast with Speaker Gingrich, who on the social issues, in particular when he was speaker and even afterwards, they were pushed on the back bench. There was a pledge to America that the Congress tried to put together in 2010. I got phone calls ringing off the hook that Speaker Gingrich went in and told them, “Keep social issues out of the pledge to America for the 2010 elections, and we need you to come in and help to try to convince these folks to put that back into the pledge.”

We don’t need someone who in the back rooms is going to say social issues in the front — are in the back of the bus, and then come out here and try to prevent they’re pro-life. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney and then Speaker Gingrich, he mentioned [inaudible]. Very quickly.

ROMNEY: Senator, I — I admire the fact that you’ve been a stalwart defender of — of pro-life and in a state where that’s not easy. I was also a governor in a state where being pro-life was not easy. And I — and I battled hard. What came to my desk was a piece of legislation that said “We’re going to redefine when life begins.” In our state, we said life began at conception. The legislature wanted to change that to say, “No, we’re going to do it an implantation.” I vetoed that.

The legislature also said, “We want to allow cloning for purposes of — of creating new embryos for testing.” I vetoed that. The legislature did not want to abstinence education. I pushed and pursued abstinence education. There was an effort to also have a morning-after pill provided to, as I recall, young women in their teens. I can’t remember the exact age. I vetoed that.

I stood as a pro-life governor and that’s why the Massachusetts Pro-Life Family Association supported my record as governor, endorsed my record as governor. I — I did my very best to be a pro-life governor. I will be a pro-life president. I’m proud of that. I wrote about it in my book. My record is — is solid.

I appreciate your record. I hope you’ll appreciate mine. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, he — he mentioned you specifically, and then we want to move on, but please respond.

GINGRICH: Well, the fact is that I voted with Henry Hyde, who was the leading pro-life advocate in the House for a generation. I had a 98.6 percent pro-life voting record. The only one we disagreed on was welfare reform, which they scored for reasons we never understood. Otherwise, it was a perfect record on — on pro-life.

When I was speaker, we twice passed a bill that actually Rick was — was very active in, to end partial-birth abortion. Twice, it was vetoed by Clinton, but twice we passed it.

In the 2010 election, the freshman class has the highest percentage of pro-life members ever in history, and my job was to maximize their winning. And the fact is, we won a huge victory in 2010 with the largest number of pro-life members ever elected in a freshman class.

KING: All right, let’s move on. Let’s take another question.

Congressman, I’ll [inaudible] on this one. Let’s — let’s take a question now from social media. Question — [inaudible], before we move on, do you want in on this issue? They want you in on this issue. Would you like in on this issue? [applause]

PAUL: John, once again, it’s a medical subject and I’m a doctor. [laughter]

No, I do want to make a couple of comments because I can remember the very early years studying obstetrics and I was told — and it was before the age of abortion. And I was told taking care of a woman that’s pregnant, you have two patients. And I think that’s — that solves a lot of the problems of life — you know, when life begins and all. [applause]

And I also experienced a time later on in my training, in the 1960s when the culture was changing. The Vietnam War was going on. The drugs were there and pornography and everything came in. And abortion became prevalent, even though it was illegal. So the morality of the country changed, but then the law followed up. When the morality changed, it will — reflects on the laws.

The law is very important. We shouldn’t have these laws, but law will not correct the basic problem, and that’s the morality of the people that we must do.

Now, just very, very briefly, I want to talk a little bit about that funding because the flaw there is if you — if you send funding out and you say, “Well, you can have it for birth control, but not for abortion,” all funds are fungible. Even funds that go to any hospital if you say, “Well, it’s not for birth control and it’s not for Planned Parenthood and it’s not for abortion,” if you send it to the hospital, they can still use that money.

This is an indictment of government-run medicine because you never can sort that all out. You need the government out of that business or you will always argue over who’s paying what bills. [applause]

KING: Very quickly, Senator.

SANTORUM: I think that was directed at me, and so I would just say this. Congressman Paul has a national right-to-life voting record of 50 percent, which is pretty much what Harry Reid’s national right to life voting record is.

So for — to go out and say that you’re someone who stands up for the right to life, you repeatedly vote against bills on a federal level to promote the right to life. And you say that this is an individual, a personal decision, or state decision. Life should be protected, and you should have the willingness to stand up on a federal law and every level of government and protect what our Declaration protects, which is the right of our creator to life, and that is a federal issue, not a state issue. [applause]

KING: Quickly, sir.

PAUL: Just for the record, I wasn’t even thinking about you when I was giving my statement, so you are overly sensitive. [applause]

But it is true that we have a disagreement on how we approach it. I follow what my understanding is of the Constitution. And it does allow for the states to deal with difficult problems.

A matter of fact, it allows the states to deal with almost all the problems if you look at it. It is not given — these powers aren’t given to the Congress.

I see abortion as a violent act. All other violence is handled by the states — murder, burglary, violence. That’s a state issue.

So don’t try to say that I’m less pro-life because I want to be particular about the way we do it and allow the states the prerogative. This is the solution, . This is the solution. Because if we would allow the states to write their laws, take away the jurisdiction by a majority vote in the Congress, you repeal Roe versus Wade overnight, instead of waiting year after y, ear to change the court system. [applause]

KING: All right.

We need to take one more break, Gentlemen. Stand by.

Less than 35 hours away now from the polls opening right here in South Carolina, a state that is crucial, often decisive in Republican presidential politics.

Stay with us. Hear the candidates’ closing arguments to the voters of a state that takes pride in picking presidents.

[commercial break]

[applause]

KING: Welcome back to the Southern Republican Presidential Debate. [applause]

We’re in Charleston, South Carolina, tonight.

Gentlemen, we’re running out of time. Time flies. I wish we could stay all night. I don’t suspect you have campaigning to do. I don’t suspect you’ll agree. [laughter]

I didn’t think so. [laughter]

You know the history of this state. We’re inside 35 hours now from voters in South Carolina going to the polls, and we all know the history of this state.

In modern times, the winner of the South Carolina Republican primary has gone on to be your party’s nominee.

We have an interesting race at the moment. Senator Santorum wins Iowa; Governor Romney wins New Hampshire. Everybody’s waiting to see. Most people believe, if Governor Romney wins here, he would be the prohibitive favorite.

I want each of you, since we have a short time left, and I’ll start on the end. We’ll come down the line.

Congressman Paul, make your case. Make your case. South Carolina essentially faces this decision: “Not so fast, let’s continue the race,” or embrace Governor Romney. Make your case to the people of South Carolina in these final hours.

PAUL: Well, South Carolina is known for their respect for liberty, and a lot of people will ask the question…[applause]

They will ask the question, in a way, what will you do for South Carolina or what will you do for New Hampshire? What will you do for the various states?

But if you understand liberty, it’s equal for everybody; it benefits everybody, so if you have a protection of liberty, which is the purpose of the Constitution, protection of individual liberty, and that means you protect the private property rights system. And if you do that, that benefits everybody.

And this is what we have to do, is convince people that we can bring people together with the understanding of what those — those beliefs were that made America great. And it is freedom. It isn’t this continued spending money and debt. This is the reason — we’re in a mountain of debt and we have to deal with it. We really never even got around to talking about that tonight.

And one of my very modest proposals…[applause]

My modest proposal is in the first year, cut $1 trillion out of the budget to get started…[applause]… because the debt bubble is a great burden. It’s a burden to all of us, and as I mentioned earlier, these programs are going to go down if we don’t get our budget under control. And we have to be willing to look at overseas spending and all of the entitlement system here in the country. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, let me start — I want to thank CNN and I want to thank the people of Charleston for a very, very interesting and very useful evening.

We have a real challenge. It is imperative that we defeat Barack Obama. [applause]

This is, I believe, the most dangerous president of our lifetime.

And if he is re-elected after the disaster he has been, the level of radicalism of his second term will be truly frightening.

But in addition to beating Obama, we have to have a team victory in the Senate and the House and we have to have a principled victory so the American people send a signal that in January of 2013, they want very dramatic, very deep change in Washington. [applause]

I believe the only way to create the momentum is to be able to overcome his billion-dollar campaign with a series of debates which decisively convince the American people that a Sol Alinsky radical who is incompetent cannot be reelected, and I hope you will vote for me on Saturday as the person who could do that. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: I agree with a lot of what these last two men have just said. I think this is an absolutely critical election.

I believe that the founders took very careful thought in the preparation of the words of our Declaration of Independence that said that the creator had endowed us with certain unalienable rights, not the state but the creator, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And by virtue of those words, the pursuit of happiness, this became the place on the planet where we were able to pursue our dreams as we might choose. People came here from all over the world, wishing to pursue happiness in their own way. And that has made us the most powerful economic engine in the world, where we can guard freedom because our military is the strongest in the world, coming from that powerful economic engine.

This president’s changing that. He’s changing the very nature of America. He’s turning us not from a merit society, an opportunity society, where people are free to choose their own course, but instead he’s making us an entitlement society, where people think they’re entitled to what other people have, where government takes from some and gives to others.

That has never been the source of American greatness. We need to return to the principles upon which this country was founded.

Our president said, I think in a very revealing way, that he wants to fundamentally transform America. He’s wrong. We need to restore the values that made America the hope of the Earth. And I understand those values. [applause]

ROMNEY: I will do everything in my power to restore those values by keeping America free, by fighting for free enterprise, by standing up to President Obama and pointing out how he has made it almost impossible for our private sector to reboot. I will get America working again. I will defeat Barack Obama and keep America as it’s always been, the shining on a hill.

Thank you. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: I agree with Governor Romney 100 percent of what he said about what the stakes are. The question is, who is the best person to take on President Obama?

I would make the argument that a conviction conservative who has a clear contrast with President Obama on the most important issues of the day is the best person, someone who has a clear contrast on health care, a clear contrast on global warming, a clear contrast on the Wall Street bailout. Talk about the one issue — the huge issue in the last couple of years where the government has come in and taken over, and both Newt and Governor Romney have supported that.

We need someone who not only says now they’re going to stand up for conservative principles, the big issues, but someone who has a track record of doing so and winning. I’m the only one in this race that’s ever defeated a Democratic incumbent. I did it for the Congress and I did it for the Senate. [applause]

We’re the only people in this race that actually has won a swing state. And I did it because I have a plan like I outlined today.

I come from those states. I come from the background. I come with the working class and strong credentials, not just with a plan, but with the character that fits in with exactly the voters we need, those Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan and Indiana and Wisconsin. Those are the votes and those are the states.

You want to win? Elect someone who can win in the states we have to win and draw the clear contrast with President Obama.

South Carolina, you’ve been told in the past, you’ve got to settle for a moderate because they can win, and you said the last time we had a situation like this, in 1980, you said, no, we’re going to take the strong conviction conservative, and you voted for Reagan before Reagan was the Reagan we knew. Vote for the one who can do the job that America needs. Vote for me. [applause]

KING: That concludes our debate this evening.

I want to thank all of our candidates for their time tonight.

I want to thank our wonderful audience. We also want to thank the people of South Carolina. [applause]

I do appreciate it, and I know the candidates do as well.

November 22, 2011: CNN / Heritage Foundation / American Enterprise Institute Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Washington, DC November 22, 2011

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

BLITZER: From Constitution Hall in the nation’s capital, this is the Republican presidential debate.

[applause]

BLITZER: Every U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge has been inside this historic hall, just steps away from the White House.

Tonight, the eight Republican candidates are here with their ultimate goal in sight.

I’m Wolf Blitzer.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Tonight’s debate is airing on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol and the American Forces Network. We want to thank our co- sponsors, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Members of these distinguished conservative think tanks, they are here in our audience and some of them will have a chance to question the candidates. They’ll add their knowledge and insights to our discussion, making this unlike any debate so far in this presidential campaign.

Viewers also can take part in our debate by sending us your questions online, on Twitter. Make sure to include the hash tag, cnndebate; on Facebook at Facebook.com/cnnpolitics; and, of course, on CNNPolitics.com.

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

Joining us onstage, the former U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

Thank you. [applause]

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

BACHMANN: Good to see you, Wolf. [applause]

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

[applause]

BLITZER: The former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain. [applause]

The former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney…[applause]

Texas governor, Rick Perry…[applause]

Texas congressman, Ron Paul…[applause] [inaudible] from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. [applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates for President of the United States. [applause]

Now, please rise for our National Anthem. Please rise. The National Anthem performed by Mauricio Perez, from the Tony Award winning musical, “Jersey Boys,” now playing at the National Theater here in Washington, D.C. [applause] [national anthem] [applause]

BLITZER: Mauricio Perez, thank you.

Candidates, please take your — to your podiums while I tell you a little bit more about how this debate will work. I’ll be the moderator and as I mentioned, our partners from the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute will ask questions as well.

I’ll follow up. I’ll try to guide the discussion. Candidates, I’ll try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of questions.

You’ll have one minute to answer, 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. And I’ll make sure you get time to respond if — if you’re singled out for criticism.

This year more than ever we’ve seen how events beyond our borders directly affect America, including perhaps the biggest national security issue right now, the economy.

Candidates, tonight Republican voters are here. They are watching around the country to decide if you have what it takes to be the next commander in chief, to shape foreign policy, to protect this great nation.

On some of these issues you will agree. On some you’ll disagree. But by the end of the night, voters should have a better understanding of how you would lead the nation in times of crisis.

Now, let’s have the candidates introduce themselves to our audience, but we’ll keep it very brief. Here’s an example of what I’m looking for.

I’m Wolf Blitzer and yes, that’s my real name. I’ll be your moderator this evening and I’m happy to welcome each one of you to our debate.

Rick Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: Well, I am Rick Santorum. And it’s great to be here and I want to thank AEI and Heritage [inaudible]. … One constitutional responsibility of the federal government and that is national security. And I think we can all agree that if you like what Barack Obama has done to our economy, you’ll love what he’s done to our national security.

PAUL: I’m Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas. I am pleased to be here at the debate because this is a very important debate. I am convinced that needless and unnecessary wars are a great detriment. They undermine our prosperity and our liberties. They add to our deficits and they consume our welfare. We should take a careful look at our foreign policy.

PERRY: I’m Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, and I want to take a moment and introduce you, the beautiful first lady of the state of Texas, Anita. Thank you for being here with me, 29 years of wedded bliss and 45 years ago we had our first date. So I’m a blessed man in many ways to represent a great state, and we’re here to ask you for your support, your blessings and your vote.

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name. And…[laughter]… I’m a husband, a father, a grandfather of 16. I love this country very much. I spent my life in the private sector. And as I’ve watched the direction this president has taken our country, both domestically and internationally, I’m afraid that he’s taking us on a perilous course. I want to keep America strong and free, and if I’m president, I’ll use every ounce of my energy to do just that. [applause]

CAIN: I am businessman Herman Cain. I’m delighted to be here to discuss one of the most critical issues we face because, as a result of this administration, our national security has indeed been downgraded. [applause]

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich. My father spent 27 years in the infantry. And as a result of that, in the fall of 1958, I decided that national survival was worth the study of a lifetime. I’ve worked with both Heritage and the American Enterprise Institute for over 30 years. I can’t imagine any two institutions better to partner with CNN on the most important single topic, the survival of the United States. [applause]

BACHMANN: My name is Michele Bachmann. I’m a proud member of the United States Congress. I’m privileged to serve on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. My father honorably served in the United States Air Force, my stepfather in the United States Army and my brother in the United States Navy.

I think for every one of us who are here on this stage tonight, I think we all want to send our very best Happy Thanksgiving greetings to all of our men and women in uniform who are serving us overseas, here in the United States and also to their families. Happy Thanksgiving. We appreciate, we love you and we want to get you home as soon as we can. [applause]

HUNTSMAN: My name is Jon Huntsman. I believe this week, in particular, that there is still much to be grateful for in this, the greatest nation that ever was. I’m here with my wife of 28 years, Mary Kay, who is fortuitously sitting in the New Hampshire box up here. We are the wife — or we are the parents of seven kids, two in the United States Navy.

Twice elected governor of the great state of Utah, I’ve lived overseas four times, three times as a United States ambassador. I am honored and privileged to be here. Wolf, CNN, Heritage, AEI, thank you one and all for making tonight possible.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. And let’s get right to the questions.

[applause]

BLITZER: Our leadoff question is from the honorable Ed Meese, the former attorney general of the United States, who is representing the Heritage Foundation.

ED MEESE, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: At least 42 terrorist attacks aimed at the United States have been thwarted since 9/11. Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists.

Shouldn’t we have a long range extension of the investigative powers contained in that act so that our law enforcement officers can have the tools that they need?

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, only this weekend there was an alleged terror plot uncovered in New York City. What do you think?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that Attorney General Meese has raised a key point, and the key distinction for the American people to recognize is the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements.

I think it’s desperately important that we preserve your right to be innocent until proven guilty, if it’s a matter of criminal law. But if you’re trying to find somebody who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city, I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence.

The Patriot Act has clearly been a key part of that. And I think looking at it carefully and extending it and building an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. This is not going to end in the short run. And we need to be prepared to protect ourselves from those who, if they could, would not just kill us individually, but would take out entire cities.

BLITZER: So, Speaker, just to clarify, you wouldn’t change the Patriot Act?

GINGRICH: No, I would not change it. I’m not aware of any specific change it needs. And I’d look at strengthening it, because I think the dangers are literally that great. And again, I’ve spent years studying this stuff. You start thinking about one nuclear weapon in one American city and the scale of loss of life and you ask yourself, what should the president be capable of doing to stop that?

And you come up with a very different answer. Again, very sharp division. Criminal law, the government should be frankly on defense and you’re innocent until proven guilty. National security, the government should have many more tools in order to save our lives.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, I suspect you disagree.

PAUL: I do.

BLITZER: Tell us why.

PAUL: I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty. I’m concerned, as everybody is, about the terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh was a vicious terrorist. He was arrested. Terrorism is still on the books, internationally and nationally, it’s a crime and we should deal with it.

We dealt with it rather well with Timothy McVeigh. But why I really fear it is we have drifted into a condition that we were warned against because our early founders were very clear. They said, don’t be willing to sacrifice liberty for security.

Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights. [applause]

BLITZER: I want to bring others in, but do you want to respond, Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Yes. Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point.

[applause]

GINGRICH: Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.

[applause]

PAUL: This is like saying that we need a policeman in every house, a camera in every house because we want to prevent child- beating and wife-beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms. And we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly. [applause]

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, let me bring you into this conversation. Are you with Congressman Paul or Speaker Gingrich or do you have your own view?

BACHMANN: Well, I’m with the American people, with the Constitution, and with the job of the commander-in-chief as the number one duty of the president of the United States.

We have to realize we’re in a very different war, with very different techniques that are used for that war, and very different bad actors than we’ve had before in the terrorists and their motivations are very different.

We can’t forget that technology is completely different. When we were looking at prior laws, phones were wired in to walls. That’s not how it works any more. Today we deal with wireless functions. And we have to completely change the way that we go about investigating.

This is one thing we know about Barack Obama. He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He has outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.

When the bomber — or the attempted bomber over Detroit, the underwear bomber was intercepted, he was given Miranda warnings within 45 minutes. He was not an American citizen. We don’t give Miranda warnings to terrorists, and we don’t read them their rights. They don’t have any. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, where do you stand on the Patriot Act? Do you believe it’s un-American, as Congressman Paul has suggested?

HUNTSMAN: I think we have to be very careful in protecting our individual liberties. We forget sometimes that we have a name brand in this world. And I have seen it shine living overseas. And when our light shines based on the values that we live up to and represent, it moves people, it moves countries, it moves events like nothing else can.

We are a nation of values. And forever, like what we’re trying to do in this debate tonight, we’ll try to find that balancing act between our individual liberties and security. But we also have to remember as we’re talking about security, I see Tom Ridge in the audience here, a great former secretary of Homeland Security. He will tell you, he will tell you that we cannot secure the homeland out of Washington, D.C., itself. We’ve got to make sure that we have partnerships with governors and mayors, that this is a national effort.

No longer can we compartmentalize intelligence. Those are the old days. Today we’ve got to share. We’ve got to make sure that we are prepared as a people, we are prepared not only as a federal government, but we’re prepared as well as a local government in a collaborative and sharing kind of relationship.

BLITZER: I’m going to give everyone a chance to respond, but let me get this one question from CNN Politics, that came to cnnpolitics.com, and then we’ll bring in the rest of you.

This was the question: “TSA pat-downs: violation of civil liberty or a necessity to ensure national security?”

Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Well, we can do a lot better than the TSA system. It’s going to get get better over time. We can use better technology. We can also identify people who are lower risk and allow them to go through the process more quickly than the current process.

But let’s come back to the issue that seems to be so confusing here.

And that is Congressman Paul talked about crime. Newt Gingrich was right. There are different categories here. There’s crime and there are rights that are afforded to American citizens under our Constitution and those that are accused of crime. Then there’s war. And the tool of war being used today in America and around the world is terror. There’s a different body of law that relates to war.

And for those that understand the difference between the two, they recognize that we need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that, as president of the United States, you can fulfill your first responsibility, which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign.

And that means, yes, we’ll use the Constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes, but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds, we will use instead a very different form of law, which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.

that we need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that as president of the United States you can fulfill your first responsibility which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign. That means yes we’ll use the constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds we will use instead a very different form of law which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.

BLITZER: Governor Perry…[applause]… you proposed legislation that would criminalize these TSA pat-downs under certain circumstances.

PERRY: Right.

BLITZER: Explain what you have in mind.

PERRY: Well, here’s what I would do with the TSA; I would privatize it as soon as I could and get rid of those unions. [applause]

It’s working in Denver. They have a program where they’re privatizing it. And the airlines and other private-sector groups work together to do the security in our airports. And it makes abundant good sense.

And I agree with most of my colleagues here on the stage when we talk about the Patriot Act. And we need to keep it in place. We need to have — strengthen it if that’s what’s required, to update it with new technologies as they come along, Newt.

But here’s the other issue that I think we’ve really failed at, and that is in our ability to collect intelligence around the world. And this administration in particular has been an absolute failure when it comes to expending the dollars and supporting the CIA and the military intelligence around the world, to be able to draw in that intelligence that is going to truly be able to allow us to keep the next terrorist attack from happening on American soil.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, under certain circumstances in the past, you’ve supported profiling. Is that correct?

SANTORUM: I have.

BLITZER: What do you have in mind?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, I think TSA is a good example of that. We should be trying to find the bomber, not the bomb. Other countries have done it. Israel is probably the best example of that.

But to put this enormous expense on the federal government, to put the enormous expense on the traveling public for — for pat-downs and other intrusions, I think, is too much money. I agree with Governor Perry; I actually voted when I — when this bill came up, I voted to allow for privatization. I was not for this being a government function. I thought it could be a private function.

But the issue of the Patriot Act is — is a little different. We are at war. The last time we had a — we had a threat at home like this — obviously, it was much more of a threat at home — was during the Civil War.

And, of course, Abraham Lincoln ran right over civil rights. Why? Because we had a present domestic threat. In the previous wars that we’ve had, we haven’t had this type of threat that we have here in the homeland. And we have to deal with it differently.

I disagree with Governor Huntsman. He made some good points. And we have had the debate. It’s been an open debate. It’s really shown the values of our country, that we can engage in this open debate and balance those interests, and I think we have done so appropriately.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, is it ethnic profiling, religious profiling? Who would be profiled?

SANTORUM: Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at — I mean, obviously, it was — obviously, Muslims would be — would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are — the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve — by and large, as well as younger males.

I mean, these are things that — not exclusively — but these are things that you profile to — to find your best — the most likely candidate.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: That’s digging a… [applause] That’s digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Timothy McVeigh? You know, he was a pretty tough criminal.

I think we’re using too much carelessness in the use of words that we’re at war. I don’t remember voting on — on a declared — declaration of war. Oh, we’re against terrorism. [applause]

And terrorism is a tactic. It isn’t a person. It isn’t a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this? Sacrifice liberties because there are terrorists? You’re the judge and the jury? No, they’re suspects.

And they have changed the — in the — in DOD budget they have changed the wording on the definition of al-Qaeda and Taliban. It’s anybody associated with organizations, which means almost anybody can be loosely associated so that makes all Americans vulnerable.

And now we know that American citizens are vulnerable to assassination.

So I would be very cautious about protecting the rule of law. It will be a sacrifice that you’ll be sorry for. [applause]

BLITZER: Herman Cain, let’s bring you into this conversation. Are you with Senator Santorum when he says that there should be religious profiling, that Muslims in particular should get extra screening when they go — go through airports?

CAIN: I believe we can do a whole lot better with TSA. And I called it, targeted identification.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

CAIN: We can do — we can do — targeted identification. If you take a look at the people who are trying to kill us, it would be easy to figure out exactly what that identification profile looks like.

But I want — but I want to make sure that I get to the Patriot Act. So I believe we can do a whole better. The answer, I believe, also may be privatization.

Now, relative to the Patriot Act, if there are some areas of the Patriot Act that we need to refine, I’m all for that. But I do not believe we ought to throw out the baby with the bathwater for the following reason. The terrorists have one objective that some people don’t seem to get. They want to kill all of us.

So we should use every mean possible to kill them first or identify them first — first. [applause]

BLITZER: Now, just to be precise, Mr. Cain. I just want to — I’ll give you a chance. Is it OK for Muslim Americans to get more intensive pat downs or security when they go through airports than Christian Americans or Jewish Americans?

CAIN: No, Blitz. That’s oversimplifying it. I happen to believe that if — if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job they can come up with an approach — I’m sorry, Blitz, I meant Wolf, OK? [laughter] [applause]

This was — since we on a — since we on a blitz debate, I apologize. Wolf, what I’m saying is let’s ask the professionals to give us an approach of how we can increase the identification of people that might be a danger to civilians as well as a danger to this nation.

BLITZER: Thank you, Cain. [laughter] [applause] All right. Go ahead. We have another question. Please give us your name and the organization you represent.

QUESTION: I’m Fred Kagan, resident scholar and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

And my question is, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was obviously an important success in the struggle against al-Qaeda, although it also drove U.S. relations with Pakistan into a new low.

Do you think that an expanded drone campaign in Pakistan would be sufficient to defeat al-Qaeda and to secure our interests in Pakistan?

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say that as we talk about foreign policy, let’s be reminded that in order to have an effective foreign policy we need a Washington that works.

Today we have a president who can’t lead. We have a Congress that can’t even figure out how to balance our budget. They need term limits, by the way. We’ve gotta get our house in order if we… [applause] Thank you. We’ve gotta get our house in order if we’re gonna expect to get anything done overseas because when our light shines we can influence the rest of the world.

Pakistan is a concern. That’s the country that ought to keep everybody up at night. You have not President Zardari in charge but General Kayani over the military, which also is responsible for ISI.

You’ve got the youngest demographic of the 160 million people in Pakistan. You’ve got a Midrasha movement. You’ve got over 100 nuclear weapons. You’ve got trouble on the border.

You’ve got a nation-state that is a candidate for failure. And I say it’s a haven for bad behavior. It’s a haven — it’s — it’s a haven for training the people who seek to do us harm. And an expanded drone program is something that would serve our national interest.

I think it must be done. And I think it must be consistent with recognizing the reality on the ground of what we need out of Afghanistan — we don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

We don’t need to nation-build in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built.

BLITZER: We’re gonna get to Afghanistan.

HUNTSMAN: But we need something. We need something in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, we’ll be bringing you in. You’re a member…

HUNTSMAN: We need Special Forces and drones.

BLITZER: All right. You’re a member of the Intelligence Committee. Do you think, as Governor Perry has said, that Pakistan should no longer receive U.S. aid because they’ve shown they’re not a good friend, ally of the United States?

BACHMANN: Pakistan has been the epicenter of dealing with terrorism. They are, as Governor Huntsman said, there are al-Qaeda training grounds there. There’s also the Haqqani network that can be trained there as well.

And they also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously.

The United States has to be engaged. It is complicated. We have to recognize that the Chinese are doing everything that they can to be an influential party in Pakistan. We don’t want to lose influence.

I’m answering your question. You asked me about the money that the United States gives to Pakistan. This is a — this is a dual answer. A nation that lies, that does everything possibly that you could imagine wrong, at the same time they do share intelligence data with us regarding Al Qaida.

We need to demand more. The money that we are sending right now is primarily intelligence money to Pakistan. It is helping the United States. Whatever our action is, it must ultimately be about helping the United States and our sovereignty…

BLITZER: So…

BACHMANN: … our safety and our security.

BLITZER: … you would continue that aid to Pakistan?

BACHMANN: I — at this point I would continue that aid, but I do think that the Obama policy of keeping your fingers crossed is not working in Pakistan,. And I also think that Pakistan is a nation, that it’s kind of like too nuclear to fail. And so we’ve got to make sure that we take that threat very seriously.

BLITZER: Governor Perry?

PERRY: I understand where she’s coming from, but the bottom line is that they’ve showed us time after time that they can’t be trusted. And until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America’s best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny, period.

I think it is important for us to send the message to those across the world that, if you are not going to be an ally of the United States, do not expect a dime of our citizens’ money to be coming into your country. That is the way we change foreign policy. Now, if we want to engage these countries with our abilities and our companies that go in, and help to economically build these countries up, rather than just writing a blank check to them, then we can have that conversation, because I think that is a change in foreign policy that would be adequate and appropriate and a positive move for us.

But to write a check to countries that are clearly not representing American interests is nonsensical.

BLITZER: You want to respond, Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Well, I — with all due respect to the governor, I think that’s highly naive, because, again, we have to recognize what’s happening on the ground. These are nuclear weapons all across this nation. And, potentially, Al Qaida could get hold of these weapons.

These weapons could find their way out of — out of Pakistan, into New York City or into Washington, D.C., and a nuclear weapon could be set off in this city. That’s how serious this is. We have to maintain an American presence.

They certainly aren’t looking out for the best interests of the United States. I wouldn’t expect them to. But at the same time, we have to have our interests, which is national security, represented. The best way we can do that with an uneven actor state is to have some sort of presence there.

BLITZER: I just want to give Governor Perry the chance to respond.

She just said your views are highly naive.

PERRY: And I — absolutely we need to be engaged in that part of the world. I never said for us not to be engaged. I just said we need to quit writing blank checks to these countries, and then letting them decide how these dollars are going to be spent.

We’ve got Afghanistan and India working in concert right now to leverage Pakistan. I think if we would create a trade zone in that part of the world, where you have all of those countries working together, that may be the answer to getting Pakistan to understand that they have to work with all of the countries in that region.

BLITZER: All right, I want to move on.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: I want to move on, but you’ll have a chance — you’ll have a chance to respond…

BACHMANN: If I can just — Wolf, if I could just…

BLITZER: Very quickly.

BACHMANN: … clarify, we’re not writing just blank checks. We’re also exchanging intelligence information. So we aren’t writing blank checks in that region.

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

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Israel Ortega with the Heritage Foundation.

Is the money that we’ve drawn back from U.S. troops in Afghanistan really worth the risk of allowing Taliban to expand territories, and Al Qaida to grow safe sanctuaries?

BLITZER: Governor Romney, $2 billion a week the United States is spending right now in Afghanistan, $2 billion, more than $100 billion a year. And U.S. troops are supposed to stay for another three years at least, till the end of 2014. Is that money well spent?

ROMNEY: We spent about $450 billion so far, 1,700 or so service men and women have lost their lives there, and many tens of thousands have been wounded. Our effort there is to keep Afghanistan from becoming a launching point for terror against the United States. We can’t just write off a major part of the world.

Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world. We can’t just say goodbye to all of — of what’s going on in that part of the world.

Instead, we want to draw them toward modernity. And for that to happen, we don’t want to literally pull up stakes and run out of town after the extraordinary investment that we’ve made. And that means we should have a gradual transition of handing off to the Afghan security forces the responsibility for their own country.

And for the region, what happened in Indonesia back in the 1960s, where — where we helped Indonesia move toward modernity with new leadership. We — we brought them in the technology that allowed them to trade in the world.

We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st century — or the 20th century, for that matter, so that they — they can engage throughout the world with trade and with modernity.

Right now, American approval level in — in Pakistan is 12 percent. We’re not doing a very good job with this huge investment we make of $4.5 billion a year. We can do a lot better directing that to encourage people to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities the West and freedom represent for their people.

BLITZER: Now, Governor Huntsman, do you agree with Governor Romney that the U.S. has to stay in Afghanistan at these levels?

HUNTSMAN: No, I — I totally disagree. I think we need to square with the American people about what we’ve achieved. We need an honest conversation in this country about the sacrifices that have been made over nearly 10 years. We have — we have dismantled the Taliban. We’ve run them out of Kabul. We’ve had free elections in 2004. We’ve killed Osama bin Laden. We’ve upended, dismantled al Qaeda. We have achieved some very important goals for the United States of America.

Now, the fact that we have 100,000 troops nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built, when, on the ground, we do need intelligence gathering, no doubt about that. We need a strong Special Forces presence. We need a drone presence. And we need some ongoing training of the Afghan National Army.

But we haven’t done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan. And I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today. [applause]

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.

ROMNEY: Well, let me respond.

Are you suggesting, Governor, that we just take all our troops out next week or what — what’s your proposal?

HUNTSMAN: Did you hear what I just said?

I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don’t need 100,000 troops. We don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan… [crosstalk] …many of whom can’t even cross the wire. We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10,000 or 15,000. That will serve our interests in terms of intelligence gathering and Special Forces response capability. And we need to prepare for a world, not just in South Asia, but, indeed, in every corner of the world in which counter-terror — counter-terrorism is going to be in front of us for as far as the eye can see into the 21st century.

ROMNEY: And the — and the commanders on the ground feel that we should bring down our surge troops by December of 2012 and bring down all of our troops, other than, perhaps, 10,000 or so, by the end of — of 2014.

The decision to pull our troops out before that, they believe, would put at risk the extraordinary investment of treasure and blood which has been sacrificed by the American military.

I stand with the commanders in this regard and have no information that suggests that pulling our troops out faster than that would do anything but put at — at great peril the extraordinary sacrifice that’s been made. This is not time for America to cut and run. We have been in for 10 years. We are winding down. The Afghan troops are picking up the capacity to secure their country. And the mission is pretty straightforward, and that is to allow the Afghan people to have a sovereign nation not taken over by the Taliban.

BLITZER: Let me bring the speaker in. What do you say…

GINGRICH: I would…

BLITZER: — pull out?

HUNTSMAN: Just — just one point.

BLITZER: You want — oh, go ahead.

HUNTSMAN: Yes, just about the generals on the ground. And listen, I think it’s important for the American people to know we have achieved some very important objectives in raising standards in Afghanistan and helping to build civil society.

But at the end of the day, the president of the United States is commander-in-chief, commander-in-chief. Of course you’re going to listen to the generals. But…[applause]…I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in South Asia that didn’t serve our interests very well.

The president is the commander-in-chief and ought to be informed by a lot of different voices, including of those of his generals on the ground.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich? [applause]

GINGRICH: It’s…

ROMNEY: Look, I’ve got a good — he gets a response, I get a response.

BLITZER: All right.

ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chief makes — make the final decision.

PAUL: How about the rest of us?

ROMNEY: Of course the final — look…

PAUL: How about us who haven’t had a response?

BLITZER: [inaudible] got a chance.

ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chiefs makes the — makes the final decision. But the commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground. And — and we — we’ve both been to Afghanistan. I’ve been to Afghanistan. The people I speak with there say we have a very good prospect of the people in Afghanistan being able to secure the peace and their sovereignty from the Taliban, but that if we pull out on a precipitous basis, as Governor Huntsman suggests, that we could well see that nation and Pakistan get pulled into terror and become another launching point to go after America. That’s a mistake. That’s why you listen and then make your decision.

BLITZER: Speaker? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, Wolf, I’m a little confused about exactly what we’re currently debating, because I think — I think we tend to get down to these narrow questions that — that, in a sense, don’t get at the — at the core issues.

The very first question I thought about Pakistan is the one that should be the starting point.

The gentleman said that when we went in and killed bin Laden, that we drove U.S.-Pakistan — did I have — is this like a 30-second response?

BLITZER: Go ahead.

GINGRICH: I mean, I’m happy to play by the rules, I just want to know what they are. But I think this is the heart of the American dilemma. We were told, a perfectly natural Washington assumption that our killing bin Laden in Pakistan drove U.S.-Pakistan relations to a new low.

To which my answer is, well, it should have because we should be furious. [applause]

GINGRICH: Now, and that’s where this has got to start. You want to keep American troops in Afghanistan, you accept hot pursuit, you say no sanctuaries, you change the rules of engagement, you put the military in charge of the military side, you overhaul the State Department and AID so they get the job done, and you do it for real and you do it intensely, and you tell the Pakistanis, help us or get out of the way, but don’t complain if we kill people you’re not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I agree with Ron Paul. We are not fighting a war on terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. We’re fighting a war against radical Islam. And what radical Islam is telling — all of the radical Islamist leaders are saying is that just wait America out, America is weak, they will not stand for the fight, they cannot maintain this, they’ll set time limits, politics will interfere, and we will tell the people in Afghanistan, we will tell the people in Iraq and other places that we will be the strong horse in the region.

And President Obama, by making political decision after political decision about timelines and constraints on rules of engagement, has validated everything these radical Islamists are saying.

So the answer to you, Jon, is that you’re doing exactly — Governor Huntsman, is that you’re doing exactly what all of the radical leaders are saying that America will do, that we are not in this to win, we are going to play politics with this, and then we will find this problem in Afghanistan on our shores in a very short order.

BLITZER: We are going to come to Congressman Cain [sic] in a moment. But just hold your horses for a second because we’re going to take a quick break. Much more coming up. The former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff calls this the number one threat to America’s national security. The candidates will answer that question on this topic, coming up next.

We want you to send us your questions for the candidates. Go to cnnpolitics.com or facebook.com/cnnpolitics or on twitter use #cnndebate. Our coverage of this historic debate at Constitution Hall in Washington continues in a moment.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to historic Constitution Hall here in the nation’s capital. [applause]

We’re continuing the CNN national security debate. Let’s go right to the audience. We have a question from the audience. [applause]

Go ahead with your question.

Hello?

No question from the audience.

Yes, we do. We do have a question from the audience. [laughter]

We were waiting for you. [laughter]

QUESTION: I’m Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation.

BLITZER: Thank you.

QUESTION: If Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise?

BLITZER: All right. We’ve got the question. Let me ask Herman Cain first. Did you get the question?

CAIN: I didn’t quite get the question.

BLITZER: If — the specific question is, if Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise?

CAIN: I would first make sure that they had a credible plan for success, clarity of mission and clarity of success.

Remember, when you talk about attacking Iran, it is a very mountainous region. The latest reports say that there may be 40 different locations, and I would want to make sure that we had a good idea from intelligence sources where these are located.

And if Israel had a credible plan that it appeared as if they could succeed, I would support Israel, yes. And in some instances, depending upon how strong the plan is, we would join with Israel for that, if it was clear what the mission was and it was clear what the definition of victory was. [applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, would you support Israel and help Israel in such an attack?

PAUL: No, I wouldn’t do that. [laughter]

But there would be good reasons because I don’t expect it to happen. Because, you know, the Mossad leader that just retired said it would be the stupidest thing to do in the world. And it’s a big argument over in Israel. They’re not about to do this.

They’ve just polled 40 major experts on foreign policy here by the National Journal. Not one of them said there should be a unilateral attack on — on the sites in — in Iran.

So that’s not going to happen. And if it did — you’re supposing that if it did, why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way. I mean, we interfere with them. We interfere with them…[laughter]… when they deal with their borders. When they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us. And then they decide they want to bomb something, that’s their business, but they should, you know, suffer the consequences. When they bombed the Iraqi missile site, nuclear site, back in the ’80s, I was one of the few in Congress that said it’s none of our business and Israel should take care of themselves. Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles. And they can take care of themselves. Why should we commit — we don’t even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel? So I think they’re quite capable of taking care of themselves.

I think we do detriment — just think of all the money we gave to Egypt over 30 or 40 years. Now, look, we were buying friendship. Now there’s a civil war, they’re less friendly to Israel.

The whole thing is going to backfire once we go bankrupt and we remove our troops, so I think we should be very cautious in our willingness to go to war and send troops without a proper declaration by the U.S. Congress.

BLITZER: Let me let Herman Cain respond. [applause]

CAIN: Thank you.

I stated if the mission and the plan were clear, that it could succeed, but I pointed out that that is highly unlikely, given the terrain, the mountainous terrain in Iran.

But here’s the other reason that we should help Israel in an initiative live that. Back to Afghanistan: if we pull out of Afghanistan too soon, Iran is going to help to fulfill that power vacuum in Afghanistan. And so it is in our best interests, the United States of America, to prevent them from being able to help fill that power vacuum in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Let’s stay on this subject. And I want all of you to weigh in. We have another question.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Good evening. I’m Danielle Pletka; I’m the Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Yesterday the United States and the U.K. slapped new sanctions on Iran. But we haven’t bought oil directly from Iran in over 30 years. We’ve had targeted sanctions on Iran for more than half that time.

Nonetheless, Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon. Do you believe that there is any set of sanctions that could be put in place that would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

BLITZER: Let’s go to Governor Perry. What do you think?

PERRY: Absolutely. We need to sanction the Iranian Central Bank. That would be one of the most powerful ways to impact that. As a matter of fact, Congressman Paul, that is what we need to do before we ever start having any conversations about a military strike, is to use every sanction that we have. And when you sanction the Iranian Central Bank, that will shut down that economy. At that particular point in time, they truly have to deal with the United States. And it’s one of the reasons that I call for the — there is an area over there, of all of them working together — and I’m talking about Syria — and bringing them into the mix as well.

As I called for, one of the options is to have a no-fly zone over Syria at the same time you’re putting those types of sanctions against Iran. And in that moment, they will understand that America is serious. This President refuses to do that, and it’s another show of lack of leadership from the President of the United States.

BLITZER: The argument, Speaker Gingrich — and I know you’ve studied this, and I want you to weigh in — on the sanctioning of the Iranian Central Bank, because if you do that, for all practical purposes, it cuts off Iranian oil exports, 4 million barrels a day.

The Europeans get a lot of that oil. They think their economy, if the price of gasoline skyrocketed, which it would, would be disastrous. That’s why the pressure is on the U.S. to not impose those sanctions. What say you?

GINGRICH: Well, I say you — the question you just asked is perfect, because the fact is we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.

Now that’s how we won World War II. [applause]

GINGRICH: So, I think you put your finger, Wolf, on the — on the — you know, we all get sucked into these tactical discussions. We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force. We need a strategy, as Rick Santorum was saying, of being honest about radical Islam and designing a strategy to defeat it wherever it happens to exist.

We need a strategy in central Asia that recognizes that, frankly, if you’re Pashtun, you don’t care whether you’re in Pakistan or Afghanistan, because you have the same tribal relationships. So we need to be much more strategic and less tactical in our discussion.

But if we were serious, we could break the Iranian regime, I think, within a year, starting candidly with cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran, and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have.

BLITZER: But sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank now, is that a good idea or a bad idea?

GINGRICH: I think it’s a good idea if you’re serious about stopping them having nuclear — I mean, I think replacing the regime before they get a nuclear weapon without a war beats replacing the regime with war, which beats allowing them to have a nuclear weapon. Those are your three choices.

BLITZER: I want Congresswoman Bachmann to weigh in. Go ahead. [applause]

BACHMANN: I agree with all of that. And energy independence is something that President Obama certainly has avoided.

BLITZER: But that’s going to take many years.

BACHMANN: It — it will but the president — almost every decision that the president has made since he came in has been one to put the United States in a position of unilateral disarmament including the most recent decision he made to cancel the Keystone Pipeline.

That would have not only created jobs but it would have helped us in energy independence.

But I want to go back to something. That’s the fact why is it that we’re talking about Israel having to make a strike against Iran? It’s because Iran has announced they plan to strike Israel.

They’ve stated, as recently as August just before President Ahmadinejad came to — to the U.N. General Assembly. He said that he wanted to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.

He has said that if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He will use it against the United States of America.

This isn’t just an idle threat. This is a reality. And that’s why President Obama has — has failed the American people because for two and a half years he gave the Iran the luxury of time.

He met with them with no preconditions. It’s the doctrine of appeasement. He has changed the course of history because at the time when we needed a leader most, we didn’t have one.

That’s what I’ll do differently as President of the United States. I’ll lead. [applause]

BLITZER: Thank you. All right. I — I — I want to — I want to — we’re gonna continue this but we have another question from Paul Wolfowitz. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Paul Wolfowitz. I’m a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and my question is about development assistance.

Under George W. Bush, who was a conservative Republican, the United States spent billions of dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and elsewhere and set up the Millennium Challenge Corporation to encourage governments of poor countries to pursue policies that promote economic growth and job creation.

Do you believe those are still wise expenditures? Or do you think we can no longer afford them?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, as the author of the Global Fund Bill and the Millennium Challenge in the United States Senate and someone who worked with the president on PEPFAR to deal with the issue of AIDS in Africa, I believe it’s absolutely essential.

Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to — to get — to get a foothold.

We’re seeing it already. But the work that we’ve done in stabilizing that area, while humanitarian in nature, was absolutely essential for our national security.

And I hear people up here talking abut zeroing out foreign aid and humanitarian aid in particular. I think that’s absolutely the wrong course.

You want to — you want to spend more money on the military, zero out all the things we do to develop relationships around the world and we will spend a lot more money on the military.

It’s important for us to use all the assets we have. Promote our values. America is that shining city on the hill. It is — it is the city that comes to the aid of those in trouble in America — in the world.

We have done more good for America in Africa and in the third world by the things that we’ve done. And we have saved money and saved military deployments by wisely spending that money not on our enemies but on folks who can and will be our friends. [applause]

BLITZER: Herman Cain?

CAIN: Here again…

BLITZER: All right, here’s the question. Can the United States afford to continue that kind of foreign assistance to Africa for AIDS, malaria — could run into the billions of dollars? CAIN: It depends upon priorities. Secondly, it depends upon looking at the program and asking the question, has that aid been successful.

In other words, let’s look at the whole problem. It may be worthwhile to continue. It may not. I would like to see the results.

Just like every program we have here domestically, what have the results been. Then we make a decision about how we prioritize.

Ron Paul?

PAUL: I — I think the aid is all worthless. It doesn’t do any good for most of the people. You take money from poor people in this country and you end up giving it to rich people in poor countries.

And they’re used as weapons of war so you accomplish nothing. We should export some, maybe some principles about free markets and sound money and maybe they could produce some of their — their own wealth.

But this whole idea of — of talking about the endless wars and the endless foreign aid, it seems like nobody cares about the budget. I mean, we — we’re in big trouble and — and — and nobody wants to cut anything.

So if you’re gonna keep sending foreign aid overseas and these endless wars that you don’t have to declare and — and go into Libya without even consulting with the Congress, the biggest threat — the biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition.

And this is just aggravating it. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Congressman Paul, what they’re doing is cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget. They’re cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget, which just happens to equal the trillion dollars we’re putting into “Obama-care.”

And so what you have is a president that has a priority of spending us into bankruptcy, but he’s not just spending us into bankruptcy, he’s spending the money foolishly.

We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of “Obama-care.” That’s the best way to save money, not the military. [applause]

BLITZER: Hold on one second because Ron Paul wants to respond to that point.

PAUL: Well, they’re not cutting anything out of anything. All this talk is just talk. [applause]

Believe me. They’re cutting — they’re nibbling away at baseline budgeting, and its automatic increases. There’s nothing cut against the military. And the people on the Hill are nearly hysterical because they’re not going — the budget isn’t going up as rapidly as they want it to. It’s a road to disaster. We had better wake up. [applause]

ROMNEY: OK. Let’s just talk about what they’re cutting with the first $350 billion, not the next 600 which is coming down the road. The first $350 billion, what do they cut? They stopped the F-22. They delayed aircraft carriers. They stopped the Navy cruiser system. They said long range Air Force bombers aren’t going to be built. They’re trying to cut our troops by 50,000. The list goes on.

They’re cutting programs that are cutting the capacity of America to defend itself. Look, let’s stand back for a moment, because we’ve been talking about Israel and Iran. What we’re talking about here is a failure on the part of the president to lead with strength.

And that’s why we have discussions about whether Israel should have to step in to stop the nuclear program, whether Iran is going to become nuclear. We have a president who pursued an agenda of saying we’re going to be friendly to our foes and we’re going to be disrespectful to our friends.

The right course in America is to stand up to Iran with crippling sanctions, indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Geneva — or the Genocide Convention, put in place the kind of crippling sanctions that stop their economy. I know it’s going to make gasoline more expensive. There’s no price which is worth an Iranian nuclear weapon.

And the right course for Israel is to show that we care about Israel, that they are our friend, we’ll stick with them. If I’m president of the United States, my first trip — my first foreign trip will be to Israel to show the world we care about that country and that region. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to stay on this subject.

Go ahead.

ALISON ACOSTA FRASER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA OFFICE OF STATE FINANCE: Hi, my name is Alison Acosta Fraser, and I’m the director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. And my question is this, the next president will have to make some very, very tough choices in order to solve the nation’s spending and debt crisis. Would you be willing to say that our national security is so paramount that cuts to the defense budget are unacceptable?

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich.

GINGRICH: No. I helped found the Military Reform Caucus in 1981 at the beginning of the Reagan buildup because it’s clear that there are some things you can do in defense that are less expensive.

It’s clear, if it takes 15 to 20 years to build a weapons system at a time when Apple changes technology every nine months, there’s something profoundly wrong with this system. So I’m not going to tell you automatically I’m going to say yes. [applause]

GINGRICH: But let me make a deeper point. There’s a core thing that’s wrong with this whole city. You said earlier that it would take too long to open up American oil. We defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in three years and eight months because we thought we were serious.

If we were serious, we would open up enough oil fields in the next year that the price of oil worldwide would collapse. Now, that’s what we would do if we were a serious country. If we were serious… [applause]

One last thing, if we were serious, we would apply Strong America Now’s model of Lean Six Sigma, we would save $500 billion a year by having an efficient effective federal government. We would open up federal lands, increasing dramatically both jobs and the amount of revenue of the federal government.

There are lots of things you can do if you decide break out of the current mindless bureaucracy of this city and just get the job done, including, by the way, making the Millennium Challenge work and doing it in a way that we actually help people even more effectively and at a much lower cost by having public/private partnerships.

BLITZER: I’m going to bring Governor Huntsman in, but very quickly, Mr. Speaker, would you, if you were president of the United States, bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power?

GINGRICH: Only as a last recourse and only as a step towards replacing the regime. No bombing campaign which leaves the regime in charge is going to accomplish very much in the long run. You have to seriously talk about regime replacement, not just attacking them.

But I will also say — this is, I guess, where I disagree with my good friend Ron Paul. If my choice was to collaborate with the Israelis on a conventional campaign or force them to use their nuclear weapons, it will be an extraordinarily dangerous world if out of a sense of being abandoned they went nuclear and used multiple nuclear weapons in Iran. That would be a future none of us would want to live through. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, where do you stand on defense cuts?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let’s face the economic reality. Let’s face the deficit reality we have as a country. We have an economic deficit. And I’d argue that 70 percent debt-to-GDP is a national security problem because, at some point, you just don’t grow any more, when your debt becomes that.

I mean, look at Japan. They’re in their third decade of lost growth. Look at Greece. Look at Italy. So I’d say, aside from that, we’ve got another deficit in this country. It’s called the trust deficit.

People have lost trust in their institutions of power in America. They don’t trust Congress. They don’t trust the executive branch. They don’t trust Wall Street. The list goes on. We’ve got to fix both those deficits.

As it relates to defense spending, let’s be realistic about this. We can’t have an intellectually honest conversation about where we go with debt and spending with sacred cows. Everything’s got to be on the table. The Defense Department’s got to be on the table, for haven’t sake. But we need to have a Defense Department and a budget for the Defense Department. If we can’t find some savings in the $650 billion budget, we’re not looking closely enough.

But we need spending for the Department of Defense that follows a strategy. And that strategy needs to follow how we best protect the American people now that we’re in the second decade of the 21st century.

And I believe our national security strategy and our foreign policy increasingly needs to follow, number one, economic policy.

It used to break my heart sitting in Beijing, the second largest embassy in the world, looking at neighboring Afghanistan. We’d have 100,000 troops there. The Chinese would move in and take the mining concession. And I’d say there’s something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

When are we going to get with the program and determine that foreign policy will be driven by economics, that which plays right back to strengthening our core…[applause]… and creates jobs here on the home front.

And, second of all, let’s face the reality that we have a counterterror threat for as far as the eye can see.

Professor Wolfowitz was just up here. I know he’s done a lot of work on — for as far as the eye can see, and that means not only in Afghanistan but every corner of the world. We’ve got to prepare for the reality that counterterrorism is here to stay. We need friends and allies who are in this fight with us. We need special forces response capability. We need defense spending that will match the realities of where we find ourselves.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. [applause]

Let me bring in Governor Perry into this conversation.

As you know, the so-called supercommittee failed. And as a result, unless Congress takes action next year — in an election year, that would be difficult — there’s not going to be any change in that automatic trigger as it’s called. That sequestration, $1.2 trillion cut, including $600 billion in defense, will go into effect.

Here’s the question. If you were president of the United States, would you compromise with Democrats in Congress in order to avoid that Washington gridlock that, if you believe the polls, the American people hate?

PERRY: I don’t think anybody is particularly surprised that a supercommittee failed. It was a super-failure. And I think we expected that. We had a president of the United States who is not a leader. He pitched this over to them and said, here, you all figure this out.

I’ve signed six balanced budgets as the head of the state of Texas. I worked with those legislators on a daily basis, or my staff.

This president has been an absolute failure when it came to this budget process. And the idea — it was almost reprehensible to me. I’ve worn the uniform of this country. I’ve been the commander in chief of the 20-plus-thousand National Guard troops that we have in Texas, Dr. Paul.

But it was reprehensible, for me, for this president to stand in front of Americans and to say that that half a trillion dollars, $500 million-plus is not going to be on the table and we’re just going to have to work our way through it, putting young men and women’s life in jeopardy.

And I will tell you, as a commander in chief, as an American citizen, that is totally and absolutely irresponsible. Even his own secretary of defense said it was irresponsible. As a matter of fact, if Leon Panetta is an honorable man, he should resign in protest.

BLITZER: Here’s the question, though. Would you compromise — all of you have said you wouldn’t accept any tax increases at all, even if there were 10 — 10 times as many spending cuts. So would you just let the gridlock continue, Governor Perry, or would you compromise under those circumstances?

PERRY: Listen, I’ve had to work with Democrats for the 10 years that I’ve been the governor of the state of Texas.

So the idea that you can’t sit down and work with people on both sides of the aisle, but just to, you know, throw us into — into that briar patch at this particular point in time and say, what would you do — we would never have gotten into that situation if I were the president of the United States. I’d have been there working day in and day out so that we had a budget that not only — I’ve laid out a clear plan to — flat tax of 20 percent; cut the spending; and put a 20 percent corporate tax rate in. And, as a matter of fact, they ought to make the legislature, the Congress, part-time, and that would make as big an impact in this city as anything I can think of.

BLITZER: Let me bring Senator Santorum into this, because I covered Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And, as you know — and I’ll read a quote. He wrote in his autobiography this: “If you got 75 of 80 percent of what you were asking for, I say you take it and fight for the rest later.”

If you got 75 percent or 80 percent of what you wanted, would you make a deal with Democrats, increase some taxes in order to move on and fight the next battle the next day?

SANTORUM: It all depends on what the 75 percent and 85 percent is. If the — if the things that you have to give up make what you’re trying to accomplish harder to do — in other words, reduce the deficit, what the Republicans — why the Republicans are drawing a line in the sand, rightfully so, it’s because what they’re — what the Democrats are attempting to do is increase taxes, which will slow down to the — this economy, which will increase the deficit, reduce tax revenues, ultimately, and — and increase government payments.

So you don’t work against yourself. You — you won’t — you — you take ideas from the other side that you may not find particularly valuable, like spending cuts that you may not want. There are spending cuts that I would like to, you know, I mean there’s things that it mentioned before, that I would stand — stand firm on.

But in a compromise, yes, you do give up some things that you think maybe are critical spending. But you don’t undermine the ability of this con — economy to grow because of politics. This president has poisoned the well. He’s campaigned all over this country, trying to divide group from group in order to — to — to win, you know, to — to position himself to win this election and rally his troops. And what he’s done is poisoned the well here in Congress.

I’ve worked together, I’ve got a long track record of bipartisan accomplishments where I kept to the principles. I use welfare reform as an example. Welfare reform, I stuck to my principles. We cut the welfare budget. We had — we had time limits. We block granted to the states and we put a work requirement.

Did I compromise on things?

Yes. I compromised on some — on some child care. I compromised on — on some transportation.

So I got 75 percent. But it 100 percent changed the welfare system because we…

BLITZER: Thank you.

SANTORUM: — stuck to our principles.

BLITZER: Let — but let’s stay on this subject, because I know many of you want to weigh in. [applause]

We have another question.

ALEX BRILL: My name is Alex Brill and I’m a research fellow in the economics department at the American Enterprise Institute. Even if the super committee hadn’t failed, the savings that they would have proposed would have been a drop in the bucket relative to the $11 trillion deficit our country may face in the subsequent decade. In the decades after that, without entitlement reform, we’ll borrow even more.

To strengthen our economy, to strengthen our country, what entitlement reform proposals would you make to address our long-term structural deficit?

BLITZER: Good question.

Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: It’s a great question and it raises the — the core issue of really large scale change.

Yesterday in Manchester, I outlined a Social Security reform plan based on Chile and based on Galveston, Texas. In Chile, people who have now have the right to a personal Social Security savings account, for 30 years, the government of Chile has promised that if you don’t have as much savings as you would get from Social Security, the government would make up the difference.

In 30 years time, they’ve paid zero dollars, even after ’07 and ’08 and ’09, people slid from three times as much to one-and-a-half times as much, but they didn’t go below the Social Security amount. The result is in Chile, for example, 72 percent — they have 72 percent of the GDP in savings. It has — it has increased the economy, increased the growth of jobs, increased the amount of wealth and it dramatically solves Social Security without a payment cut and without having to hurt anybody.

So I think you can have a series of entitlement reforms that, frankly, make most of this problem go away without going through the kind of austerity and pain that this city likes.

BLITZER: Let’s talk about that, Congresswoman Bachmann.

Social Security, Medicare, health care — what would you cut first?

What would you tackle if you were president of the United States?

BACHMANN: Let me answer that in the context of the super committee, because I was involved in the middle of that fight as a member of Congress this summer. And my voice said this. I said it’s time for us to draw a line in the sand. We have sufficient revenues coming in to pay the interest on the debt.

But the real issue was, were we going to give Congress another $2.4 billion in borrowing authority?

In other words, another blank check to the president. Because, again, consider the context. A little of four years ago, we were just over $8 trillion in debt. We are now $15 trillion in debt in just over four years. Now we’re talking about — if the gentleman is correct — adding another $11 trillion in debt over 10 years, or potentially $8.5 trillion, according to the super committee.

All that they were asked to do is cut back on $1.2 trillion of that increase in debt. We aren’t even talking about the central issue, which is balancing the budget. We need to balance the budget and then chip away at the debt. This isn’t Monopoly money.

Because what we need to recognize is that when we are sending interest money over to China, with whom we are highly in hock, we’re not just sending our money. We’re sending our power.

What will happen is that our national security and our military will decrease and our money will increase China’s military. So think about that.

Our money will be used to grow China’s military at the expense of the United States military. That should give every American pause.

BLITZER: All right. I want everybody to stand by and all of you are going to weigh in. We’ve got a lot more to discuss, important issues that we’re talking about. Collect your thoughts for a moment.

More tough questions for the candidates including their plans for protecting the border, reducing illegal immigration — we’re live from Constitution Hall here in Washington, D.C. This is the CNN Republican National Security Debate. [applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN National Security Debate.

The next President of the United States will certainly have to tackle conflicts in the Middle East. You’re looking at these live pictures coming in from Cairo’s Tahrir Square right now, the middle of the night in Egypt.

Thousands of Egyptians are again protesting their government as the Arab Spring continues into the winter months.

The candidates will weigh in on this and much, much more. We’re being seen live, around the world right now. Remember, you can send in your questions and comments at cnnpolitics.com; at Twitter, remember hash tag #cnndebate.

The Republican National Security Debate — we’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the historic Constitution Hall here in Washington, D.C. We’re at the CNN Republican National Security Debate. Let’s go right to the audience. We have a question. Please, give us your name and your organization.

TRULUCK: Thank you. My name is Phil Truluck. I’m executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Heritage Foundation. And I’d like to thank all the candidates for joining us tonight. I know some of you may want to be in other places, but we appreciate you being here and sharing your views with us.

Let’s — I’d like to turn it back a little bit, a little closer to home, and talk about what’s going on on the borders, our southern border. As all of you know, the drug-related crimes and violence are getting heavier and heavier in that area.

First, do you consider that to be a national interest threat? And, secondly, what could we be doing with the Mexican government to help stop these drug cartels?

BLITZER: Let’s go to Governor Perry. You represent the state with the longest border with Mexico right now. What do you think you should do, if you were President of the United States, as far as using the United States military?

PERRY: Well, let me kind of broaden it out. I think it’s time for a 21st century Monroe Doctrine. When you think about what we put in place in the — in the 1820s, and then we used it again in the 1960s with the Soviet Union. We’re seeing countries start to come in and infiltrate. We know that Hamas and Hezbollah are working in Mexico, as well as Iran, with their ploy to come into the United States.

We know that Hugo Chavez and the Iranian government has one of the largest — I think their largest embassy in the world is in Venezuela. So the idea that we need to have border security with the United States and Mexico is paramount to the entire western hemisphere.

So putting that secure border in place with strategic fencing, with the boots on the ground, with the aviation assets, and then working with Mexico in particular, whether it’s putting sanctions against the banks, whether it’s working with them on security with Mexico, all of those together can make that country substantially more secure and our borders secure.

As the President of the United States, I will promise you one thing, that within 12 months of the inaugural, that border will be shut down, and it will be secure. [applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you’re from Texas. Do you agree with your governor?

PAUL: Not entirely. [laughter]

No, the drug was mentioned. I think that’s another war we ought to cancel, because it’s… [applause]… to nobody’s benefit. And that’s where the violence is coming from. But, yes, we do have a national responsibility for our borders. What I’m, sort of, tired of is all the money spent and lives lost worrying about the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan and forgetting about our borders between the United States and Mexico. We should think more about, you know, what we do at home.

We need better immigration services, obviously. But, you know, if you subsidize something or give people incentives, you get more of it. So if you give easy road to citizenship, you’re going to have more illegals. If you have a weak economy, which is understandable and we should have prevented, that’s understandable.

But giving — mandating to the states and to Texas that we have to provide free medical care and free education, that’s a great burden. It’s a great burden to California and all the border states.

So I would say eliminate all these benefits and talk about eliminating the welfare state because it’s detrimental not only to here but the people that come because that’s the incentive to bring their families with them.

BLITZER: But I just want you to clarify. When you say cancel the war on drugs, does that mean legalize all these drugs?

PAUL: I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure. [applause]

You can — you can at least let sick people have marijuana because it’s helpful, but compassionate conservatives say, well, we can’t do this; we’re going to put people who are sick and dying with cancer and they’re being helped with marijuana, if they have multiple sclerosis — the federal government’s going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison.

Why don’t we handle the drugs like we handle alcohol? Alcohol is a deadly drug. What about — the real deadly drugs are the prescription drugs. They kill a lot more people than the illegal drugs.

So the drug war is out of control. I fear the drug war because it undermines our civil liberties. It magnifies our problems on the borders. We spend — like, over the last 40 years, $1 trillion on this war. And believe me, the kids can still get the drugs. It just hasn’t worked.

BLITZER: Herman Cain, let me let you…[applause]… weigh in.

CAIN: Yes. Allow me to answer the gentleman’s question. The answer is yes. An insecure border is a national security threat for the following reasons.

Number one, we know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico. Secondly, 40 percent of the people in Mexico, according to a survey, already believe that their country is a failed state. Thirdly, the number of people killed in Mexico last year equals the number of people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

So yes, so let’s solve the whole problem. Number one, secure the border for real. Number two, enforce the laws that are already there. We don’t need new laws. Number three, promote the current path to citizenship. Clean up the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. so people can come through the front door instead of sneaking in the side door. And, number four, to deal with the illegals that are already here, empower the states to do what the federal government is not capable of doing. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s stay on this subject. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: I have a question about high-skilled immigration. We hear a lot about low-skilled immigration, so I want to ask you about high-skilled immigration.

What would you do to ensure that the United States is as welcoming as possible to the world’s skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, as the son of a legal immigrant to this country, I strongly believe in legal immigration and believe we are that shining city on the hill, that our future — if you look at all of the jobs that are being created in our economy today, a huge percentage of them come from the legal immigrants of this county — country who have innovated, who created great products, who created great companies and employed lots of people.

That’s one of the reasons that — that I put together my economic plan, was to take all that great innovation that’s coming as a result, in part, of legal immigration and make sure that those products that are being created are actually made here in America.

That’s part of the problem that — you know, Reaganomics was criticized as trickle-down. Problem is, we’re not seeing that money trickle down to the blue-collar workers in America. And that’s why I put forth a four-point economic plan to revitalize manufacturing that begins with zeroing out the corporate tax for manufacturers; also, regulatory reform, repatriation of profits, if invested in this country, to pay no taxes; and finally, energy policy that will explode the energy industry in this country.

We do those things, we’ll not only have the innovation, which I support, coming from legal — legal immigrants, but we’ll have that money trickle down to blue-collar workers and we can see that income mobility that a lot of people are right in that is not happening in America.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, let me let you broaden out this conversation. Back in the ’80s — and you remember this well. I was covering you then. Ronald Reagan and you — you voted for legislation that had a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as you well remember. There were, what, maybe 12 million, 10 million — 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States right now.

Some called it amnesty then; they still call it amnesty now. What would you do if you were President of the United States, with these millions of illegal immigrants, many of whom have been in this country for a long time?

GINGRICH: Let me start and just say I think that we ought to have an H-1 visa that goes with every graduate degree in math, science and engineering so that people stay here. [applause]

You know, about five blocks down the street, you’ll see a statue of Einstein. Einstein came here as an immigrant. So let’s be clear how much the United States has drawn upon the world to be richer, better and more inclusive.

I did vote for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. Ronald Reagan, in his diary, says he signed it — and we were supposed to have 300,000 people get amnesty. There were 3 million. But he signed it because we were going to get two things in return. We were going to get control of the border and we were going to get a guest worker program with employer enforcement.

We got neither. So I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border, as the governor said. I believe ultimately you have to find some system — once you’ve put every piece in place, which includes the guest worker program, you need something like a World War II Selective Service Board that, frankly, reviews the people who are here.

If you’re here — if you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. period. If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.

The Creeble Foundation is a very good red card program that says you get to be legal, but you don’t get a pass to citizenship. And so there’s a way to ultimately end up with a country where there’s no more illegality, but you haven’t automatically given amnesty to anyone.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you agree with the speaker?

BACHMANN: Well, I don’t agree that you would make 11 million workers legal, because that, in effect, is amnesty. And I also don’t agree that you would give the DREAM Act on a federal level. And those are two things that I believe that the speaker had been for, and he can speak for himself.

But those are two areas that I don’t agree with. What I do think, though, is what Steve — what Steve Jobs said to President Obama. He had said to President Obama that he had to move a great deal of his operation over to China because he couldn’t find 30,000 engineers to be able to do the work that needed to be done.

That’s what we want to do. We do want to have people. And I agree with the speaker, people like chemists and engineers, and people who are highly skilled.

We think about the United States and what’s in the best interests of the United States. If we can utilize these workers, like Steve jobs wanted to, then we need to offer those visas. That will help the United States. But I don’t agree that we should make 11 million workers who are here illegally legal.

BLITZER: Let me let the speaker respond to that.

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, two things, first of all, in the DREAM Act, the one part that I like is the one which allows people who came here with their parents to join the U.S. military, which they could have done if they were back home, and if they serve on it with the U.S. military to acquire citizenship, which is something any foreigner can do.

And I don’t see any reason to punish somebody who came here at three years of age, but who wants to serve the United States of America. I specifically did not say we’d make the 11 million people legal.

I do suggest if you go back to your district, and you find people who have been here 25 years and have two generations of family and have been paying taxes and are in a local church, as somebody who believes strongly in family, you’ll have a hard time explaining why that particular subset is being broken up and forced to leave, given the fact that they’ve been law-abiding citizens for 25 years.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you want to respond? [applause]

BACHMANN: If I understood correctly, I think the speaker just said that that would make 11 people — 11 million people who are here illegally now legal. That’s really the issue that we’re dealing with. And also, it would be the DREAM Act, the federal DREAM Act, which would offer taxpayer-subsidized benefits to illegal aliens. We need to move away from magnets, not offer more.

BLITZER: Let’s broaden it out.

Governor Romney, where do you stand? Are you with the speaker, that some of those illegal immigrants — I think — he didn’t say all — some of them, if they have roots, they belong to a church, for example, should be allowed to stay in this country? ROMNEY: Look, amnesty is a magnet. What when we have had in the past, programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that’s going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.

The right course for our immigration system is to say we welcome people who want to come here legally. We’re going to have a system that makes that easier and more transparent. But to make sure we’re able to bring in the best and brightest — and, by the way, I agree with the speaker in terms of — I’d staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who’s got a degree of math, science, a Masters degree, Ph.D.

We want those brains in our country. But in order to bring people in legally we’ve got to stop illegal immigration. That means turning off the magnets of amnesty, in-state tuition for illegal aliens, employers that knowingly hire people that have come here illegally.

We welcome legal immigration. This is a party, this is a party that loves legal immigration. But we have to stop illegal immigration for all the reasons the questioner raised, which is, it is bringing in people who in some cases can be terrorists, in other cases they become burdens on our society.

And we have to finally have immigration laws that protect our border, secure the border, turn off the magnets, and make sure we have people come to this country legally to build our economy.

BLITZER: Just to precise, and I’ll give Speaker Gingrich a chance to respond. Are you saying that what he’s proposing, giving amnesty in effect, or allowing some of these illegal immigrants to stay, is a magnet that would entice others to come to this country illegally?

ROMNEY: There’s no question. But to say that we’re going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you’re all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing.

People respond to incentives. And if you can become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you’ll do so. What I want to do is bring people into this country legally, particularly those that have education and skill that allows us to compete globally. [applause]

GINGRICH: I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them.

I do believe if you’ve been here recently and have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties for employers, but I would urge all of you to look at the Krieble Foundation Plan.

I don’t see how the — the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, are you with the speaker or with the governor, Governor Romney? [applause]

PERRY: Here we go again, Mitt. You and I standing by each other again and you used the words about the magnets. And that’s one of the things that we obviously have to do is to stop those magnets for individuals to come in here.

But the real issue is securing that border. And this conversation is not ever going to end until we get the border secure. But I do think that there is a way. That after we secure that border that you can have a process in place for individual who are law- abiding citizens who have done only one thing, as Newt says, 25 years ago or whatever that period of time was, that you can put something in place that basically continues to keep those families together.

But the idea that we’re having this long and lengthy conversation here, until we have a secure border is just an intellectual exercise. You’ve got to secure the border first. And I know how to do that. I’ve been dealing with it for 10 years.

And we have to put the boots on the ground and the aviation assets in place, and secure that border once and for all, and be committed to it.

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.

ROMNEY: Yes, I don’t disagree with what Governor Perry indicated. Certainly we have to secure the border. And we talk about people who have been here 25 years, that is the extreme exception…

BLITZER: You would let them stay.

ROMNEY: … not the rule.

BLITZER: You would let them stay?

ROMNEY: I’m not going to start drawing lines here about who gets to stay and who get to go. The principle is that we are not going to have an amnesty system that says that people who come here illegally get to stay for the rest of their life in this country legally.

The answer is we’re going to have a system that gives people who come legally a card that identifies them as coming here legally. Employers are going to be expected to inspect that card, see if they’re here legally. On that basis we’re going to be able to bring you to this country.

The number of people that we need to power our industries, whether that’s agriculture or high tech, we welcome people in here with visa programs. We have a whole series of legal programs. But the idea of focusing a Republican debate on amnesty and who we’re going to give it to, is a huge mistake.

Secure our border, protect legal immigration, and return to a system that follows the law.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another…[applause]… quick break because we have a lot more to — I want to bring everybody into this conversation. We’re also going to broaden the conversation and go to the Middle East and see what’s going on in the so-called Arab Spring.

Don’t forget, Twitter — you can weigh in on what’s going on, #CNNdebate. Also, go to Facebook, CNNpolitics.com. Much more from historic Constitution Hall, here in the nation’s capital, right after this.

[commercial break]

[applause]

BLITZER: All right. Welcome back to the CNN Republican national security debate. Let’s go right to the audience.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: I’m David Addington. I’m a vice president with the Heritage Foundation. [applause]

Serious violence has erupted in Syria between the repressive al- Assad regime and some elements of the people of Syria. Syria borders a major ally of the United States, NATO ally, Turkey, and three other friendly countries, Israel, Jordan and Iraq.

In your view, what are the interests of the United States in this region and what would you do to protect them?

BLITZER: Herman Cain, you may not know this, but today Governor Perry called for a no-fly zone, for the U.S. to participate in a no- fly zone over Syria. Would you go that far? Would you support that?

CAIN: No, I would not. I would work with our allies in the region to put pressure to be able to try and get our allies and other nations to stop buying oil from Syria. That would be one thing that I would do, but I would not support a no-fly zone.

The most effective tools that we have in any of these situations are a strong military, which it is getting weaker, unfortunately, and our own economic strength.

This whole discussion tonight about cutting and compromise, we didn’t spend enough time talking about the other part of the problem — growing this economy, because this administration has failed dismally at growing this economy. We can cut until the cows come home but it still would not solve the problem until we have effective economic growth.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, why would you support a no-fly zone over Syria?

PERRY: Obviously, that’s one of a multitude of — of sanctions and actions that I think work very well from the standpoint of being able to pressure that regime, overt, covert, economic sanctions.

I mean I think there are a number of ways. But when you put the no-fly zone above Syria, it obviously gives those dissidents and gives the military the opportunity to maybe disband, that want to get out of the situation that they’re in in Syria, as well.

So I think if we’re serious about Iran — and that’s what we’re really talking about here. We’re talking about Syria is a partner with Iran in exporting terrorism all across that part of the world and — and around the globe.

So if we’re serious about Iran, then we have to be serious about Syria, as well.

So I think a no-fly zone is an option of one of a multitude of options that we should be using. And we should put them in