Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 November 10, 2015: Fourth Republican Candidates “Undercard” Debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Transcript

ELECTION 2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Republican Candidates “Undercard” Debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Among Candidates Averaging Less Than 2.5% in Opinion Polls
November 10, 2015

Source: UCSB, The American Presidency Project

PARTICIPANTS:
Governor Chris Christie (NJ);
Former Governor Mike Huckabee (AR);
Governor Bobby Jindal (LA);
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA);

MODERATORS:
Trish Regan (Fox Business Network);
Gerald Seib (The Wall Street Journal); and
Sandra Smith (Fox Business Network)

REGAN: Good evening, and welcome to the historic Milwaukee Theater. Tonight, you’ll hear from 12 Republican candidates vying to become the next President of the United States. I’m Trish Regan, along with my co-moderators, Sandra Smith, and from the Wall Street Journal, Jerry Seib.

SEIB: This evening Fox Business is partnering with the Wall Street Journal to bring you the fourth republican presidential debate of the 2016 campaign. For the next hour, four of the candidates will be here answering the question voters want answered.

REGAN: Let’s introduce them. New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie. [cheering and applause]

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee. [cheering and applause]

Former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum. [applause]

And, Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal. [applause]

JINDAL: …Thank you.

SMITH: Alright, this debate will last one hour. Each candidate will have up to 90 seconds to respond to each question. One minute for each follow up. When your time is up, you’re going to hear this bell.

[bell sound]

Alright, that’s it, so let’s begin with Governor Christie. Governor, economically, our country is struggling with some of the anemic growth we have seen on record. More than 90 million Americans are unemployed, or they are not in the workforce altogether.

The number of people now willing, able, and wanting to go to work is at a level that has fallen to a level we have not been since the 1970’s. For those that are working, wages aren’t budging while other things, costs, like housing, remain high.

As President, what concrete steps will you take to get America back to work.

CHRISTIE: Well, first I want to share a story with you that relates to your question. I was in New Hampshire last week, and a woman approached me after the town hall meeting and she said to me, “Governor, I’m really concerned.”

I said, “What are your concerns?”

And, she said, “I don’t quite how to describe it,” she said. “But, every month when my bills come in, I feel this awful anxiety in the pit of my stomach that I’m not going to have enough to pay them that month.”

There are tens of millions of Americans living that way after the worst recovery from an economic recession since World War II. And, let’s be clear, if we do not change course, if we follow the President’s lead, and that’s exactly what Secretary Clinton will do, we’re going to be in the same circumstance — with government picking the winners and losers.

So, let me be clear about what we’ll do. First, Make the tax code fairer, flatter, and simplier. Get rid of all the special interest deductions. You know, the American people feel like the tax code is rigged for the rich, and you know why they feel that way? Because it is.

We’ll get rid of all those special interest deductions except for the home mortgage interest deduction, and the charitable contribution deduction. Everyone will get lower rates, keep more of their own money, be able to file their tax returns in 15 minutes, and, by the way, the good thing, I’ll be able to fire a whole bunch of IRS agents once we do that. [applause]

And, in addition, we need to get the government off of our backs. Dodd-Frank, all the different regulations, 81,000 pages of new regulation by this administration just last year — it is suffocating small business, it is suffocating the folks who are trying to make a living. I will do what I did in New Jersey…[bell ringing]…lift if off their backs. [applause]

SMITH: Thank you. Governor Huckabee, we’re here Wisconsin, a state that has seen the biggest decline in middle-class households of any American state. With more than 120,000 manufacturing jobs being lost in the last 15 years. As we move away from a manufacturing economy to a services based, technological economy, how are you going to help the millions of Americans that are stuck in this transition?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, Trish, I don’t know why we have to move away from manufacturing. The only reason we have is because… [applause] …we have a tax code that has punished manufacturing. I hear a lot of people talk about the plans to simplify the tax code. I’ve got one better than any of the simplifications, it’s called a, “Fair Tax”, and it eliminates all of the taxes on our productivity.

Here’s what would happen. We’d get rid of taxes on people’s work, so, we wouldn’t punish people for working anymore. Yeah, we’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs just since the year 2000 — 160,000 manufacturing plants have close in this country, which means a lot of people — that the governors talking about, he’s exactly right. They don’t have jobs anymore.

And the reason they don’t have jobs is because their jobs are in Mexico, they’re in China, they’re in Indonesia.

Bring the jobs back. And with the fair tax, you do that, because you don’t tax capital and labor and you bring a real sense of equity to the opportunity so that people will not only make it easier to function, they’ll get the manufacturing jobs back.

And here’s the best part. We don’t reduce the IRS, we get rid of the IRS. We completely eliminate them…[applause]…because the government has no business knowing how much money we make and how we made it. It’s none of their business. And that’s why I believe that manufacturing is critical. If we can’t feed ourselves, fuel ourselves and fight for ourselves, we can’t be free.

And by the way, fighting for ourselves means manufacturing our own weapons of self-defense.

REGAN: Thank you, Governor Huckabee. [applause]

SEIB: Senator Santorum, you’re all obviously highly critical of President Obama’s economic record. But federal statistics show that payrolls have expanded by 8.7 million new jobs so far during his time in office. All the jobs lost in the recession were recovered by last year. And in October, the economy added jobs at the fastest rate since 2009.

So what’s wrong with the Obama jobs record?

SANTORUM: The middle of America is hollowing out. All you have to do is listen to the last Democratic debate and you would think there was a Republican president in office the way they complained about how bad things are in America and how the middle — the middle of America is hollowing out.

I agree with Mike Huckabee. I spent this morning in Chicago at Fabtech, which is a sheet manufac — a sheet metal fabricators conference. Thousands of people there explained the latest and newest technologies.

You know what I was told?

I was told when I went to booth after booth that there are 250,000 welder jobs open in America — 250,000 welder jobs paying anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 a year, and if you want to weld pipe on a, you know, for oil and gas pipelines, you can make $100,000 a year.

Every manufacturer — I go to one every single week. In fact, I have with me in the — in the crowd here today a gentleman who is a supporter of mine from Rockwall, Texas, Ed Grand-Lienard. He runs Special Products.

And he tells me he has jobs open in every skill that he — he — he could possibly hire for in Rockwall, Texas, but he can’t find people.

So the issue is, yes, we need a tax code. I — I propose a 20 percent flat tax — 20 percent on corporations, 20 percent on — on individuals, full expensing, which will be powerful for manufacturing, a 0 percent rate, initially, for manufacturers.

We’re going to have a very powerful tax code. We’re going to do something about regulation. We’re going to suspected every single ObamaCare regu — Obama regulation that cost over $100,000 to the economy.

But we have to start doing something about training and employing people who are sitting on the sidelines because they don’t see a path. And we have a — a bureaucracy in Washington and a president in Washington — and even among Republicans who think everybody has to go to college. People need to go to work and we need to provide…[buzzer noise]…opportunities for them to go to work out of high school. [applause]

REGAN: All right, Governor Jindal, you have pushed Louisiana’s energy resources as a means to grow jobs in your state. But as oil prices have plunged in recent months, so has jobs growth.

Louisiana now has an unemployment rate above the national average.

Will your energy-focused jobs plan for the country be subject to the same market ups and downs?

JINDAL: A couple of things.

In Louisiana, we’re actually a top 10 state for job growth. As we sit here today, we have more people working in Louisiana than ever before, earning a higher income than ever before. We’ve had 60 months in a row of consecutive job growth in our state. So the reality is, we have diversified our economy. Yes, I’ve got an interview plan that says all of the above, that creates good manufacturing jobs in America. We’ve also got one of the fastest growing IT sectors by percentage. We are growing Louisiana’s economy.

But let me get to the point that is, I think, the most important issue here tonight. You’re going to have several hours of debate on the economy and we’re going to have a great discussion about energy plans and tax rates. And that’s all great.

The most important thing we have to do, we have a fundamental choice to make, folks.

Are we willing to cut the government economy so we can grow the American economy?

That is the most fundamental question we’ve got to answer.

We are on the path to socialism right now. [applause]

These are mutually exclusive. The hour is late, but it is not too late for America.

Though under President Obama, you asked about his economy. We’ve got record dependents, a record number of Americans on food stamps, record low participation rate in the work force.

This is a fundamental choice. Sending a big government Republican to DC is not enough to fix this problem. It’s not enough just to beat Hillary Clinton. We’ve got to change the direction of our country.

What that means is let’s shrink the government, not slow its growth rate, but actually shrink the government so we can grow the American economy. That is the fundamental issue we should be debating here tonight.

REGAN: All right, Governor Jindal, thank you. [applause]

Governor Christie, you have said that the Democrats’ message is one of, quote, “free stuff.” In contrast, Republicans want to reduce spending. How do you win a national election when the Democrats are offering free health care, a free or subsidized college education, and you’re the party that is seemingly offering nothing in the way of immediate tangible benefits?

CHRISTIE: Yes, sure. [laughter]

If anybody believes the stuff they heard from that Democratic debate a few weeks ago, there’s nothing for free. What they forgot to tell was that they’re going to raise your tax rates to 70 or 80 percent in order to provide all of that stuff.

But let me ask the folks at home one very simple question, do you want to give Washington more control over your life? Do you think they’re doing such a great job that now let’s have them control what our corporations pay their employees? Let’s have them control every aspect of our economy?

Is Washington doing that good a job for you right now? And the fact is that if you listen to Hillary Clinton, she has made it very clear, she believes that she can make decisions for you better than you can make them for yourself.

She believes that Washington, D.C., should pick the winners and losers in our economy, and in our life. And here’s what I believe as a Republican, I believe the greatness of America is not in its government.

The greatness of America is in the American people. And what we need to do is get the government the hell out of the way and let the American people win once again. [cheering and applause]

REGAN: Senator Santorum, a single mom with no job and two kids in New Hampshire, home of the first in the nation primary, is eligible for more than $30,000 a year in benefits. Even if she could find a job, she would need to find child care. And in many cases may conclude it’s better for her to live off government benefits.

Senator, how do you help and incentivize her to go to work? And if you’re the one that’s going to cut her benefits, why should she vote for you?

SANTORUM: Well, the answer is first that we need to do something about a tax code that doesn’t penalize. One thing that I’m excited about our tax code, proposed changes, is it’s very pro-family.

You have a $2,700 tax credit, period, for every person in that family, so that family, you know, would have about an $8,000 tax credit, which would be refundable. So every dollar she works, she’s still only losing 20 cents.

The problem with the tax code today, because of all the different provisions, you’re right, you go back to work, you lose welfare benefits, you’re losing money. Throw on top of that the — even a bigger problem, over 50 percent of children being raised in a home today of a single mom are raised in a home where the father is born — father is (sic) living at the child — the time the child is born.

Now what does that mean? That means we have incentivized people not to marry. We’ve incentivized people to cohabitate instead of not marry, why? Because mom will lose welfare benefits if she marries father.

It’s not just mom going back to work, but it’s mother and father marrying to form a more stable family for that child to be raised in a two-parent family.

So we’ve got all sorts of really corrupt incentives that were put in place, well meaning by the left. But we need to remove those. We need to remove those incentives. We need to adopt a tax code that says we’re going to be pro-family and pro-work. And that’s what we’ll do. [applause]

SMITH: Thank you, Senator.

Governor Huckabee, you have characterized entitlement reform as both political and economic suicide. Taxpayers currently spend more than $600 billion per year on social welfare programs, with the intended goal of getting people back on their feet and working again.

Today a record number of Americans aren’t even looking for work. Are our social welfare programs, while well-intended, creating a culture of dependency? If so, how will you fix it?

HUCKABEE: Well, Sandra, first of all, let me mention the fact that I think there’s a big difference between welfare programs and what some people call entitlements. Namely, Social Security and Medicare.

I just want to remind everybody out there who has ever had a paycheck, the government didn’t ask you if you wanted them to take money out of your check for Social Security and Medicare. They did that involuntarily.

Those are not entitlements and that’s not welfare. That’s an earned benefit. And by gosh, you paid for it. And if the government screwed it up, you shouldn’t have to pay the penalty because of an incompetent government.

That’s different than the social programs that we’ve spent $2 trillion on since the War on Poverty began exactly 50 years ago this year.

Now the reason we still have so much poverty is because it was never designed to get people out of poverty. It was designed to make sure that there was an industry of poverty, so that the people in the poverty industry would have a lot of jobs. But the people who are poor haven’t been benefited. Having grown up poor, I know a little something about it. Nobody who is poor wants to be. That’s a nonsense statement and I hear it all the time. Well, poor people ought to work harder. They’re working as hard as they can, for gosh sake.

But the problem is the system keeps pushing them down because, if they work, then they get punished. They lose all the benefits. When we did welfare reform in the ’90s, you know what we did? We said you’re not going to lose everything at once. There’s not an arbitrary threshold. So as you move up the ladder from work and training, you’ll actually always be better off than you were before. That’s the American way.

SMITH: Thank you, Governor.

SEIB: Governor Jindal, Republicans have now 32 of the nation’s 50 governor seats. But, even while you’re doing very well at the state level, you keep falling short nationally. You’ve lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Are Democrats simply putting forward a better national economic message than the one Republicans are offering? And what should Republicans do about it.

JINDAL: No, I think right now there’s not much difference between the two parties. The reason we keep losing nationally is we try to be cheaper versions of the Democratic party. What if the Republicans, what if Republicans actually embraced our own principles? So I earlier said if you want bigger paychecks, you want more jobs, you want less government dependence, you’re going to have to cut government spending. Here’s the dirty little secret.

You’re going to hear a lot of Republicans tonight in this debate and the next one talk about cutting government spending. It’s going to sound great. There’s only one of us that’s actually cut government spending. Not two, there’s one, and you’re looking at him. We’ve got four senators running. They’ve never cut anything in D.C. They give these long speeches called filibusters, they pat themselves on the back, nothing changes. When they go to relieve themselves their cause and the toilet get flushed at the same time, and the American people lose. We’ve got a bunch of governors running, we’ve got seven current former governors running. I’m the only one that has cut government spending. Everybody else can talk about it. If they haven’t done it in their state capitals, what makes them thank that — what makes us think they’ll do it if we send them to D.C. Look, when politicians talk, we need to look at what they have done, not what they have said. Otherwise, it’s a bunch of hot air. We’ve cut our budget 26 percent. Record number of Louisianans working.

If Republicans want to win national elections, let’s be conservatives, let’s be Republicans, let’s not be a second version of the liberal party, let’s cut government spending and grow the American economy.

SMITH: Do you have something to add, Governor?

HUCKABEE: Well, I’d just like to respond, with all due respect to, to the Governor, to the state just south of me, I would say that a lot of us have cut things. And during the recession of 2001 to 2003, when 91 percent of our state budget was basically three things, educate, medicate and incarcerate, we ended up cutting 11 percent out of the state budget through that recession so we didn’t have to go in and raise a bunch of taxes, and there were people who thought we should.

So it’s just not accurate to say that nobody else up here has ever cut. I believe every governor has probably had to make tough decisions. I’m, I’m guessing my colleague Governor Christie has, as I’m tossing him the ball like Arkansas did to Ol’ Miss the other day.

UNIDENTIFIED: Why don’t, why don’t we…

JINDAL: Wait, wait, wait. I want to respond. He has criticized something I said. I want to respond to that. Mike, with all due respect, I admire your social views, I share many of those views, your record as Governor tells a different story. Was — your time as Governor spending in Arkansas went up 65 percent, number of state workers went up 20 percent, the taxes for the average citizen went up 47 percent. That’s not a record of cutting. I’m saying we’ve actually cut. We reduced the size of our budget. So wanting to cut is one thing, actually cutting is a different thing. Facts don’t lie.

SMITH: All right. Let’s, let’s bring Governor Christie in next.

HUCKABEE: Sandra, before we get too far away, he specifically brought out some things about the record that I need to correct.

SMITH: All right. Well, let’s get the — let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s bring Governor Christie in here because we’re talking about national debt, climbing toward $19 trillion, Governor. Our federal government employed nearly three million workers, our tax code is more than 74,000 pages long. If you’re elected President, Governor Christie, what concrete steps would you take to reduce the size of the federal government?

CHRISTIE: First off, let me, let me just say this in response to this back and forth. For the people who are out there right now, I want to guarantee you one thing real clearly. If you think that Mike Huckabee won’t be the kind of President who will cut back spending, or Chris Christie, or John Kasich, wait ’til you see what Hillary Clinton will do to this country and how she will drown us in debt. She is the real adversary tonight and we’d better stay focused as Republicans on her.

Now I’ve forward, I put forward an entitlement reform plan.

We spend 71 cents of every dollar in America on entitlements and debt service, and if — you know, Willy Sutton used to say, when they asked him why he robbed banks, he said that’s ’cause that’s where the money is, OK?

And where the money is in the federal government are these entitlement programs and debt service.

What I’ve said is we need to get a hold of that. We cannot continue to go down the $19 trillion in debt.

So our plan will save over $1 trillion over the next 10 years and make sure that Social Security and Medicare are there for those who truly need it and also make sure that we have money to be able to reduce taxes and spend on the things we need to spend.

I will also, on my first day as — as president, sign a executive order that says no more regulation for the next 120 days by any government agency or department. We are drowning in regulations. Stop and then we’ll go out there and we’ll cut and reduce regulation that small business owners across this country want us to do.

You’ll grow the economy then. More money will come into the system and we’ll get more closer to balance.

But the bottom line is, believe me, Hillary Clinton’s coming for your wallet, everybody. Don’t worry about Huckabee or Jindal, worry about her. [applause]

REGAN: Governor Christie, thank you. [applause]

All right, we are just getting started.

Medicare, Social Security and the future of ObamaCare — that is all straight ahead, live from Milwaukee and the Republican presidential debate.

[commercial break] [applause]

REGAN: Welcome back to the Milwaukee Theater, and the Republican Presidential Debate. On to the next round of questions, Gerry has the next question.

SEIB: Senator Santorum, we’re in the Upper-Midwest, heart of the American auto industry. The Auto Alliance says the state of Wisconsin, where we are tonight, is home to 176 auto supplier companies. Back in 2008, you opposed the use of federal bailout funds for automakers as proposed then by the Bush administration. The automakers survived. In retrospect, do you still think that was the right position.

SANTORUM: Absolutely. I’m a capitalist, not a corporatist. I’m not someone who believes we should be bailing out corporations whether their auto industries, or banks. [applause]

And, it is simply a matter that there’s auto industry — the auto industry would have survived, it would have survived through a bankruptcy process of — instead of Washington picking a winner and a loser. And, in this case, the losers are the bondholders, and the winners were the unions. That’s fine. They did it, the unions — the unions survived. We — we have not survived in continuing to grow manufacturing jobs. We have a — we have a president, and an economy right now, that is killing — choking our ability to be able to compete.

I’m one of the few people up here who actually believes that we need a level playing field when it comes to manufacturing. That means a good tax code, a good regulatory environment, low energy prices, better opportunities for workers to get training, and, also, I’m — a supporter of the EXIM bank. Everybody else on this stage, everybody else, I think, in the entire field, is opposed to it.

Why can you — how can you come out and say I’m for manufacturing when a majority of republican congressmen and senators supported the EXIM bank because it means jobs for American workers here in America. The fact is that we’ve seen already G.E. lose jobs here in America, and just move those jobs to France and Hungary. We have a right as a country to compete with other countries that have export financing.

Every major manufacturer, 60 countries, competes against America, wants to take our jobs, and we have every Republican candidate — you want to talk about communicating to workers here in Wisconsin? [bell rings]

Ask them why we’re tying one hand behind our back and saying go out and compete. [applause]

SEIB: Thank you, Senator Santorum.

REGAN: Governor Huckabee, you differ from many of your GOP opponents on the stage tonight over accepting Syrian refugees into this country. You have said, “We don’t have an obligation to just open our doors.”

As the Islamic state continues to expand, slaughtering and crucifying Christians, including women and children, refugees continue to flee their land by the thousands. Should America open its doors to accept any refugees in this country? If so, how many?

HUCKABEE: Sandra, I’ve been concerned that this administration has not done anything to help stop the slaughter of Christians. We didn’t help the Kurds, we said we would. But, the idea that we’re just going to open our doors, and we have no idea who these people are — what we do know is that only one out of five of the so called, “Syrian Refugees”, who went into Europe were actually Syrian. Many of them, we had no idea who they were. They weren’t Syrian.

Are we going to open the doors so that the ISIS people will come on in, and we’ll give them a place to say, and a good sandwich, and medical benefits? My gosh, we have $19 trillion dollars in debt, we can’t even afford to take care of Americans.

So…[applause]…If we’re going to do something for the Syrians…[applause]…let’s find out who they really are, and the ones that are really in danger, let’s help build an encampment for them, but closer to where they live, rather than bringing them here when they don’t know the language, the culture — and, frankly, if we’ve got as many homeless people as we have, I’m not sure this makes any sense.

So, let’s do it where we can best help them. Send them some food. But, let’s ask the Saudi’s to step up. I’m really tired of Americans being the only ones asked to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to charity, and, quite frankly, my number one concern right now is taking care of the fact that Americans are taking it in the gut without jobs. Many of them working two and three part time jobs. And, if America wants to do something great, let’s get our economy growing again, stabilize the dollar, and we’ll be in a much better position to help people around the world.

REGAN: Alright, Governor Huckabee, thank you. [applause]

SMITH: Governor Christie, China is stealing our technology. China is pirating our intellectual property, and China’s hacking into our computers, spying on American corporations, and spying on our citizens. China also slaps tariffs on U.S. goods, making it harder for us to sell our products. How are you going to stop them?

CHRISTIE: Well, let’s start with this, remember why we’re in the position we’re in with China, because an absolutely weak and feckless foreign policy that was engineered by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. That’s why we’re in the position we’re in…[applause]…because the Chinese…[applause]…the Chinese don’t take us seriously and why should they?

Why should they?

They hacked into the American government’s personnel file and took millions of records in cyberwarfare against this country. I’m one of the victims of that hack. They took my Social Security number, my fingerprints as a former United States attorney that was on file in there.

And what has this president done?

Not one thing.

Let me be really clear about what I would do.

If the Chinese commit cyberwarfare against us, they are going to see cyberwarfare like they have never seen before. And that is a closed society in China…[applause]…where they’re hiding information from their own people. The information we take, we’ll make sure all the Chinese people see it. Then they’ll have some real fun in Beijing when we start showing them how they’re spending their money in China. [applause]

And one last thing.

One last thing. I will tell you this, they’re building those artificial islands in the South China Sea and the president won’t — up until recently, wouldn’t sail a ship within 12 miles or fly a plane over it. I’ll tell you this, the first thing I’ll do with the Chinese is I’ll throw — I’ll fly Air Force One over those islands. They’ll know we mean business. [applause]

SEIB: Governor Jindal, there’s a new trade deal the Obama administration has completed with 11 other Pacific nations. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office says that deal will cut 18,000 different tariffs on American goods sent to the Pacific and will cut tariffs on goods made in your state of Louisiana by as much as 40 percent.

Even a skeptical about — a skeptic about this deal, now that the details are public, are you going to be for it?

JINDAL: I was absolutely a skeptic of giving this president more power. He negotiated a bad deal with Iran. He breaks the law routinely. I don’t know why Congress would want to concede more authority to him.

Look, this trade deal is 6,000 pages long. Unlike ObamaCare, I think we should read it before we decide whether we would vote for it or not vote for it. [applause]

I am for trade deals, but I want to make sure they are fair trade deals.

I want to come back to something that Chris had said earlier. Look, I absolutely agree we’ve got to beat Hillary Clinton. But just sending any Republican is not good enough. We’ve had a Republican majority in the Senate and the House.

What has changed?

If we send another big government Republican to the White House, we will not do enough to fix what is wrong in this country.

Chris, I think records matter. I think the way we govern matter.

Under your leadership in New Jersey, your budget has gone up 15 percent. It’s gone down 26 percent in Louisiana.

It has gone up $5 million in New Jersey. It’s gone down $9 billion in Louisiana. In New Jersey, you’ve had nine credit downgrades, setting a record. We’ve had eight credit upgrades in Louisiana.

My point is this. If politicians say they’re going to be conservative, they say they’re going to cut spending but they don’t do it, why should we send them to DC?

It gets harder, not easier, when we send them to DC. Let’s not be a second liberal party. Let’s actually cut government spending. Let’s grow the American economy. Let’s not just beat Hillary, let’s elect a conservative to the White House, not just any Republican.

SEIB: Governor Christie? [applause]

CHRISTIE: I’ll tell you, Gerry, it’s interesting, if you go to New Jersey, they’ll call me lots of different things. A liberal is not one of them. Um, and…[laughter]…I would say this. I have great respect for Bobby’s record in Louisiana. I think he’s been a wonderful governor and I think he’s provided outstanding leadership for that state and I respect him for what he’s done.

And I think that all of us deserve that same level of respect.

And my point is this. You know, the differences between me and Bobby Jindal, we can talk about those, and obviously, Bobby wants to spent a lot of time tonight talking about that.

I’ll tell you what I want to talk about. I want to talk about what’s going to happen to this country if we have another four years of Barack Obama’s policies.

And by the way, it will be even worse, because Hillary Clinton is running so far to the left to treaty to catch up to her socialist opponent, Bernie Sanders, it’s hard to even see her anymore.

The fact is — the fact is that we’d better be focused on it. And I’ll tell you what I’ll bring to the table, the fact that I’ve won in a blue state, that I’ve won in a state that has 750,000 more Democrats than Republicans…[applause]…that I won in a state for reelection after governing as a pro-life conservative…[buzzer noise]…and got 61 percent of the vote. That’s the person you want on the stage prosecuting the case against Hillary Clinton. [applause]

JINDAL: But wait a minute, records matter. [applause]

Records — records matter. Yes, we’ve got to…

CHRISTIE: I don’t…

JINDAL: — beat Hillary Clinton. But Chris, it’s also true that you expanded food stamps at a time that we’ve got record numbers of Americans on food stamps. It’s also true you caved into ObamaCare. You expanded Medicaid.

We’ve got a choice in front of us. This is an important debate. This is not about comparing Louisiana to New Jersey or Bobby to Chris. This is an important debate for the American people.

This is supposed to be an economics debate. Let’s have a debate.

Do we want to grow government or do we want to grow the American economy?

Do we want to grow dependence on government, or do we want to grow good paying jobs in the private sector…

SMITH: …Alright…

JINDAL: …you don’t grow the economy by putting more people on food stamps, more people in Medicaid, you grow the economy by cutting government, cutting spending. That’s what we’ve done in Louisiana, you haven’t done that in New Jersey…

CHRISTIE: ..Let me…

SEIB: …Guys…

JINDAL: …We need a conservative, not a big government republican in D.C.

SEIB: Governor Christie…

CHRISTIE: …Let me just…

SEIB: …last word, briefly

CHRISTIE: …Sure. [applause]

It’s interesting. I complimented Bobby, imagine how much time he’d want if I actually criticized him. [laughter]

You know, the fact is, he’s done — done a nice job down in Louisiana, and I don’t have any problem with the job he’s done. I’ve cut spending $2 billion dollars, except for our pension and health care in New Jersey, which was driven predominantly by Obamacare. We have reduce the number of employees we have on the state payroll by 15%, but, you know what? The people out there don’t care about any of that.

You know what they care about? They care about who’s going to be able to beat Hillary Clinton…[bell ringing]…Who’s going to keep their eye on the ball? I’m going to keep my eye on the ball.

[crosstalk]

SEIB: …Thank you both, Governors. [applause]

REGAN: Next question to you, Governor…

JINDAL: …This is how we….

REGAN: …Next question to you, Governor…

JINDAL: …This is how we move our country forward, look, this is not about between me and Chris…

HUCKABEE: …I’d like to get that opportunity to go…

JINDAL: …This is about…[crosstalk]…are we going to be the party…

REGAN: …let me get in…[crosstalk]…Let me get in here, because the next question, it’s to you, and it’s on Obamacare. It is still unpopular with the American people. You’ve seen the polls, they’ve shown nearly half the country still opposes this law. You have been critical of your GOP opponents, some of them standing on the stage tonight, others later. Notably, Ted Cruz, for not having comprehensive plans.

You say you do. What specifically makes your plan to replace Obamacare better than the opponents, some of them standing next to you.

JINDAL: Well, look, only one other opponent, actually, one other candidate, actually, has a plan. That’s Jeb Bush, and he creates a new entitlement program. My plan actually gets rid of all of Obamacare, it’s great that Senator Cruz will shut down the government over Obamacare, but he still hasn’t given us his plan to get rid of it. It’s great that other republicans talk about getting rid of it.

You go to a town hall in Iowa, or New Hampshire, ask them how they’re actually going to get rid of it — my plan has been online for over a year. It gets rid of all of Obamacare, it reduces the cost. It actually puts Americans, their patients, their doctors back in control. And, it actually helps those that really need this help — but, this is one of the most critical issues we face domestically.

I think I — look, right now, I think I am the only candidate running that refused to expand Medicaid. I’m the only one that turned down — that did what we could to fight Obamacare. This is an important point, and, look, I appreciate Chris’s nice compliments to me. And, Chris, you look to me very well, I love Mary-pat, but this isn’t about me and Chris. This is about the country, and this is about what direction — this is the most important election in our lifetimes.

Folks, a couple of years ago they told us give them the republican majorities in the House and the Senate, they’d stop Obamacare, and amnesty, and the bad Iran deal — nothing changed. If they fooled us once, shame on them. If they fooled us twice, shame on us. Don’t let them fool us again.

Chris, look, I’ll give you your ribbon for participation, and a juicebox, but in the real world, it’s about results…[audience reaction]…but, in the real world it’s about results. It’s about actually cutting government spending, not just talking about cutting government spending.

REGAN: Governor Jindal, thank you.

CHRISTIE: Yeah, listen. We stopped Obamacare in New Jersey because we refused to participate in the federal exchange. But, here’s the bigger issue. What do you think’s going to happen when Hillary Clinton’s elected president of the United States? The woman who tried to impose healthcare on this country over 20 years ago? And, she was stopped then by a strong group of republicans, and an American public that said, “No, thank you.”

What she will do — what she will do is move us towards a single payer system. She will completely nationalize the federal health care system. That’s what she wanted to do 20 years ago, and I guarantee you that’s what she’ll do if you give her the keys to the White House one more time.

The fact is we need someone who knows how to beat democrats, who knows how to beat democrats in a democratic area. I’ve done it twice as governor of New Jersey, and Hillary Clinton doesn’t want one minute on that stage with me next September when I’m debating her, and prosecuting her for her vision for America…

SANTORUM: …Let me settle this argument…

SEIB: …No, no, Senator Santorum…

SANTORUM: …Well…

SEIB: …I have a question for you. Just about everybody agrees that the nation’s infrastructure is in bad shape. Urban highway congestion costs the economy more than $100 billion dollars annually, nearly one in four bridges in the National Highway System is structurally deficient, or obsolete. Congress is working on a six year highway bill to try to fix this problem. It only funds it for about three years. Should Americans be asked to pay more in federal gas taxes in order to address this problem?

SANTORUM: I’ll answer that in a second, but, I want to answer this other problem because this is a real legitimate debate between Chris and Bobby, and if somebody says we need someone who can win in a blue state, and Bobby says we need a real principled conservative. [audience reaction] [applause]

Ninety-two percent conservative voting record, unlike some of the other senators that Bobby mentioned who hasn’t done anything to cut federal spending, I was actually the author of welfare reform, which is the only time we’ve ever seen a federal entitlement actually cut. We cut it. Senate did exactly what every conservative says they want to do. We took the program, we eliminated the federal entitlement, we blocked (ph) to the state, we capped the amount of money, cut it by about 10%, and then put two requirements, work, and time limits.

We need to do that with the rest of the — means (ph) tested federal entitlements. I’ve done it.

And I did it with a bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and after fighting two presidential vetoes by Bill Clinton.

So I had a democratic president we had to get this through. No record of accomplishment. I agree with the folks who are from the Congress in this race. I have a record of accomplishment of being a conservative on everything.

National security, on moral and cultural issues, on the economy, and twice won a blue state. The first time I beat the author of Hillarycare. I had Bill and Hillary in my state, James Carville managed the race against me, a state with a million more Democrats than Republicans.

And I ran on health savings accounts, on private sector health care, as a conservative, pro-life, pro-family, and I won. And then in 2000, I was the only senator to win a state as a conservative that George Bush lost.

You want someone who can win Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, with a conservative message, I’m your guy. [applause]

SEIB: Senator, I don’t think we got to infrastructure, but I understand. [laughter]

SANTORUM: I’ll be happy to answer that if you give me more time.

SEIB: No, no. To do the things you’re talking about, that you’re all talking about, getting things done in Washington, you have to work with the other side. So a question, who in Congress do you most admire on the Democratic side? I need one name from each of you.

And let’s start with Governor Jindal.

JINDAL: We can waste our time. And I think this is why people were so frustrated with the last debate with these kinds of silly questions. [applause]

We’ve only got a certain amount of time to talk about the economy. Let me use my time to say this. I want to fire everybody in D.C. in both parties. I think they all — we need term limits, get rid of them all, make them live under the same rules they passed on the rest of us. [cheering and applause]

SEIB: Governor Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: Well, since we’re not going to answer the question, let me just remind everybody, tomorrow is Veterans Day. And here’s what I would like to remind everybody. The VA has been a disaster in large part because the people in Congress have never bothered to fix it, and this president has certainly not…

REGAN: We’ll get to that.

HUCKABEE: Let me finish, please. I’m going to ask you just this, what would happen if the Congress and the president had to get their health care from the VA? We would fix the problem and we would fix Congress. [cheering and applause]

SEIB: Governor Christie?

CHRISTIE: I’ll continue in the pattern and just say…[laughter]

And just say this to everybody, since it seems to be an open question. [laughter]

I’ll tell you the thing that disturbs me the most about what’s going on with the Democratic Party in Washington, that they’re not standing behind our police officers across this country. [cheering and applause]

That they’re allowing lawlessness…[cheering and applause] That they’re allowing lawlessness to reign in this country. I spent seven years of my life in law enforcement, here’s what every law enforcement, 700,000, should know tonight. When President Christie is in the Oval Office, I’ll have your back. [cheering and applause]

SEIB: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I’m going to answer two questions for the price of one. The infrastructure question, the answer is…[laughter]

We need to get the federal government out of this infrastructure business, other than vital economic highways. It has been said that if we cut the gas tax to 3 to 5 cents and send the rest back to the states, and just take care of the federal infrastructure that’s vital for our economy, let the — we don’t need the federal government and the road business that it is today. Number one.

Number two, you know who I respect in the Democratic Party? You know why I respect them? Because they fight! Because they’re not willing to back down, and they’re willing to stand up and fight and win. And so I respect them because they are willing to take it to us.

SEIB: Thank you, Senator Santorum. [applause]

REGAN: Ronald Reagan did work with Tip O’Neill.

Anyway, we are going to take a quick break. Coming up, one of the top issues for voters, how much you’re paying in taxes. We are live from Milwaukee with the Republican presidential debate.

See you right back here.

[commercial break]

REGAN: Welcome back to the Republican presidential debate.

We are live from Milwaukee.

A top issue on the campaign trail, taxes and how much you pay.

All right, I’ve got a question for all of you here.

When looking at the federal income tax, state income tax and local tax, in some cases, combined, some Americans are paying over 50 percent of their paycheck to the government.

What is the highest percentage, all in, in the way of taxes, that any American should have to pay and what is the lowest?

I’d like to, again, to hear from each of you. And I want those two all in numbers.

I’m going to start with you, Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: Well, I’ll tell you, I have a 20 percent flat tax. That’s one all income — so capital gains, corporations, individuals, 20 percent. I think that’s a fair number, one out of five, to be able to — to help support the federal government.

By the way it also approximates, if you take out some of the deductions, it approximates how much the federal government is, on average, spent of GDP, which is about 18 to 19 percent of GDP.

So it actually fits with shrinking the size of government down to more like post-World War II levels.

So the second thing we do is I don’t allow for deductibility of state and local taxes, which will require state and local taxes to go down in order to be treated for their — for their people to be treated fairly.

So the answer is, 20 percent and probably 33 percent overall.

REGAN: All in.

OK, Governor Christie?

CHRISTIE: Yes. You know, our tax plan puts forward a highest rate of 28 percent for those who are doing the most and making the most in this country and 8 percent on the low end.

And I agree with Senator Santorum, we get rid of all of the deductions and loopholes, except for the home mortgage interest deduction and the charitable contribution deduction. That means getting rid of the state and local income tax deduction, as well, because that will put more pressure on governors and on local officials not to keep raising those taxes, saying we can deduct them.

And so ours will be 28 on the high end, 8 on the low end.

And I will tell you one other thing. Americans for Tax Reform came out with a report six weeks ago and said I vetoed more tax increases than any governor in American history. I will do exactly the same thing as president of the United States. [applause]

REGAN: And we’ll get back to you.

Governor Jindal?

JINDAL: So under our tax plan, look, the top rate is 25 percent, 10 percent, 2 percent. That 2 percent is the most important.

I think everybody should pay something. I think everybody should have skin in the game.

We shouldn’t be creating one group of Americans that’s dependent on government, another group that’s paying taxes.

I want to come back to an earlier point though, that Chris said. Look, we all agree Hillary Clinton is bad. We all agree we need to beat her. But let’s not pretend that out-of-control government spending is only a Democratic issue. This is a bipartisan issue, and just sending another big government Republican to D.C. is not good enough.

We need to actually cut government spending. We need to cut — and we’re not going to do it just by sending any Republican. I’m glad he’s vetoed taxes. The Tax Foundation graded New Jersey the 50th worst business climate due to taxes, high taxes in the state of New Jersey.

SMITH: Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: Well, thank you very much.

I still want to go back to the fact that if we got rid of all the taxes on our work, got rid of the taxes on our savings, investments, capital gains, and inheritance, and made a zero tax, we’d pay at the point of consumption.

Because why should we punish people for their productivity? And the fair tax doesn’t punish people for doing well and building the economy. There’s $31 trillion parked offshore. What happens if that money comes back to America? You’d think it’d goose the economy? I guarantee you it would.

And that’s why the fair tax is the best solution we have for economic growth in this country. [applause]

REGAN: Governor Huckabee, Americans, under your plan, would pay a tax on every single thing that they purchase. Given that consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of GDP, some economists worry that your tax plan would actually discourage spending, thereby slowing our economy. How do you respond?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, do you know an American that will just stop spending? I don’t. [laughter]

No, that’s not going to be the problem. Look, Americans will go to the marketplace with more money they’ve ever had. For the first time they’ll be having their whole paycheck.

You see, most people don’t understand that when you buy something that is made in America, 22 percent of the cost of it is the embedded tax they never even know they paid. It’s why China has beaten the daylights out of us, they can build stuff that we can’t because they’re not taxing it, when they don’t tax capital and labor and we do.

They bring something over here, it’s automatically cheaper even without the regulatory environment because they’re not embedding the taxes, we are.

Take the embedded taxes out. Give a person his whole paycheck because every American would no longer have a payroll tax taken out. It means they’d see their real paycheck for the first time. When they go to spend that money, they’ll actually have it.

And they only pay taxes on the stuff that’s new. So a lot of Americans will buy used stuff. Look, here’s the point, Americans are not going to quit shopping. Americans are not going to quit buying.

But it would be nice if Americans could control how much they paid in tax, rather than having the government reach into their pockets and take it out before they ever had a chance to even see it, much less spend it. [applause]

And that’s why the fair tax makes a heck of a lot more sense than punishing productivity and rewarding irresponsibility.

REGAN: Thank you, Governor Huckabee.

SEIB: Governor Jindal, you’ve proposed something different. You’ve proposed eliminating the federal corporate income tax entirely. Why would have you wage-earners and investors pay an income tax but not a corporation?

JINDAL: Well, a couple of reasons. Look, we know big companies don’t pay those taxes today. They hire lobbyists and accountants and lawyers. It’s the small businesses that get hit.

I want to get rid of the corporate tax, I want to bring the jobs and investment back to America. Make the CEOs pay the same rates as everybody else. Get rid of all the corporate welfare as well.

Like I said, make everybody pay something, earned success is so much better than unearned success. And let’s actually shrink the size of government. My plan purposely does that.

Look, we can talk all night about tax plans, energy plans, I think you will find a lot of agreement among all the Republicans. We all want to get rid of the death tax, the marriage penalty. We all want lower, fewer brackets. We want to downsize, take away power from the IRS.

What we really need to be talking about is this, these last seven years, we’ve had more government spending, more government dependence. Poverty has gone up. Inequality has gone up. Only the top 10 percent have seen their incomes go up — their median incomes go up.

We actually have more inequality thanks to what we have seen, the largest most expensive experiment in progressive government. We can’t keep spending money we don’t have.

And the reality is, the last couple of years it hasn’t mattered whether Republicans or Democrats were in control. We keep stealing from our children. That is immoral. It is wrong. And we’re creating more government dependence.

If we really want to grow the economy, yes, you need a rational energy plan, and you’ve got to rein in the EPA, and you’ve got to repeal Obamacare, and you’ve got to cut taxes.

But none of that will be enough if we’re not serious about cutting government spending. We cannot afford to elect a big- government Republican. We need somebody. This is the most important election. Hillary Clinton is gift-wrapping this election to us. Let’s not waste this opportunity to apply conservative principles and cut the size of government. [applause]

SMITH: All right. Governor Jindal, thank you.

All right. Well, we are not finished yet.

More from the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, next.

[commercial break]

SEIB: Welcome back to the Republican Presidential Debate live from Milwaukee’s historic theater. Let’s get back to the questions. Governor Christie, by keeping interest rates so low for so long, is the Fed creating a new financial bubble in real estate or stock as prices that will burst and create problems down the road, or has it been right to err on the side of trying to help the recovery through low rates?

CHRISTIE: Gerry, this has been the most political Federal Reserve I’ve seen in my lifetime. Now, when they first cut interest rates during the economic recession and the crisis, that was the right thing to do. But they’ve kept those interest rates artificially low for one reason, and one reason only. Because they’re trying to politically support Barack Obama and his agenda. And it’s been wrong.

And what it’s done, in an administration where the President has talked about income inequality, he’s had more income inequality in this administration than any previous administration. The middle class is doing worse than it’s ever done before. And the investor class, the wealthy, are doing even better because of this cheap money from the Fed. And here’s the worst part, we had one and a half percent GDP growth last quarter. If we slide back towards a recession, you cannot lower interest rates below zero. Where are we going to go if we need help if the economy slides back into recession?

And with this government- controlled economy that Barack Obama, we’re moving right towards it.

The Fed should be audited and the Fed should stop playing politics with our money supply. That’s what they’ve done. It’s been the wrong thing to do. It’s hurting the American economy. And…[applause]…let me…[applause]…let me add one other thing on this.

Be very aware now, because what Hillary Clinton is talking about doing, if she’s president of the United States, is to make sure that the government gets even more involved in the economy, even more involved in making choices for everybody. You do not want that to happen. You need someone who’s going to stand up on that stage and prosecute the case against her and prosecute it strong. [buzzer noise] That’s what I’ll do. [applause]

REGAN: Senator Santorum, you agree with Governor Christie. You also have said that the Fed should be audited.

But many worry that given the Congressional challenges that they face, by having Congressional oversight of the Fed, which has been historically an independent body, you would be making the Fed much more political.

How would you navigate that risk?

SANTORUM: Well, I don’t — I agree with Governor Christie, I don’t think you can make it any more political than it’s been. They — they are protecting a president that is over-taxing and over- regulating, shutting down this economy. And he — and they’re keeping it up like Atlas, trying to hold up the Earth by — by these ridiculously low interest rates.

And it’s hurting American seniors, who are seeing no Social Security increases, seeing no — no savings. They’re — they’re putting their money aside. They’re getting nothing in their deposit accounts.

This is hurting the people who have acted responsibly, all in favor of those who, um, you know, are — are speculators and — and those on Wall Street. It’s not a good deal for — for the vast majority of responsible Americans.

The other thing we have with the Fed is they’ve been given way too much authority. Under Dodd-Frank, they’ve been given this enormous new authority. I mean they — they now have almost become the most powerful entity in Washington, DC.

We need to repeal Dodd-Frank, get away that authority from the Fed and put them under more — more scrutiny.

That’s only part of the problem. I understand the Fed is interesting for a business channel, but I think for most Americans, the most important business is the family. And we haven’t really talked much about the importance of the family to the economy.

And — and ladies and gentlemen, every single book, from left to right, that’s been written over the last couple of years has said the biggest problem in America today at the hollowing out of the middle of America is the breakdown of the nuclear family in America.

We’d better be the party that’s out there talking about this issue and what we’re going to do to help strengthen marriage and return dads into homes in all communities. [applause]

You want to talk about the communities that are hurting the most, the ones you see the protests in…[buzzer noise]…there are no dads. And we need to do something about it. [applause]

REGAN: Thank you, Senator. [applause]

Governor Huckabee, both Senator Santorum and Governor Christie were boat — both critical of the Federal Reserve. Also, many have questioned whether Janet Yellen is the right person to be running the Fed.

If elected president, would you keep Janet Yellen?

HUCKABEE: Well, my wife’s name is Janet and when you say Janet Yelling, I’m very familiar with what you mean. [laughter]

But, look, I think the Fed is in a big trouble because they haven’t addressed the number one issue that’s hurting Americans and that’s the fact that wages for the bottom 90 percent of the economy have been stagnant for 40 years.

In the 25 years after World War II, up to 1971, wages grew by 85 percent in this country. People were — were moving up in the middle class. There was a middle class.

That’s not happening any more, and in large measure, the Fed has manipulated the dollar so it doesn’t have a standard.

Tie the dollar to something fixed and if it’s not going to be gold, make it the commodity basket.

But here’s what we’ve got to do. We absolutely have to get it where the people who go out there and work get something in return.

And if the dollar keeps fluctuating, and this is as crazy as — as is the price of bread, well, the fact is, people can’t get ahead then.

SMITH: So would you change leadership at the Fed?

HUCKABEE: Absolutely. Absolutely, because what we need to is to make sure that they tie the monetary standard to something that makes sense, rather than to their own whims, because who’s getting gut punched?

It ain’t the people in Wall Street, it’s the folks on Main Street. They’re the ones who’s wages have been stagnant for 40 years. And the average American today has a total savings of 1,000 bucks. One root canal and they’re in trouble.

And if their car breaks down the same week…[buzzer noise]…they’re out of business.

REGAN: All right, Governor Huckabee, thank you. [applause]

All right, Senator Santorum, by the way, today is the 240th…

SANTORUM: Happy Birthday.

REGAN: — of the United States…

SANTORUM: — States Marine Corps.

REGAN: — Marine Corps. [applause]

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. We honor and recognize all those who have fought for, and served this great nation, Senator. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, meanwhile, which provides patient care, and federal benefits to those veterans, as well as their families, is beset by scandal.

What new ideas do you have to fix the broken V.A. healthcare system?

SANTORUM: That’s very personal to me. I grew up on a V.A. grounds. I lived in apartments on V.A. grounds my entire childhood. Both my Mom and Dad, after World War II, marry — met at a V.A., married, and that’s where I lived. Kitchen table discussion was, particularly when I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was the decline of the V.A.

When they joined in the early 1950’s, the V.A. was the top. They were the best, they were the best and brightest coming in after the war. And, we believed in the cause that we fought, and we invested in our hospitals to make sure that our veterans who left World War II were taken care of. But, after Vietnam, and during Vietnam, that began to change, and it really hasn’t recovered since.

The bottom line is the V.A. is antiquated. There’s no need for a V.A. healthcare system as it existed after World War — why? Because we have the best private healthcare system in the world, we didn’t need — we needed it in 1950’s, hospitals were not particularly advanced, so, we built the best. We didn’t maintain the best. Government didn’t keep its promises to its veterans. So, what we need to do is two things. Number one, we need to allow veterans to go to private sector hospitals for their routine and ordinary care to get the best care in their community possible. [applause]

And, there is a place for the Veterans Administration. There are injuries, and there are — things like PTSD, or prosthetics that are uniquely problems within the veterans community where we can develop centers of excellence within — and replace the V.A. with a group of…[bell ringing]…centers of excellence that can help our folks to come back…

SMITH: Senator Santorum, thank you. [applause]

I have a question for all of you. Americans connection to the military has been increasingly fading. As a society, how do we restore that sense of duty, that sense of pride, that was the hallmark of the greatest generation. Again, I’d like to ask each of you, 30 seconds each, beginning with Governor Jindal.

JINDAL: Well, a couple things, first, I want to echo what others have said and thank those veterans that run towards danger, not away from it, so we can live in the greatest country in the history of the world.

I think every veteran should get that card, and they should be allowed to get that health care wherever they want in the private sector. But, I also think — or the public sector, I also think we need to fire some of the V.A. bureaucrats. Somebody should go to jail over these scandals, and it is a crime that it has not happened. [applause]

When it comes — when it comes to uniting the American people, one of the things we’ve done to honor our veterans in Louisiana, we’ve given thousands — and I’ve hand delivered these, to veterans — medals to veterans to thank them for their service. I’ll just give you one quick example, I know my time is out, but, we’ve had Vietnam war veterans with tears in their eyes saying nobody has ever thanked them before. We’ve had World War II veterans, children, who said they never heard the stories of their parents heroic sacrifice. Whatever conflict, whenever they served, one of the things we can do is to teach our children we do live in the greatest country in the history of the world.

We got a president who doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, but we still do, and it’s because of those men and women in uniform. We should thank them everyday, not just veterans day. [applause]

SMITH: Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: Well, I think thanking our veterans is a wonderful thing to do, but, they sure appreciate a better paycheck. They’d appreciate the fact that we kept our promises to them. The men and women in uniform put on the uniform of our nation, they went halfway around the world, they face dangers on our behalf, and we promised them if they did that, when they came home we’d take care of their medical care, we’d make is possible for their kids to go to college, and they’d be able to bind to a home.

They kept their promises to us. We have not kept our promises to them, and today, less than one percent of Americans go to the military for service. We’re fighting wars with other people’s kids in large measure because we’ve not taken seriously the moral, not the monetary, the moral obligation to take care of the veterans and to keep America’s promise to the ones who kept their promise to America. [applause]

SMITH: Governor Christie.

CHRISTIE: The way to reconnect Americans to the men and women in uniform is to first, and foremost, give them a Commander in Chief who respects the military, and respects everyone who wears the uniform. [cheering and applause]

Starts at the top there…[cheering and applause]

And Secretary Clinton says, there’s no crisis at the V.A.. That send a long, and hard message to our veterans that she doesn’t get it, and she doesn’t respect their service.

When the President of the United States doesn’t back up law enforcement officers in uniform, he loses the moral authority to any man or woman who is uniform.

I spent seven years in law enforcement…[bell ringing]…I respect these folks, and I will do so as Commander in Chief of the military.

SMITH: Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: It should come as no surprise to Chris, or anybody else, that Barack Obama doesn’t stand behind our men and women in uniform here at home because he hasn’t stood behind them overseas.

The rules of engagement that we’ve allowed our soldiers to go and fight against have put them in harm’s way for political purposes. This has been the most politicized wars that we’ve ever seen under this administration. He gets in, and gets out, based upon what the polls are saying, what pressure he’s getting from groups. Talk about a Commander in Chief.

We need a commander in chief who has a vision and plan of how we’re going to execute the national security of our country. Commander in chief is not an entry level position. Experience matters, and that’s why I would ask for your support as a Commander in Chief, because I have the experience against the enemy…[bell ringing]…to confront to do the job. [applause]

SEIB: Candidates, it’s time for closing statements, 30 seconds. Governor Jindal, we’ll start with you.

JINDAL: You know, I have spent a lot of time tonight talking about the need to cut the size of government. The reason I’m doing that — it’s not just about balancing the budget, or balancing a bunch of numbers. Because I believe in the American dream. I think President Obama’s done a lot of damage to our country. I think that one of the worst things he has done is try to change the idea of America to be one of dependence. There are a lot of politicians that talk about cutting government spending, I’m the only one that’s actually done it that’s running for President.

The rest of them, it’s a lot of hot air. If you want your paychecks to go up, if you want more good paying jobs, if you want the government out of your lives, we’ve got to cut the size of government. It’s not enough just to elect any republican, we’ve seen that. We’ve got to elect a republican that will take on the establishment in both parties. I’m asking for your support.

Thank you. [applause]

SEIB: Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: I announced from a factory floor in Western Pennsylvania. This campaign has all been about two words for me, working families. Working. Getting people the opportunity to see those wages rise, to be on the side of the American workers so they can get good paying jobs, and that means we have to start making things in America again. We need a president who’s going to not just put policies in place, but is going to stand up at the bully pulpit and talk about the dignity of being a welder. The dignity of being a carpenter, about going to work and earning success.

And, also, the importance of families, the importance of families and fathers, and mothers raising their children, and committing to that so that they can give children in our country the best opportunity to success. Working families is the key for us to win this election. [applause]

SEIB: Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: In many ways, I feel like I’m the luckiest guy on Earth. I really do. It’s a long way from a little brick rent house on second street in Hope, Arkansas to this stage where I’m running for President of the United States. It’s not about me, not about these guys — ‘ought to be about you, and I’ve never been the favorite of the people who have the most money.

But, I want to be the favorite of the people who still want to believe the American dream can work for them. Today in our office, I got a letter from a third grader in North Dakota, her name is Reese.

She sent $6 dollars from her allowance, and said, “I want to help you be president.”

You know, I’m going to keep standing on this stage, and keep fighting for one reason, because somewhere out there in North Dakota, and all over America, there are kids like Reese who need a president who will never forget where they came from, and I promise I won’t. [applause]

SEIB: Governor Christie.

CHRISTIE: I want to tell the American people who are watching tonight the truth. I saw the most disgraceful thing I’ve seen in this entire campaign a few weeks ago. Hillary Clinton was asked the enemy she’s most proud of, and she said, “Republicans”.

In a world where we have Al-Qaeda, and ISIS, the mullahs in Iran, and Vladimir Putin — the woman who asks to run and represent all of the United States says that her greatest enemies are people like you in this audience, and us here. I will tell you one thing, and write this down, when you elect me President of the United States, I will go to Washington not only to fight the fights that need fighting, not only to say what I mean, and mean what I say, but to bring this entire country together for a better future for our children and grandchildren. [applause]

SMITH: Alright, thank you gentlemen. That does it, everyone, for the first debate here in Milwaukee. In just about one hour from now, at 9:00PM Eastern, eight more candidates are going to be taking to the stage. Right now though, special coverage of the Republican Presidential Debate, live from Milwaukee, continues right here on Fox Business. [applause]

 

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 October 28, 2015: Third Republican Candidates “Undercard” Debate in Boulder, Colorado Transcript

ELECTION 2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Republican Candidates “Undercard” Debate in Boulder, Colorado Among Candidates Polling Below the Top Ten
October 28, 2015

Source: UCSB, The American Presidency Project 

PARTICIPANTS:
Senator Lindsey Graham (SC);
Governor Bobby Jindal (LA);
Former Governor George Pataki (NY);
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA);

MODERATORS:
John Harwood (CNBC);
Becky Quick (CNBC); and
Carl Quintanilla (CNBC)

QUICK: Good evening, everyone. I’m Becky Quick, along with my CNBC colleagues, Carl Quintanilla and John Harwood. Some of CNBC’s experts on the markets and personal finance will be here with us tonight as well.

But let’s get right to the debate rules.

Candidates will get 30 seconds to answer an opening question and then 60 seconds to answer a formal question. They’ll also get 30 seconds for rebuttals and follow-ups. All of this comes at the discretion of the moderators.

We want you to weigh in tonight, either from home or wherever you are. By the way, if you check it out on the bottom of the screen, you can see your tweets right there using #cnbcgopdebate. You can also go to cnbc.com/vote throughout the night to tell us where you stand.

First up, let’s get right to the candidates for tonight’s Republican Presidential Debate. I want to run you through the line on the stage from left to right.

First up, Governor Bobby Jindal. [applause]

Senator Rick Santorum.

Governor George Pataki.

And Senator Lindsey Graham.

Obviously we have a lot to cover here tonight so let’s get this started.

My colleague, John Harwood, has our first question — John.

HARWOOD: We’re going to pose this question to all candidates and go left to right, starting with Governor Jindal.

Governor, a majority of Republican voters at this point in the campaign have made clear that they prefer someone from outside the political system.

In 30 seconds, tell us why your experience inside the system would be more valuable than the fresh eyes an outsider would bring.

JINDAL: I think the reason voters are so frustrated is nothing seems to change in D.C. Look, over the next several hours, you’re going to hear several Republicans all tell you they want to shrink the size of government and grow the American economy and it sounds great and we’ve got to do it.

Here’s the truth — of all these folks talking, I’m the only one that has cut the size of government. There’s not two of us, there’s one of us. The rest of it is all just hot air. When politicians talk, we need to pay attention to what they do, not what they say.

I’m the only one that’s reduced the size of government. Let’s shrink the government economy. Let’s grow the American economy.

HARWOOD: Thanks, Governor Jindal.

Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Yes, I think it’s one thing to shrink the size of a state government but it’s another thing to actually get something accomplished in Washington. It’s a much tougher field.

And I’m the one in the — on this stage and, frankly, on both stages that has actually gone to Washington, said we would shrink government, said we would shake things up and actually delivered for the conservative cause, everything from welfare reform, which was the largest, most significant accomplishment in the last 25 years for conservatism.

I authored the bill when I was in the House of Representatives; I managed the bill on the floor of the United States Senate. You need a conservative who can deliver and that’s what I bring to the table.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Senator.

Governor Pataki?

PATAKI: We need an outsider to run our party and to win the next election. Washington has become a corrupt insider game and everybody talks about how they’re going to change the taxes, grow the economy. Nothing seems to change.

But, by the way, Bobby, I shrunk the size of New York State’s government when I left. We had reduced the employment by over 25,000 and cut taxes.

But I understand that to change Washington you have to understand government as well. You can’t just be an outsider. You can’t just be someone who throws stones at Washington. You have to be someone who can actually bring people together across party lines.

I can do that, I will do that if I have the chance to lead this party.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Governor.

Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: Well, number one, thank you for having me here tonight.

How about a round of applause for Boulder, Colorado?

This is a beautiful place. [applause]

Looking at their academic standards, the only way I could have gotten into this university is to be invited to this debate tonight. [laughter]

But here’s my take on things. Without national security, there is no economic security. Without the sacrifice of the veteran, all of our hopes and dreams are at risk.

Just a few days ago, Hillary Clinton said that the problems with the V.A. are being exaggerated by Republicans. They are not, they are real.

HARWOOD: Senator Graham, thank you very much. Becky?

QUICK: Governor Jindal, let’s talk a little bit about the news of the day. Just a few hours ago, the Republicans and the Democrats in the House voted on a budget deal that will increase spending by about $80 billion dollars over the next two years. You, however, have called the Republicans who have been willing to work with the Democrats to do things like this the, “Surrender Party of the Republican caucus.”

Would you have shut the government down instead?

JINDAL: Well, look, I think that’s a false choice. I think this is a very bad deal. Whenever they tell us in D.C. they’re going to cut tomorrow, that means they’re never going to cut. Tomorrow never seems to happen. Instead, why don’t we actually follow our conservative principles? Why not insist on structural reforms? Why not cut spending?

I don’t mean strength (ph) the growth rate, I mean, actually spend less. Why not a balanced budget in the amendment — an amendment to the Constitution? Why not a super-majority vote before they grow our taxes, before they grow the government faster than the economy?

Let’s be honest, $18 trillion dollars of debt. Record low participation rate in the workforce, record number of Americans on food stamps. We are going the way of Europe. The left is trying to turn the American Dream into the European Nightmare. If you’re a Republican…

QUICK: …But Governor…

JINDAL: …[inaudible] willing to stand up and fight…

QUICK: …if you didn’t have a choice, if you didn’t control things in the house, would you take the choice of shutting things down, or would you go ahead and agree with them?

JINDAL: I think that’s a false choice. If I were — I were to lead, we would pass a conservative budget, challenge the President to do the right thing. And, here’s the problem, the Republicans never want to fight. Give Pelosi and Reed credit, they forced Obamacare and socialism down our throats, why won’t the Republicans fight half as hard for freedom and opportunity. This was a bad budget.

QUICK: Governor, thank you.

PATAKI: Becky, can I comment on this question?

HARWOOD: Just hold on, Governor Pataki, we’re going to go to Senator Graham on this question because we believe you are likely to be the only person on this stage tonight who supports this budget deal. Now, you just heard Governor Jindal say that it’s a phony deal, it doesn’t do anything, and people like you are surrendering rather than fighting by supporting it. Why is he wrong?

GRAHAM: Well, let me tell you what is real. The threat to our homeland. I’ve never seen so many threats to our homeland than I do today. Barack Obama is an incompetent Commander in Chief. There are more terrorist organizations with safe havens to attack the American homeland than anytime since 9/11. We’re in the process of reducing our defense spending by half.

I am looking at this budget with one view in mind, will it restore the ability to defend this nation. We’re on track to have the smallest army since 1940, the smallest navy since 1915, this budget, if it is paid for, will put $40 billion dollars back in the defense department at a time we need it.

The number one role of the federal government’s to defend this nation, I intend to be a Commander in Chief that can win a war we cannot afford to lose.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Senator Graham…

PATAKI: …John, can I quickly comment on this one…

[crosstalk]

HARWOOD: …Governor, we’re going to get to you in just a moment, we’re going to try to keep this shorter…

PATAKI: …But, I want to speak on this issue…

QUINTANILLA: …Question, in the meantime, for Senator Santorum. You have advocated a flat tax, so we’d like to ask you about fairness. Why is it fair to tax all Americans at the same rate, as opposed to taxing more affluent Americans at higher rates?

SANTORUM: Well, if you look at my flat tax, it actually takes the best of what Steve Forbes, Art Laffer, many have been advocating for a long time, which is a very strong pro-growth tax code — very simple. And, it adjusts it to make sure that it is not regressive.

We have a $2,750 per person tax credit — that’s $2,750 off the taxes due, not a deduction, a credit. And, we think — in fact, if you run the numbers, no American who’s going to be paying more taxes under our proposal, so, we’ve accomplished both.

We have a system that has a low single rate, but we take care of American families. I’m talking about $2,750 per person. That means a family four, that’s $11,000 dollar tax credit. That’s a very, very strong pro-family — and if you looked at the Wall Street Journal today, and so many of the publications that have been out there, they’ve talked about how the biggest problem of the hollowing out of the middle of this country. For workers to be able to raise is actually, the breakdown of the American family.

William Galston, a liberal, said that on the pages of the Wall Street Journal today that the key to poverty is families. So, we put forth a pro-growth — Steve Forbes plan, combined it with a pro- family plan, and that’s why I think it’s going to work out, and work effectively.

QUINTANILLA: Senator, thank you. John — Becky?

QUICK: Governor Pataki, let’s get to your point. You wanted to make a comment on the budget. You want to get in on the idea, what would you do if you were in Washington? Would you compromise…

PATAKI: …I think it was a bad deal, but I would have voted for it for a very simple reason. Barack Obama is the first president in American history to hold our military hostage. He knew that we needed funding for overseas contingency operations, $40 million dollars that would go to support our troops. And, he was prepared, and had vetoed it, unless this deal went through.

I have two sons, they both served overseas. One in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan, and I understand that we have got to do far more to help our military, help our veterans, and help protect our security. This is a bad deal, but to protect our military, I would have signed it. Uh, it’s not going to be the case, if I have a chance to lead this country, we’re going to reduce the deficit, shrink the government, lower the tax burden and grow the private sector because that’s how you solve deficits.

QUICK: Governor Pataki, thank you.

John?

PATAKI: Thank you.

HARWOOD: Governor Jindal, a question about fiscal policy, especially since you noted that this deal doesn’t solve the long-term debt situation.

When you came into office with a budget surplus in the state of Louisiana, now, years later, the state legislature faced a $1.6 billion budget gap and the Republican state treasurer called one of your approaches to that problem “nonsense on a stick,” quoting him.

Are you going to do for the federal budget what you did for the Louisiana budget?

JINDAL: Absolutely, Jhon. And what we did is we cut state spending. We’ve cut our budget 26 percent, according to Cato and other analysis, the only candidate that’s actually reduced government spending.

Look, the left always complains there’s not enough money for government. We have 30,000 fewer state employees than the day I took office, eight credit upgrades, we’re a top 10 state for private sector job creation.

We’ve got a choice. You grow the government economy or the American economy. When I became governor, we had 25 years in a row of outmigration. We were coming back from Katrina. The question many were asking, will Louisiana rebuild, should Louisiana rebuild?

Seven years in a row, more people moving into the state than were leaving the state.

We now have more people working than ever before, erg a higher income than ever before.

Yes, we’ve reduced the size of government. That’s exactly what we need to do in DC. In DC, the Republicans slowed the growth rate, they claimed victory. That’s not enough.

Let’s be honest with where we are today. We are running off of a cliff. Look, we’ll be the next Greece and we can talk and we can rearrange the chairs. Over over $18 trillion of debt, no wonder our economy has been stagnant. We haven’t had real growth.

If you’re a young student here, you’ve not seen a robust American economy.

HARWOOD: But Governor Jindal, as you know, many Republicans are opposed to the approach that you’ve taken in Louisiana. They complain that you have tried so hard to avoid anything that could be called a tax increase so that you could run for president saying you’d never raised taxes, David Vitter, the Republican who’s now running to succeed you, has told voters, I won’t be like Jindal, I’m not using the governorship as a stepping stone to higher office.

JINDAL: Well, Jhon, a couple of things.

Not only did we not raise taxes, we did the largest income tax cut in the state’s history. And I’m proud of that record. I think that’s the kind of leadership voters want in DC.

Look, if you want a Republican that’s going go grow government spending, if you want a — a president or if you want a candidate who’s going to income taxes, I’m not your guy.

If you want somebody that’s going to do and say the things that can’t be said, can’t be done, I’m asking a vote for me to join my cause. That’s how dangerous these times are. This is — this is a — this is — these are dangerous times for America. I think we have a chance to rescue the idea of America, but if we don’t do it now, four years will be too late from now.

So, yes, I’m proud we cut taxes, we cut spending, 30,000 fewer state government bureaucrats than the day I took office. I absolutely will do that in DC.

HARWOOD: Governor Jindal, thank you.

JINDAL: Thank you.

HARWOOD: We’re going to take a quick break.

The Republican presidential debate continues live from Boulder, Colorado in a moment. [applause]

[commercial break]

QUINTANILLA: Welcome back to the Republican presidential debate live in boulder, Colorado, on cNBC. We resume our questions now with Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s Mad Money.

CRAMER: Thank you. Governor Pataki, in the wake of the Sony hack last year, you said, quote, “at the very least, we should declare cyber-war on North Korea.”

What does a cyber-war look like? And if our companies are getting attacked by foreign governments, do we need a military response?

PATAKI: No, I don’t think we need a military response, but we need a coordinated response. And I have to say that I think the Obama administration has been completely lax, to say the least, in dealing with these cyber-attacks, not just by governments like North Korea, but by, particularly, Chinese and other companies.

And what I would do is put in place a policy where if we know a company, say, a Chinese company, is hacking into American companies, stealing trade secrets, as we know they do every day, we will retaliate against that company and say that that company’s not going to be allowed to continue to do trade with the United States.

I would also look at what we’re doing at the federal level and put in place what Israel has done: a — one federal agency dealing with cybersecurity and charged with working across silos to make sure we have the best technology.

And, Jim, I’ve gotta tell you something, talking about cybersecurity. Hillary Clinton put a server, an unsecure server, in her home as secretary of state. We have no doubt that that was hacked, and that state secrets are out there to the Iranians, the Russians, the Chinese and others.

That alone should disqualify her from being president of the United States. [applause]

CRAMER: Senator Graham, you’re a hawk. Was that tough enough?

GRAHAM: Here’s the problem. We’re being walked all over because our commander in chief is weak in the eyes of our enemies. Do you think Putin would be in the Ukraine today if Ronald Reagan were president? Why are the Chinese stealing our intellectual property, hacking into our system? Why are they building islands over resource-rich waters? Because they can get away with it.

At the end of the day, ladies and gentlemen, the foreign policy of Barack Obama needs to be replaced, and the last person you want to find to replace his foreign policy is his secretary of state.

So to the Chinese, when it comes to dealing with me, you’ve got a clenched fist or an open hand. You pick. The party’s over, to all the dictators. Make me commander-in-chief and this crap stops. [applause]

CRAMER: Thank you, Senator.

Senator Santorum. We know that a troubling amount of air pollution on the west coast comes from China. Should we enact a pollution tax on products imported from China and give our manufacturers a level playing field?

SANTORUM: What we should be — we shouldn’t be putting tariffs on anything. That hurts working men and women in this country. What we should be doing is making our manufacturing more competitive.

One of the reasons I introduced the 20/20 plan, a 20 percent flat tax on corporations, as well as on individuals, is so we can be competitive, so we can bring those manufacturing jobs back.

You want to talk about cutting pollution? You do a little back- of-the-envelope. We — we produce, per dollar of GDP, about one-fifth of the CO2 and other pollutants that China produces. So we’re five times more efficient in producing goods here, as far as the environment — environment is concerned.

Why don’t we — if we really want to tackle environmental problems, global warming, what we need to do is take those jobs from China and bring them back here to the United States, employ workers in this country.

We’ve lost two million jobs — two million jobs — under this administration in manufacturing — 15,000 manufacturers have left this country. Why? Because of bad tax policy, bad regulatory policy and, yes, bad trade policy.

We need to have a president that’s going to pledge, as I have — I’m going to make America the number-one manufacturer so working men and women can have good paying jobs again in America.

CRAMER: Thank you, Senator. John?

HARWOOD: Governor Jindal, Senator Santorum just raised the issue of corporate taxes, and cutting corporate taxes is very popular in your party because our rate, at 35 percent, is one of the highest in the world. But nobody has figured out how to identify a set of loopholes that would allow that tax rate to be lowered. So can you tell us specifically what loopholes you’d do away with?

JINDAL: Absolutely, John. I’d go further. My tax plan, like everybody’s, like a lot of Republicans’ — look, I’d get rid of the death penalty and the marriage penalty, and I’d simplify the brackets to 25 percent, 10 percent, 2 percent, so that an average middle-class family — a teacher marries a law enforcement official (ph)…

HARWOOD: We’re talking corporate taxes.

JINDAL: …I — I’m gonna get that. Pays 25 percent today, would pay 10 percent under my plan. But my plan does three things different from other people’s plans.

One — remember, I said 2 percent. I think everybody should pay something, even if it’s only 2 percent. That’s the most important 2 percent in my plan.

I know a lot of Republicans brag — y’all can clap, it doesn’t scare me. Go ahead. I heard some people.

There are millions of — there are millions of folks that wouldn’t pay taxes in Jeb’s plan and Trump’s plan. I think that’s a mistake.

In terms of the corporate tax, secondly, I’d get rid of the corporate tax. We do have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. I’d get rid of it. I’d get rid of all the corporate welfare. Make the CEOs pay their same tax rates the way the rest of us do.

And third, I’d purposely shrink the size of government. You know, that is a — that is an intentional feature of my plan. We’ve got a choice: do we grow government — the government economy, or the American economy?

So I say get rid of the corporate tax, bring those jobs and investment here to the United States, stop sending jobs and investment overseas.

HARWOOD: Thanks, Governor. Becky?

QUICK: Governor Pataki, let’s talk a little bit about what’s happened on Wall Street. Some of your colleagues in the Republican Party, including some of the people on this stage, have bashed Wall Street. They say that it was largely responsible for the financial crisis.

You’re a former governor of New York, and you relied very heavily on Wall Street for income. Do you think they’ve gone too far?

PATAKI: I think they have gone too far. I think we’ve seen Wall Street really blossom and do very well while the rest of the country is struggling, and it’s because we have this corrupt connection between Wall Street and Washington.

And, John, you were just talking about what loopholes would you get rid of. I would get rid of virtually every single one of them. They cost American taxpayers $1.4 trillion a year. I would throw them all out.

HARWOOD: So the tax credit right now that we have for domestic manufacturing, which manufacturers say is…

PATAKI: No, I wouldn’t. I was going to say…

HARWOOD: …important, you would get rid of that?

PATAKI: …no, I would keep — first, yes, but what I would do is ii would lower the tax on manufacturing to the lowest in the developed world — 12 percent.

We all have plans. I have a plan. We all have plans. My plan, the Tax Foundation said, would create five and a half million new jobs over the next decade.

The difference, though, is I will get my plan enacted because, when I was governor of New York, I passed sweeping tax code — cuts in a Democratic state with a Democratic legislature.

I — you know, Bobby, you’re talking about your tax cuts? I cut taxes more than everybody on this stage, more than everybody on the next stage, combined. By more than the other 49 states, in New York state.

I don’t just have a plan. I will enact tax cuts, get rid of those loopholes and make the system fairer for all Americans.

QUICK: Governor Pataki, thank you.

PATAKI: Thank you.

QUICK: Carl?

QUINTANILLA: Senator Graham. You have said you believe that climate change is real. You’ve said you accept tax increases as part of a budget deal with Democrats. You’ve co-sponsored a Senate immigration bill providing a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

Are you in the wrong party’s debate? [laughter]

GRAHAM: No, I — I think I’m trying to solve problems that somebody had better solve.

Now, you don’t have to believe that climate change is real. I have been to the Antarctic. I’ve been to Alaska. I’m not a scientist, and I’ve got the grades to prove it. [laughter]

But I’ve talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me that greenhouse gas effect is real. That we’re heating up the planet. I just want a solution that would be good for the economy, that doesn’t destroy it.

I want to fix an immigration system. I’m not gonna tell you, if you like your doctor, you can keep it — keep him. Do you like your health care, you’re gonna keep it. I’m tired of telling people things that they want to hear, that we know we’re not gonna do.

We’re not gonna eliminate the corporate tax. But we can make it lower. We’re going to fix immigration, only if we work together. I want to secure the border because, if we don’t, we’re going to get hurt and hit again.

I want to fix a broken visa system. I want to increase legal immigration, because we’re gonna have a shortage of workers over time. As to the 11 million, I want to talk about fixing the problem. We’re not going to deport 11 million people and their legal citizen children.

But we will deport felons. And those who stay will have to learn our language to stay, because I don’t speak it well but look how far I’ve come.

[crosstalk]

GRAHAM: At the end of the day, folks, I am trying to solve a problem and win an election. I am tired of losing.

Good God, look who we’re running against. The number one candidate on the other side thought she was flat broke after her and her husband were in the White House for eight years. The number two guy went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon and I don’t think he ever came back. [laughter]

If we don’t beat these people, who the hell are we going to beat?

[crosstalk]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, you’re well over your minute but thank you for that.

We will be back from Boulder, Colorado, in just a moment.

[commercial break]

QUICK: Welcome back, everyone. This is the Republican Presidential Debate on CNBC, live from the University of Colorado.

Senator Santorum, I’d like to go to you. You have talked an awful lot about how you want to protect American jobs by eliminating the number of immigrants who come into this country.

But very recently, the CEO of Toll Brothers told that he can’t get by without immigrants because they make up more than half of his workforce at this point. We’re not talking about people who are making minimum wage but he can’t find Americans who want to do these jobs for $20-an-hour-plus jobs.

What would happen if your plans are successful? What happens and how would we fill that hole in the economy, that gap that’s created?

Well, as you know, Becky, we have the lowest labor participation rate in 50 years and we also have the slowest growth in wages in the history of our country, any 20-year period. In fact, the last quarter had the lowest wage growth ever recorded. And so you look at the fact that we’ve brought in 35 million — 35 million legal and illegal immigrants over the last 20 years, more than any period in American history, we have low wages, low participation waits. Maybe — rates.

Maybe there’s something going on like we aren’t — we aren’t — we don’t have the — the right match, right?

We don’t — we aren’t giving the training and the investment in our workers and we’re bringing in people to compete against low wage workers. That’s what’s happening.

We are — we have an immigration policy that Senator Graham supported that brings in even more low wage workers into this country. He says he wants to solve problems, that’s great. But you’re not solving problems for American wage earners. You’re not solving problems for workers in America who have seen their wages flat line and have been disaffected enough to leave the workplace.

We need to get better training and better skills, including vocational education and — and training in this — in those — and — and cut — community colleges. But the bottom line is, we have to make sure that we are not flooding this country…

All right…

SANTORUM: — with competition…

QUICK: Senator, I’m sorry your minute is up.

SANTORUM: — for low wage workers.

QUICK: Thank you very much, Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: [inaudible] and I…

QUICK: And Graham, Mr. Graham, yes, that was a question to you, too.

GRAHAM: The first thing…

QUICK: You have 30 seconds.

GRAHAM: — that we have to do is come to grips with the reality that we’re facing as Americans. In 1950, there were 16 workers for every Social Security recipient. Today, there’s three. In 20 years, there are two.

I want to make sure that no American company leaves America because you can’t find a worker.

American workers always get the first preference. But if you can’t find an American worker, after you advertise at a competitive wage, I don’t want you to be at a loss. Bring people in based on merit. Let’s take a broken immigration…

QUICK: Senator Graham, thank you.

GRAHAM: — system…

QUICK: I’m sorry. That’s your 30 seconds…

GRAHAM: — and make a merit-based immigration system that will help our economy. We’re going to need workers in the future.

QUICK: Senator Graham…

GRAHAM: Let’s just choose rationally.

QUICK: Thank you, Senator.

[crosstalk]

QUICK: Gentlemen, hold on a second.

PATAKI: Let me — let me try to get a word in edgewise.

QUICK: Go ahead,

SANTORUM: That’s not what’s happening.

PATAKI: In Washington, they talk over each other…

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each one…

[crosstalk]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, let’s — let’s have — let Governor Pataki have a chance to speak.

PATAKI: Yes. Very simply, you guys talk over each other in Washington all the time. I’m not used to that. I listen when people talk.

We have a skills gap. You mentioned the construction company. The construction industry says one of their biggest problems are they can’t find the craftsmen to do the work.

What we have to…

[crosstalk]

PATAKI: — do in America is honor blue collar work again. We have to honor the carpenter, the plumber, the electrician, who can actually build something and instead of just saying that a college degree live — delivers prestige, let’s celebrate those who do things with their hands and elevate their skills using training in high school and community…

QUICK: Governor Pataki…

PATAKI: — colleges so that we can…

QUICK: — I’m sorry, that was a…

[crosstalk]

PATAKI: — have a better quality workforce that we honor…

QUICK: Governor Pataki…

PATAKI: — as they build America’s future.

QUICK: I’m sorry to talk over you, sir.

That was a minute.

PATAKI: Thank you.

QUICK: Thank you very much.

PATAKI: Thank you.

QUICK: Carl?

QUINTANILLA: My question for Governor Jindal, Paul Ryan says he would take the speaker job if it did not take away from his family time. The Department of Labor says 13 percent of American workers are eligible for paid family leave and the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world not to have guaranteed paid maternity leave for new moms.

Should the government work to change that?

JINDAL: Look, I think the government should work to change that, but that doesn’t — does not mean I’m for the government mandating that.

We already have too many government mandates out of DC.

Do I want people to have paid leave?

Sure.

Do I want people to earn higher wages?

Sure.

Do I want them to have better benefits?

Sure. The government can’t wave a magic wand and make that happen.

Here’s the problem. The last seven years, President Obama has tried to teach the American people that government is the answer to all of our problems.

Where has that gotten us?

We’re on a path toward socialism. The way that folks can get better paying jobs with better benefits is if we have a growing economy. That means to repeal all of ObamaCare, a lower flatter tax code.

That means that we have an energy plan that makes sense. That means that we embrace an all of the above approach to energy. Those are good paying jobs — $50,000, $70,000, $90,000 a year jobs with benefits.

But this president won’t let us produce more energy on our domestic federal lands and waters. He won’t allow the Canadians to build the Keystone Pipeline. He’s got an EPA that’s doing everything they can to kill private sector jobs in America.

So, yes, I want families to have better paying jobs and better benefits, but we’re not going to get that with a government mandate, we’re going to get that with a growing economy.

QUINTANILLA: Governor, thank you. [applause]

John?

HARWOOD: Senator Graham, Americans have gotten used to seeing headlines about more and more big corporations relocating overseas to cut their tax bill. Now, many in Washington think the way to stop that is to lower our corporate tax rate.

But as we’ve seen, tax reform takes time. It hasn’t happened yet.

In the meantime, do you fault those companies for leaving?

Do companies owe anything to their country, as well as their shareholders?

GRAHAM: We owe to every businessperson and worker in America the best environment in the world to create a job. We owe that to American businesses. Thirty-five percent corporate tax rate is the second highest in the world.

We need to lower it so they don’t leave. The goal is to help the middle class. We can talk about corporations all day long but my goal is to help the middle class, somebody who makes too much to be on government assistance but still lives paycheck to paycheck.

When the kid gets sick you don’t go on vacation.

[crosstalk]

GRAHAM: That’s the purpose of my presidency, to grow the economy here. And let me tell you, our Democratic friends have a list a mile long of more government. That’s not going to grow the middle class, that’s going to create a burden on your children, which they’re already overburdened. The best way to grow the middle class is to make it a good place to create a job.

You know why Boeing came to South Carolina when they could have gone anywhere to build the 787?

Because we wanted them. We had a low-tax structure.

HARWOOD: Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: A permitting structure that allowed them to build the building even faster than they thought they could build it. We welcomed them there. I’m going to take the South Carolina attitude —

HARWOOD: I want to remind candidates, you’ve got a one-minute limit on the — on the response.

But I just want to follow up, Senator Graham. Four years ago, the nominee of your party said that corporations are people, too.

If that is true, the question is, do they owe any obligation to the country?

GRAHAM: I think everybody owes an obligation to the country. The ones that I’m most worried about are the 1 percent of Americans in uniform, who have been fighting this war for 14 years. They need a commander in chief who knows what the hell they’re doing.

My first job as President of the United States is to rebuild the military and use it smartly. Admiral Mullen said the debt is a big threat to our national security. He’s right. But people go where they’re welcome when it comes to job creation.

If I’m President of the United States you will be welcomed in America.

HARWOOD: Senator Graham —

GRAHAM: This will be the place to come —

HARWOOD: — thank you very much.

GRAHAM: And if I’m president of the United States —

HARWOOD: We’re moving on.

GRAHAM: — our enemies —

QUICK: You guys are making this just like home. This is just like [inaudible].

[crosstalk]

HARWOOD: Senator, we’re moving on.

I’d like to bring on my colleague, Rick Santelli — Rick.

SANTELLI: Thanks, John.

Governor Pataki.

PATAKI: Hey, Rick.

SANTELLI: How are you doing tonight?

PATAKI: I’m doing great.

SANTELLI: Listen, America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, they’ve kept interest rates near zero since the 2008 financial crisis.

And, by the way, they had a meeting today, you think they raised rates?

No.

Shocking, isn’t it?

PATAKI: Not at all.

SANTELLI: Listen, it’s been a rough ride for American savers and retirees, they really rely on this interest income. And it’s been a bonanza for the stock market, a bonanza.

And for investors that like the little bit more risk, it’s been a bonanza for them as well.

So I guess what I’m asking is, do you think this policy is fair and do you support it?

PATAKI: No, I don’t support it. But let me go back a little bit here. We need to grow our economy faster. We’ve had the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. And it’s because of policy in Washington and policy at the Fed.

And let me go back to Washington. In 2009 —

HARWOOD: Senator, that — I mean, Governor, if that’s true, why was our economy limping six years ago and now it’s the strongest in the world?

PATAKI: John, no question Barack Obama inherited a economic disaster in 2009.

But what did he do?

Instead of focusing on pro-growth policies in the economy, he rammed through ObamaCare, the worst law of my lifetime, that hurt small businesses, hurt companies, raised taxes and almost completely eliminated one industry because of its taxes.

The Fed had to act. And the Fed did act and appropriately in reducing interest rates but they’ve reduced them now for seven straight years, that’s never happened before. They’ve been zero for way too long.

They should raise the rates; the Fed should get out of manipulating the market and the Fed also, by the way, should reduce its balance sheet, $2.7 trillion. Let some of those bonds mature and put the money back in the banking system so our economy can grow.

SANTELLI: Thanks, Governor.

Senator Santorum, in the 2012 presidential debate, you were for the export-import bank, which facilitates government funding for U.S. exports. American companies like GE and Boeing are among the beneficiaries.

But you said that killing the bank here — and I’m going to quote you — “is the last thing a true conservative should be doing.”

I don’t know, government-backed funding isn’t normally what I hear from true conservatives.

So why is this situation different?

SANTORUM: A true conservative wants to create a level playing field. That’s what — that’s what we’re — that’s what government is supposed to do. They’re not supposed to favor one group over another.

And when it comes to our manufacturers, the level playing field is not in the United States. It’s international. And so the federal government should have laws, tax laws, regulatory laws and, yes, finance laws. There’s 60 other ex-im banks all over — all over the world.

Every major competitor for the United States’ manufacturing dollar has one of those banks.

And guess what? They use those banks a heck of a lot more than their — than the United States of America does, number one.

So in order to have a level playing field, which is what conservatives talk about all the time, level playing field, then we have to have export financing and here’s why.Because export financing doesn’t help Boeing, or G.E.

G.E. just lost a contract, you know what they did? They went to . They got the X.M. (ph) bank in France to support it, and what did they do? They moved manufacturing out of South Carolina, out of Texas, moved to — Hungary, and to France. G.E. is still making money. G.E. is still doing well, but American workers are out of jobs. That’s why we have to have this level playing field so we can compete with the rest of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Senator.

QUINTANILLA: CNBC’s coverage of the Republican presidential debate continues, live from the University of COlorado after this short break. [applause]

[commercial break]

QUINTANILLA: Welcome back to the University of Colorado, and the Republican Presidential Debate on CNBC. [applause]

A question for Senator Santorum. People in this state have loved Coors Beer since it was founded in 1873. I can atest…[cheering and applause]

Now, the brewer later became part of SABMiller, but, now SAB may be bought by Budweiser owner, InBev. Is it right to have a third of brewers in this country owned by one company, and do you fear a company that size will have too much power over consumers.

SANTORUM: Well, first, since you mention Colorado, I want to thank the people of Colorado because four years ago you — gave me the honor of winning the nomination out here in the state of Colorado. On a night we won three states, and it catapulted us to win 11 states ultimately, so, I just want to thank you very, very much for that support, and — in response to that, I do drink a lot of Coors beer, so…[laughter]

I try to help. The answer is pretty simple. The answer is simple. There are no shortage of breweries around the United States of America. I — I do — as I travel around the country, I do pints and politics, and I go to breweries all over the place, and there — there’s almost no town in America anymore that doesn’t have a brewery, so I don’t think we need to worry too much.

They’re obviously — if there’s — if there’s some anti- competitive issues, you know, we have agencies to look at that. But, no, I’m not — I’m not concerned that Americans are not going to have choices in beer.

QUINTANILLA: Well, let’s get to that. I mean, another example, for example, is Walgreens.

SANTORUM: And I care about, by the way. I care about choices.

QUINTANILLA: I’m sure you do. [laughter]

Walgreens/Rite Aid. Big deal, consolidation in drug stores, semiconductors, food. What is the line at which something becomes anti-competitive in your view?

SANTORUM: Well, I — I would say this, that what you’re seeing is — in health care, you’re seeing a lot of consolidation, and that consolidation is occurring because of Obamacare.

You’re seeing it particularly in an area that I am concerned about, and that’s in insurance — health insurance. You’re seeing the big health insurance companies fold up.

You’ve seen Obama try to seed health insurance companies, and they’ve all failed, I think, except one. Why? Because we have a system of Obamacare with minimum loss ratios that make it virtually impossible for a small insurer to operate effectively.

And this was the motive behind Obamacare. This wasn’t incidental. This was deliberate, to make it so impossible for small insurers to survive…

QUINTANILLA: Senator.

SANTORUM: …that they consolidate into a small group. Then the left can say, “there is no competition, we need a single payer.” That’s why we have to repeal Obamacare. [applause]

QUINTANILLA: Thank you. Becky.

QUICK: Governor Jindal, I want to go back to something that you mentioned before with your tax plan. I know that you want to put a 2 percent tax on all families, just to make sure everyone has some skin in the game.

But every working American pays 6.2 percent, when it comes to Social Security taxes. They pay another 1.45 percent of Medicare. Isn’t that skin in the game?

JINDAL: A couple things. You’re talking about payroll taxes that fund programs. People pay for their Medicare, they pay for their Social Security.

I want every American to worry and care about how those folks in D.C. are spending our money. If $18 trillion of debt — they’re misspending our money. Earned success is so much more fulfilling than unearned success.

I don’t want us to continue to create one class of Americans that pays income taxes, that pays for government, another class of Americans that’s growing more and more dependent on government.

That’s what we have today. Socialism is bad, not only for taxpayers, but people that they say they’re trying to help. There’s dignity in work, dignity in self-sufficiency.

I wanna quote you a president. Our previous president said this: he said, “the problem is, is that tax rates are too high, government income revenues are too low.”

He said, “paradoxically, lowering tax rates now is the best way to produce higher government revenues later.” No, that wasn’t President Reagan, as many are probably guessing at home. That was President Kennedy.

I see you know the answer. That was President Kennedy. Imagine if he were alive today — and if he was at that last Democratic debate, imagine if you tried to say that in a party that’s veering towards socialism. That wouldn’t be welcome in today’s Democratic party.

QUICK: Governor, thank you.

HARWOOD: Governor Pataki, you’ve indicated you believe climate change is real and caused at least in part by human activity. So, in 60 seconds, tell us what the federal government should do about it.

PATAKI: Yeah, absolutely. I — one of the things that troubles me about the Republican Party is too often we question science that everyone accepts. I mean, it’s ridiculous that, in the 21st century, we’re questioning whether or not vaccines are the appropriate way to go. Of course they are. And it’s also not appropriate to think that human activity, putting CO2 into the atmosphere, doesn’t make the earth warmer. All things being equal, it does. It’s uncontroverted.

I think part of the problem is that Republicans think about climate change, say, “oh my God, we’re gonna have higher taxes, more Obama, more big government, the EPA shutting down factories.”

That’s not the solution that I see. I want Republicans to embrace innovation and technology. You know, there’s one country in the world that has fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the rest of — of the world. You know what that is? The United States.

Our emissions are lower than they were in 1995. Not because of a — of a government program, but because of fracking, private sector creation…

[crosstalk]

HARWOOD: Is there a role for government?

PATAKI: …replace coal plants — government’s roles — is to incentivize innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit in America. We could have far more clean energy.

We could have next-generation nuclear, thorium reactors that have no risk of meltdown. We could have solar panels on every home that are four times more efficient than today.

HARWOOD: So, subsidies for those programs? For — for those alternative energy sources?

PATAKI: R&D — R&D credits. Let the private sector do this, develop this innovation. And not only would we solve our problems, we would have clean energy, cheaper energy here.

We could export those technologies to places like China and like India so we would grow our economy, have a far greater impact globally, have a secure domestic source of energy, and cleaner, healthier air.

That’s the solution. Embrace science, embrace innovation and change.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Governor. Carl? [applause]

QUINTANILLA: Question for Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: Thank you. Can I just say something about that?

QUINTANILLA: After this question maybe. [laughter]

The 2015 Nobel Prize winner for economics argues that slow growth causes poverty, and that leads to inequality. What would you do to ease inequality? And what would you do solve poverty? By the way, thanks to Larry Kudlow, CNBC, for this question.

SANTORUM: Well, if you look at our plan that I introduced, the 2020 Clear Vision for America, we increase growth by 10 percent, 1 percent a year. So we go from 2.3 to 3.3, in repealing Obamacare, it’s another .7. So you’re looking at 4 percent growth, according to the Tax Foundation.

And unlike Donald Trump and Bobby Jindal, we don’t add $10 trillion to the deficit. In fact, our plan, while it creates as many jobs as their plan does and grows the economy as much as theirs does, we are a revenue-neutral plan because I believe that we need to reduce the size of government, yes, but we also need to reduce our deficit, and we need to get our budget balanced so we can start paying down this debt. And adding a trillion dollars with a tax cut and getting no more growth is not the way to do it.

But that’s only half of it. The word “economy” comes from the Greek “euthokis” (ph) which means family. The family is the first economy. And the one thing that we do not talk about enough is how stable families are vitally important for the middle of America to be prosperous and to grow and be safe. And I will have policies, not just tax policies, but others that will make sure that families are strong again in America.

QUINTANILLA: Governor Jindal, I’ll give you 30 seconds on this.

JINDAL: Well, thank you.

Look, if Senator Santorum wants to concede the tax cut wing of the Republican Party, I’m happy to fight for that side of the Republican Party. He’s exactly right. I explicitly want to shrink the size of government; 22 percent over 10 years is not too much. We cut our state budget 26 percent in eight years.

This is a fundamental choice. We mustn’t become a cheaper version of the Democratic Party, a second liberal party. We need to proudly say we’re willing to cut taxes, shrink government, grow the American economy. President Kennedy said it to the Democratic Party. Why can’t we say it in the Republican Party in 2015, let’s cut taxes.

HARWOOD: Governor, if you cut spending and cut government so much, why did your legislature have such a big deficit?

JINDAL: John, our budget is balanced. We balanced our budget every year for eight years. Yeah, we’ve had to cut spending. You know what? We privatized or closed nine of our 10 charity hospitals. We did statewide school choice; $1.6 billion (ph) budget cut.

You’re quoting an old number from the beginning of the year. We closed that gap. What they talk about, just like D.C., government’s the only place where you give them less money than they wanted, they count it as a cut. They take last year’s budget. They add inflation. They call it a baseline. We need to do zero-based budgets. We need to say just because you got money last year, you don’t have it this year.

Let me close, though. We balanced our budget. We didn’t raise taxes. In eight years, we never raised taxes. We cut taxes. Our — our taxpayers, our families have been better off for it.

[crosstalk]

HARWOOD: No, we’re going to move on. I’m going to bring on my colleague Sharon Epperson.

EPPERSON: Thank you, John.

Senator Graham, one in every four workers has saved less than $1,000 for retirement. Millions of Americans rely on their Social Security benefits for the majority of their retirement income. Now, you called for reforms to Social Security, but what would you do to fix the other part of the problem for future retirees and get people to save more?

GRAHAM: Well, number one, Social Security is not just a concept to me. I know why it exists; 50 percent of today’s seniors would be in poverty without a Social Security check. I promise you, if you make me your president, I will save Social Security because I know why it exists.

Now, if you’re looking for good beer policy, I’m your best bet. My dad owned a bar. [laughter]

I know beer. We grew up, my sister and myself, in the back of that bar in one room with my mom, my dad and my sister who’s nine years younger. When I was 21, my mom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Neither parent finished high school. She died within a year. We were wiped out from the medical bills. And if it wasn’t for a Social Security survivor benefit check coming into my family, we wouldn’t’ have made it because my dad died 15 months later.

So I…

EPPERSON: But Senator Graham…

GRAHAM: Wait a minute, please. I’m 22 and we’re wiped out. I am 60. I’m not married. I have a military retirement. I’m in good shape. I would give up some of my benefits to help those who need it more than I do.

To young people here, I will ask you to work a little bit longer because we have to. The purpose of my presidency is to save this country and to save Social Security by working across the aisle just like Ronald Reagan. This is the biggest issue facing this nation.

EPPERSON: Thank you, Senator Graham. Thank you, Senator Graham.

Governor Jindal, you’ve been a strong supporter of for-profit colleges. These are institutions that educate many veterans, minorities and working class Americans. They make up about 11 percent of the college population at these schools, but they account for 44 percent of student loan defaults. Should for-profit schools be held accountable when they take taxpayer money and leave students deep in debt?

JINDAL: [inaudible] absolutely they should be accountable. They should be accountable to their students through the market. Look, you either trust the American people to make their own choices or you don’t.

I know the Left thinks we need to be protected from ourselves. President Obama is trying to limit competition to the higher education market. As a result, you’re going to see tuition prices continue to go up. We’ve had $1 trillion of student debt and counting. And he wants to exempt certain schools from the same oversight he wants to apply only to the for-profit market.

For some reason, the private sector is a bad word to this president. It’s not in the real world.

In Louisiana, we fought so that the dollars follow the child and so the child following the dollar. What that means, from K-12, what that means is that parents and their families can decide what’s the best way for their children to be educated. Higher education, we have a TOPS program, where, again, we will help if a student maintains a 20 ACT, 2.5 GPA, we’ll pay for their tuition. They can take those dollars for private school of their choice in the state as well.

You either trust the American people or you don’t. I know the Left doesn’t. That’s why you get ObamaCare. They want to tell us what kind of insurance to buy. That’s why you get Common Core, they want to take away our gun rights under the Second Amendment. They want to take away our religious liberty rights.

So, yes, there’s accountability. There’s accountability to students through choice and competition. We don’t need the nanny state to protect us from ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Governor Jindal. [applause]

HARWOOD: And thank you, Sharon.

This is the Republican Presidential Debate, live from Boulder, Colorado. We’ll be right back. [applause]

[commercial break]

[applause]

QUICK: Welcome back to Boulder, Colorado, and the Republican presidential debate right here on CNBC.

Gentlemen, this is our lightning round, where we have some questions for you we hope you can answer in 20 seconds or less. And we will go right down the line on this.

Governor Jindal, I’ll start with you.

We’re wondering, what are the three apps that you use most frequently on your cellphone?

JINDAL: I was just saying to my colleagues, I may be the last person in this audience without an iPhone. I’m actually one of the last folks — I still have a BlackBerry in my pocket. And I basically use it for scheduling. I use it to keep up when my wife is here and my three kids at home.

The only games on that phone are Bricklayer. I use it to keep up with the news through the Internet. I may be the last American out there without an iPhone.

QUICK: No, no.

JINDAL: My apologies.

QUICK: I — I’m with you. I still have a BlackBerry, too.

Senator — Senator Santorum, how about you?

SANTORUM: MLB, NHL, so I’m a big sports fan. And “The Wall Street Journal.” Those are the three apps I use the most.

QUICK: Thank you.

Governor?

PATAKI: The one I use the most is Uber. You know, I used to get driven…[laughter]…when I was governor, I had a driver. I don’t anymore, but…[crosstalk]. And it’s an example of what millennials are doing to change America for the better. And I tweet a lot, too.

So Uber, Tweet — Twitter and then I communicate with my family.

QUICK: Thank you.

Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: Well, number one, the only reason I have an iPhone is because I gave my number to Donald Trump. Don’t do that. [laughter]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor…

GRAHAM: Donald has done more to upgrade my technology than my whole staff.

Number one, Fox News. Sorry about CNBC. [laughter]

We’re in a Republican primary here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks. Thanks a lot.

QUICK: We take your time back. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time is up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut his microphone.

QUINTANILLA: We’ve got one more. One more lightning round.

Governor Jindal, should the day after the Super Bowl be a national holiday? [laughter]

JINDAL: Well, absolutely, when the Saints go back to repeat, we were talking about beer sales earlier, all those folks from being hung over in Louisiana from drinking to celebrate Drew Brees winning this, I think it would be a great day to take off.

No, look, on a serious note, I do want to say this about the Super Bowl and our athletes. They can be great role models for our children and I’m obviously a Saints fan. Drew Brees and his wife great role models, great Christians.

So, yes, it should be a holiday.

QUINTANILLA: Senator?

SANTORUM: Well, since we’re usually in the Super Bowl at the Pittsburgh Steelers…

Steeler nation, anybody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

SANTORUM: No. I was in…[crosstalk]…was in Kansas City over the weekend to watch the Steeler game and about a third of the crowd were Steeler fans. So I’m usually not alone when I call on Steeler Nation.

But we are used to being in the Super Bowl, so actually, it is in Pennsylvania already.

QUINTANILLA: Governor?

PATAKI: I — I am a long suffering Jets fan. So my answer is obviously no, there’s no reason to take off the day after the Super Bowl. [applause]

But let me just add this. The Mets are going to win tonight. Let’s go, Mets.

QUINTANILLA: Finally, Senator?

GRAHAM: Well, I think a national holiday would be the day that commander-in-chief Barack Obama doesn’t have that job. [applause]

But unlike these other three, I want to win New Hampshire. Go Tom Brady. Go Patriots. [laughter]

Sorry, Colorado is late in the…

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Panderer.

[crosstalk]

QUICK: John?

HARWOOD: OK, now we’re at the point of the evening where we’re just about to give our candidates a holiday from this debate, but not before they tell us in 30 seconds their closing statements.

Senator Graham, you’re first.

GRAHAM: Somebody said — or maybe I saw it on the bill of a cap — that let’s make America great again. [laughter]

America is great. [applause]

I intend to make America strong again. I’m going to be the champion of the middle class, where I came from. If you make me your president, our best days are ahead. I’m ready to be commander- in-chief, ladies and gentlemen, on day one. I intend to war — win a war that we cannot afford to lose.

I will be a commander-in-chief worthy of the sacrifice of those brave Americans who have been defending our nation. They have had our back. God knows, they have had our back…

HARWOOD: Senator Graham…

GRAHAM: — and I intend to have their back as commander-in- chief. Make me commander-in-chief.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Senator Graham.

Governor Pataki?

PATAKI: Thank you for the opportunity to be with this great audience tonight.

I’m a limited government conservative and I mean by that that not just when it comes to economic issues leaving them to the state, but social issues, as well.

And in that I differ from every single other candidate seeking the Republican nomination.

I take the Tenth Amendment very, very seriously.

I’m a Republican who embraces science and understands we have to work with the next generation of millennials to have the innovation and technology so that we can grow a 21st century economy.

And I’m a Republican who understands in Washington, when you’re a leader, you have to put aside partisan politics to do what’s right for the people.

We are one America. If we work together across party lines, there’s no problem we can’t solve and the 21st century will be America’s greatest century.

Thank you very much.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Governor. [applause]

Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I grew up in a steel town of Western Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, and when I announced for president, I announced from the factory floor. When I talk about making America the number one manufacturer again in the world, it’s not just talk. When I talk about having the opportunity for people to rise again, it’s not just because it polls well.

I represented the old steel valley of Pittsburgh. I represented a 70% Democratic district, and won with 60% of the vote. Why? Because I aligned myself with working men and women who feel that neither party, and certainly not Washington D.C. cares about them.

You elect me, we will get American workers on the side of the Republican party, and we can not be stopped if we do. [applause]

HARWOOD: Senator Santorum, thank you. Governor Jindal?

JINDAL: My message is to conservatives, this is our hour. Thanks to the insanity, the incompetence of the Democratic party, the American people are ready to turn our government over to us. It’s not enough to let just any Republican, however. The reality is the idea of America is slipping away.

As Christians, we believe that the tomb is empty. As Americans, we believe that our best days are always ahead of us, and they can be again. We must win this election. We cannot allow Hillary Clinton to take us down this path towards socialism — further down this path.

I’ve got the courage to apply our conservative principles. I can’t do it alone. With your help, with God’s grace, we can save the idea of America before it’s too late.

HARWOOD: Governor Jindal, thank you very much. Carl?

QUINTANILLA: That concludes our first part of the evening.

 

 

 

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 23, 2012: MSNBC / NBC News / National Journal / Tampa Bay Times / Florida Council of 100 Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Tampa, Florida January 23, 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:
Brian Williams (NBC News)

WILLIAMS: As for topics, it’s a wide-open evening, so let’s begin.

First of all, since we last gathered, three of you on stage have enjoyed victories, an unprecedented moment in the modern era, three separate candidates, three separate victories. Congratulations to you. In all three contests, the voters made it clear to pollsters and elsewhere that electability was a crucial element to them, a crucial argument this year.

And so, speaker Gingrich, on electability to begin with, your rival, your opponent on this stage, Governor Romney, was out today calling you erratic, a failed leader, and warning that your nomination for this party could perhaps result in what he called an “October surprise a day.” So given the fact that he went after you today on this topic of electability, your response tonight, Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, in 1980, when Ronald Reagan started the year about 30 points behind Jimmy Carter and when the Republican establishment described his economic ideas as “voodoo economics,” Reagan just cheerfully went out and won the debate, won the nomination, and won the general election carrying more states than Herbert Hoover carried — than Roosevelt carried against Herbert Hoover. I would suggest that a solid conservative who believes in economic growth through lower taxes and less regulation, who believes in an American energy program, who believes in a strong national defense, and who has the courage to stand up to the Washington establishment, may make the Washington establishment uncomfortable, but is also exactly the kind of bold, tough leader the American people want, they’re not sending somebody to Washington to manage the decay. They’re sending somebody to Washington to change it, and that requires somebody who’s prepared to be controversial when necessary.

WILLIAMS: And about your problems, your departure from the speakership in the ’90s, what’s the case you make to the American people and voters in Republican primary contests about how you’ve changed, Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, the case I make is that, when I was speaker, we had four consecutive balanced budgets, the only time in your lifetime, Brian, that we’ve had four consecutive balanced budgets. Most people think that’s good.

We were down to 4.2 percent unemployment; 11 million new jobs were created. Most people think that’s good. We reformed welfare. And two out of three people went to work or went to school. People think that’s good.

I left the speakership after the 1998 election because I took responsibility for the fact that our results weren’t as good as they should be. I think that’s what a leader should do. I took responsibility, and I didn’t want to stay around, as Nancy Pelosi has. I wanted to get out and do other things. I founded four small businesses. And I’m very comfortable that my four years as speaker, working with a Democratic president, achieved the kind of conservative values that most Republicans want to have in a president.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, for his part, the speaker said about you that were dancing on eggs during this campaign, a good salesman with a weak product. And even Chris Christie, one of the most popular politicians in this country, speaking on your behalf, said this weekend your challenge is “going to be how to connect with people.”

Same question to you about electability.

ROMNEY: Well, I think this is going to come down to a question of leadership. I think as you choose the president of the United States, you’re looking for a person who can lead this country in a very critical time, lead the free world, and the free world has to lead the entire world.

I think it’s about leadership, and the Speaker was given an opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994. And at the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace.

Now, in the 1970s, he came to Washington. I went to work in my first job in the 1970s at the bottom level of a consulting firm. In the 1990s, he had to resign in disgrace from this job as Speaker.

I had the opportunity to go off and run the Olympic winter games. In the 15 years after he left the speakership, the Speaker has been working as an influence peddler in Washington. And during those 15 years, I helped turn around the Olympics, helped begin a very successful turnaround in the state of Massachusetts.

The Speaker — when I was fighting against cap and trade, the Speaker was sitting down with Nancy Pelosi on a sofa encouraging it. When I was fighting to say that the Paul Ryan plan to solve Medicare was bold and right, he was saying that it was right wing social engineering.

So we have very different perspectives on leadership, and the kind of leadership that our conservative movement needs not just to get elected, but to get the country right.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I’m not going to spend the evening trying to chase Governor Romney’s misinformation. We’ll have a site at Newt.org by tomorrow morning. We’ll list everything — he just said at least four things that are false. I don’t want to waste the time on them. I think the American public deserve a discussion about how to beat Barack Obama, the American public deserves a discussion of what we would do about the economy. And I just think this is the worst kind of trivial politics.

I mean, he said at least four things that were false. We have an ad in which both John McCain and Mike Huckabee in 2007 and 2008 explain how much they think Governor Romney can’t tell the truth.

I just suggest people look at them. Don’t listen to me, don’t believe me. Just look at the ad with Mike Huckabee and Senator McCain and you will understand exactly what you just saw.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, to your electability, let’s talk about the southern base of the GOP. Among those who describe themselves as very conservative, only one in five have gone your way.

How is that going to bode well for the longer campaign?

ROMNEY: Had a great record, as you know, in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire voters overwhelmingly supported me. Actually, among Republicans in New Hampshire, I got the biggest support that we have seen among Republicans, even including Ronald Reagan, that far back. So I’m pleased I will be able to connect well with our Republican base.

But let’s go back to what the Speaker mentioned with regards to leadership, and that is — I mean, we don’t have to take my word for the facts. They’re accurate. I will point out that they are accurate. But the truth is that the members of his own team, his congressional team, after his four years of leadership, they moved to replace him. They also took a vote, and 88 percent of Republicans voted to reprimand the Speaker, and he did resign in disgrace after that.

This was the first time in American history that a Speaker of the House has resigned from the House. And so that was the judgment rendered by his own people as to his leadership.

Look, don’t forget at the end of the Speaker’s term as Speaker, his approval rating was down to 18 percent. We suffered historic losses after his four years in office.

And I’ll make this other point, which is we just learned today that his contract with Freddie Mac was provided by the lobbyists at Freddie Mac. I don’t think we can possibly retake the White House if the person who’s leading our party is the person who was working for the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac was paying Speaker Gingrich $1,600,000 at the same time Freddie Mac was costing the people of Florida millions upon millions of dollars.

WILLIAMS: Do you realize last week, Governor, you said that — you complained that too much of your time on stage lately has been spent on negativity vis-a-vis the other candidates? You pledged to spend your time going after the incumbent president, yet here we are again.

ROMNEY: I’ll tell you why, which is I learned something from that last contest in South Carolina, and that was I had incoming from all directions, was overwhelmed with a lot of attacks. And I’m not going to sit back and get attacked day in and day out without returning fire.

I would like not to have the kind of attacks that came against me. There were two ads run by Speaker Gingrich. Outside fact- checking groups said these ads were false, and yet they continue to run them, and one by his campaign, and one by a PAC, in his benefit. And I know he can’t control that, but those ads were pretty heavy on me. So I’m going to point out things I think people need to know.

It was Republicans who replaced him in the House, voted to reprimand him. And it was the head lobbyist of Freddie Mac with whom he had a contract at a time when Floridians were suffering as a result in part of Freddie Mac.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, 30 seconds before I move on.

GINGRICH: Now, wait a second. I mean, he just went on and on and on, making a whole series of allegations. First of all, he may have been a good financier; he’s a terrible historian.

The fact is, the vote on the Ethics Committee was in January of 1997. I asked the Republicans to vote yes because we had to get it behind us. The Democrats had filed 84 ethics charges for a simple reason: We had taken control of the House after 40 years, and they were very bitter.

And the fact is, on every single ethics charge of substance that was dismissed in the end, the only thing we did wrong is we had one lawyer written by letters — I mean, written one letter, and the one letter was in error. I didn’t pay a fine. I paid the cost of going through the process of determining it was wrong.

I left two years later, and, frankly, we were right to get it behind us because the tax cut that led to economic growth, the four balanced budgets all came after that vote. So you have all this stuff just jumbled up. Apparently your consultants aren’t very good historians. What you ought to do is stop and look at the facts.

And the fact is, we won the House for the third time in 1998, but the margin wasn’t big enough. So I am the only speaker up to that point since the 1920s who had led the Republican Party to three consecutive victories. By the way, in 2006 when you chaired the Governors Association, we lost governorships. And in the four years that you were governor, we lost seats in the Massachusetts legislature. So I think as a party builder, the 20 years I spent building the House Republican Party stands pretty good as an example of leadership.

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, you have labeled this choice as being between an erratic and a moderate. You come in here tonight with one victory in Iowa. Where is your path to the top here?

SANTORUM: Well, I think if you’ve learned anything about this election, that any type of prediction is going to be wrong. The idea that this was a two-person race has been an idea that has been in fashion now for eight months, and it’s been wrong about eight times.

And so we’re looking at this race trying to paint a positive vision for our country. You ask my path to victory. My path to victory is to tell the people of Florida and tell the people of this country of someone who’s here that presents a very clear contrast with the president of the United States, someone that will make him the issue in this race, not the Republican candidate, someone who has a track record of being a strong conservative, someone who has a vision, a bold vision to reach out to the voters that I reached out and was successful in getting when I ran for the Senate in Pennsylvania twice, a state we haven’t won for the presidency since 1988. I won it twice, once in a year where George Bush lost the state by five and I won it by six.

How did I do it? I had plans out there that included everybody, plans like I have today, talking about manufacturing, talking about things that – – that are touchstones with the Reagan Democrats that provided that 49- state win.

We talked about faith. We talked about family. We talked about jobs. We talked about limited government. And that message was one that connected in a state — well, just like Florida, that’s one of those key states that we’re going to win. And that sets me apart, really, from anybody else on this stage as someone who’s been victorious with a strong, principled conservative message.

WILLIAMS: And yet, Senator, you are former Senator Santorum, having lost your home state by 18 points.

SANTORUM: Yeah, well, if I was the only guy that lost an election that year in Pennsylvania, that would be maybe a big statement, but our gubernatorial candidate lost by more than I did. We lost five congressional seats. And it was an historic loss in our statehouse. It was a meltdown year. We lost 23 out of 33 senators.

And probably unlike a lot of other candidates, when you’re running in an election year that you know you’re running against a headwind, a lot of folks crouch down, they get out of the way of the wind and try to sneak in. I stood tall, stood for what I believed in, talked about issues like the threat of Iran on the horizon, talked about the need to reform Social Security and Medicare, talked about the issues that, well, now we’re all talking about today, as I did at a time when nobody wanted to hear that message.

I also was running with a president who was sitting at about 35 percent favorable, and I was standing by him and trying to reform Social Security, and trying to fight the war and win the war in Iraq, and I stand by that.

And one of the things I figured out when I was running in that tough election year, there’s one thing worse than losing an election, and that’s not standing for the principles that you hold.

WILLIAMS:Congressman Paul, there is no denying you have an enthusiastic base support — base of support. We could hear them outside tonight. Yet there was that recent interview, you were asked if while campaigning you envision yourself in the Oval Office, and you said, “Not really, but I think it’s a possibility.”

So that begs the question about your path and when you will give an honest answer about perhaps your third-party plans going forward. Are you in this regardless of the outcome to your right here on this stage?

PAUL: Well, unlike others, maybe they sit around and daydream about being in the White House. I just don’t sit around daydreaming about it, but I’m in a race, I’m in a good race.

You talk about electability. Why don’t we take on the first three states and take everybody 30 years and under? I’m doing pretty darned well. I’m winning that vote.

But what about if you compare my name to Obama? I do quite well, if not better, than the rest.

So, to say that there has only been three races, and talk about not being electable, I think is a bit of a stretch. As a matter of fact, the delegates haven’t even been appointed in Iowa yet. I mean, quite frankly, we have a pretty good chance of getting a good sum of those because of the organization.

We only had a straw vote. I mean, this argument on who won, it was a straw vote. I mean, the delegates is what counts.

But I do want to address the earlier discussion that you had about 1997. I had been out of Congress for 12 years, and I went back in ’96 and arrived there in ’97. It was chaotic, let me tell you.

It was a mess, and it was a mess for 12 years. And Newt had a big job on his hands, but he really had to attack the conservatives. He did it boldly.

And quite frankly, I think the reason — he didn’t not run for Speaker, you know, two years later. He didn’t have the votes. That was what the problem was. So this idea that he voluntarily reneged and he was going to punish himself because we didn’t do well in the election, that’s just not the way it was.

WILLIAMS: Let me come at it this way. If Newt Gingrich emerges from the GOP primary process as the nominee of the party, do you go your own way?

PAUL: Well, I have done a lot of that in my lifetime.

WILLIAMS: I should be more specific. Will you run as a third- party candidate?

PAUL: I have no plans to do that, no intention. And when I have been pressed on it, and they asked me why, and I said, I don’t want to. But I haven’t been an absolutist. When I left Congress, I didn’t have plans on going back, but I did after 12 years. I went back to medicine. So, no, I don’t have any plans to do that. No.

WILLIAMS: Would you support a Newt Gingrich as nominee of the GOP?

PAUL: Well, he keeps hinting about attacking the Fed, and he talks about gold. Now if I could just change him on foreign policy, we might be able to talk business. [laughter]

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, are you willing to adjust to pick up an endorsement from Texas?

GINGRICH: Well, I got one on Friday from Governor Perry, which I liked a lot as a starting point. So I like endorsements from Texas.

And Congressman Paul is right. There’s an area — I think what he has said about the Federal Reserve and what he has said about the importance of monetary policy, the proposal I’ve issued for a gold commission, which hearkens back to something that he and Jesse Helms helped develop, on which he served on in 1981, and the fact that we have people of the caliber of Lew Lehrman and Jim Grant, who have agreed they would chair such a commission, I think they’re areas we can work on.

There are places we disagree very deeply. Iran is a good example. But there are places — you know, you build a coalition by trying to find ways you can work together, and frankly we could work together a lot more than either one of us could work with Barack Obama.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, a question you know is coming because of what you have set in motion for tomorrow when you release one year’s tax returns and your estimates for 2011. We know it’s not a matter of producing them. You said during the McCain vetting process you turned over 23 years which you had at the ready because, to quote you, you’re something of a packrat.

So, prior to tomorrow, can you tell us tonight what’s in there that’s going to get people talking? What’s in there that’s going to be controversial? What’s in there that you may find yourself defending?

ROMNEY: No surprises, Brian. The most extensive disclosure that I made was the financial disclosure requirements under the law. We each had to do that, and I laid out what my assets are and where they are, and people have been looking at that. It’s very similar to what it was four years ago. And so my income tax will show that that’s where the profits and rewards came.

The real question is not so much my taxes, but the taxes of the American people. The real question people are going to ask is, who’s going to help the American people at a time when folks are having real tough times?

And that’s why I put forward a plan to eliminate the tax on savings for middle income Americans. Anyone making under $200,000 a year, I would eliminate the tax on interest, dividends and capital gains. People need help to be able to save their money.

I’ll also bring the corporate tax rate down to 25 percent as quickly as possible and then begin a process of reshaping the entire tax code. It’s far too complex, it’s far too intrusive, it’s far too great.

ROMNEY: I would like to lower the rates, broaden the base, akin to what we saw in the Bowles-Simpson plan, which, by the way, the president commissioned and then simply brushed aside. We need to go back to that, get our rates down, and get a pro-growth tax policy in this country.

WILLIAMS: So, across this country tomorrow, when people learn the details of the tax return you release — and, of course, you’ll be under pressure to release more years after that — nothing will stick out, nothing will emerge that will be talked about by this time tomorrow night?

ROMNEY: Oh, I’m sure people will talk about it. I mean, you’ll see my income, how much taxes I’ve paid, how much I’ve paid to charity. You’ll see how complicated taxes can be. But — but I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more.

I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes. So I’ll — I’ll point out that that’s the case.

And will there will discussion? Sure. Will it be an article? Yeah. But is it entirely legal and fair? Absolutely. I’m proud of the fact that I pay a lot of taxes.

And the fact is, there are a lot of people in this country that pay a lot of taxes. I’d like to see our tax rate come down and focus on growing the country, getting people back to work. That’s our problem in this country right now. We’ve got a lot of people out of work. Let’s let them start paying taxes because they got jobs again.

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, what will satisfy you?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, he said the other day when he indicated he was going to release it, that was the right thing to do. It’s actually a tradition his father started in 1967. I think it’s the right thing to do.

The biggest thing I think will be — and I think you indicated the other day that you pay something like a 15 percent marginal rate. My position is not to attack him for paying a 15 percent marginal rate. I have in my tax proposal an alternative flat tax on the Hong Kong model, where you get to choose what you want, and our rate’s 15 percent. So I’m prepared to describe my 15 percent flat tax as the Mitt Romney flat tax. I’d like to bring everybody else down to Mitt’s rate, not try to bring him up to some other rate. WILLIAMS: And — yes, Governor? [crosstalk]

ROMNEY: Mr. Speaker, is the tax on capital gains also 15 percent or is it zero?

GINGRICH: Zero.

ROMNEY: Well, under that — under that plan, I’d have paid no taxes in the last two years.

GINGRICH: Well, if that — and if you created enough jobs doing that — it was Alan Greenspan who first said the best rate, if you want to create jobs for capital gains, is zero. My number-one goal is to create a maximum number of jobs to put the American people back to work. It’s a straightforward argument.

WILLIAMS: And, Governor, how about your father’s model of 12 years’ worth of returns?

ROMNEY: You know, I agree with my dad on a lot of things, but we also disagree. And — and going out with 12 years of returns is not something I’m going to do. I’m putting out two years, which is more than anyone else on this stage. I think it’ll satisfy the interests of the American people to see that I pay my taxes, where I give my charitable contributions to, and I think that’s the right number.

WILLIAMS: More broadly, Governor, just an aside, have you been surprised at the degree to which your wealth has become an issue? You spoke rather forcefully in South Carolina over the weekend on Saturday night about this, about the degree to which you’ve had to defend, as you put it, your success in business.

ROMNEY: Yeah, I knew that was going to come from the Obama team. I understood that. We see that on the left. I was surprised to see people in the Republican Party pick up the weapons of the left and start using them to attack free enterprise. I think those weapons will be used against us. I think it’s very unfortunate.

I will not apologize for having been successful. I did not inherit what my wife and I have, nor did she. What we have — what — what I was able to build, I built the old-fashioned way, by earning it, by working hard. And I was proud of the fact that we helped create businesses that grew, that employed people.

And these are not just high-end financial jobs. We helped start Staples, for instance. It employs 90,000 people. These are middle- income people. There are entry-level jobs, too. I’m proud of the fact that we helped people around the country, Bright Horizons children centers, the Sports Authority, Steel Dynamics, a new steel company. These employ people, middle-income people.

And the nature of America is individuals pursuing their dreams don’t make everyone else poorer; they help make us all better off. And so I’m not going to apologize for success or apologize for free enterprise. I believe free enterprise is one of the things that — that we have to reinvigorate in this country if we want to get people working again.

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, Governor Romney has said — and he said again tonight — he expected these attacks from the other side. He’s been taking fire as he would from the Democrats from the group on this stage. That means you. That includes you.

ROMNEY: I didn’t mean to include…

SANTORUM: No, I have — I have not. I have not fired at Governor Romney on — on — on his — his work at Bain Capital. In fact, I’ve been maybe unique in that regard that I haven’t.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in free markets. I believe Governor Romney can go out and — and earn whatever he can. And hopefully he creates jobs by earning that money and investing in companies.

My only question with Governor Romney is that, you know, to be a great defender of capitalism and talk about the importance of — of capitalism and free markets, and in the case of Bain, constructive capitalism and destructive capitalism.

My question to Governor Romney and to Speaker Gingrich, if you believe in capitalism that much, then why did you support the bailout of Wall Street, where you had an opportunity to allow destructive capitalism to work, to allow a failure of a — of a system that needed to fail because people did things that in capitalism pay — you pay a price?

And we should have allowed those financial institutions to go through the bankruptcy process, and we would have had resulted not what we are seeing here in Florida with this lengthy recession/depression of the housing market. You would have seen the effects of what Governor Romney advocated for and advocates today at Bain Capital, which is allowing companies that do not do their job, cannot be competitive, make mistakes, to fail and pay the price, instead of having government come in and prop them up.

WILLIAMS: And Speaker Gingrich, just tonight, two hours ago, in fact, you released your ’06 contract with Freddie Mac. We alluded to this earlier.

Your company was paid $25,000 a month, $300,000 for the year. But it didn’t provide a further explanation of services for Freddie Mac.

Why one year’s worth? Governor Romney today used the expression “work product.” He wants to see your work product, and the word “lobbying” has been thrown around, and you strongly disagree with that.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, if you read the contract — and we can go back and check the other years. We had to work through the process of getting an approval because it was a confidentiality agreement.

But if you read the contract which we have posted, and the Center for Health Transformation had to get permission to post, it says very clearly supposed to do consulting work. The governor did consulting work for years. I have never suggested his consulting work was lobbying.

So let me start right there. There is no place in the contract that provides for lobbying. I have never done any lobbying.

Congressman J.C. Watts, who for seven years was the head of the Freddie Mac Watch Committee, said flatly he has never been approached by me. The fact is that Congressman Rick Lazio, who is chairman of the Housing Subcommittee, said he has never been approached by me. And the only report in the newspaper was “The New York Times” in July of 2008, which said I told the House Republicans they should vote no, not give Freddie Mac any money, because it needed to be reformed. So there’s no — [crosstalk]

WILLIAMS: So you never peddled influence, as he described tonight?

GINGRICH: What?

WILLIAMS: You never peddled influence, as Governor Romney accused you of tonight?

GINGRICH: You know, there is a point in the process where it gets unnecessarily personal and nasty. And that’s sad.

The fact is I have had a very long career of trying to represent the people of Georgia and, as Speaker, the people of the United States. I think it’s pretty clear to say that I have never, ever gone and done any lobbying.

In fact, we brought in an expert on lobbying law and trained all of our staff. And that expert is prepared to testify that he was brought in to say here is the bright line between what you can do as a citizen and what you do as a lobbyist. And we consistently, for 12 years, running four small businesses, stayed away from lobbying, precisely because I thought this kind of defamatory and factually false charge would be made.

ROMNEY: Well, Mr. Speaker, you were — on this stage, at a prior debate, you said you were paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac for an historian — as an historian. They don’t pay people $25,000 a month for six years as historians. That adds up to about $1.6 million.

They weren’t hiring you as an historian. And this contract proves that you were not an historian. You were a consultant.

GINGRICH: I was a consultant.

ROMNEY: It doesn’t say that you provided historical experience, it said that you were as a consultant. And you were hired by the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac, not the CEO, not the head of public affairs. By the chief lobbyist at Freddie Mac.

You also spoke publicly in favor of these GSEs, these government- sponsored entities, at a very time when Freddie Mac was getting America in a position where we would have had a massive housing collapse. You could have spoken out aggressively. You could have spoken out in a way to say these guys are wrong, this needs to end. But instead, you were being paid by them. You were making over $1 million at the same time people in Florida were being hurt by millions of dollars.

GINGRICH: Well, this is a good example. As a businessman, you know that the gross revenue of Bain wasn’t your personal income.

We had a company. The company had three offices. The company was being paid. My share annually was about $35,000 a year. And the fact is I offered strategic advice, largely based on my knowledge of history, including the history of Washington.

Government-sponsored enterprises include, for example, telephone cooperatives, rural electric cooperatives, federal credit unions. There are many different kinds of government-sponsored enterprises, and many of them have done very good things. And in the early years, before some people, particularly Jim Johnson and other Democrats, began to change the model you could make a pretty good argument that in the early years, those housing institutions were responsible for a lot of people getting a lot of good housing.

ROMNEY: There’s no question about that, but we’re talking about one. We’re talking about Freddie Mac.

GINGRICH: Right.

ROMNEY: And that one did a lot of bad for a lot of people. And you were working there making over $1 million for your entities — [crosstalk]

GINGRICH: For the entities. As long as we agree, for the entities.

ROMNEY: Owned by you. I don’t know whether 100 percent owned by you, but I presume. Owned by you, over $1.6 million. And you said it was $300,000. It was $1.6 million. That’s a difference.

GINGRICH: So, Mitt, what — Mitt, what’s the gross revenue of Bain in the years you were associated with it? What’s the gross revenue?

ROMNEY: Very — very substantial. But I think it’s irrelevant compared to the fact…

GINGRICH: No.

ROMNEY: … that you were working for Freddie Mac.

GINGRICH: Wait a second. Wait a second. Very substantial.

ROMNEY: You were working for Freddie…[crosstalk]

GINGRICH: Did Bain ever do any work with any company which did any work with the government, like Medicare…

ROMNEY: We didn’t — we didn’t do — we didn’t…

GINGRICH: … Medicaid?

ROMNEY: We didn’t do any work with the government. I didn’t have an office on K Street. I wasn’t a lobbyist. I didn’t — had never worked — I’ve never worked in Washington. You were working…

GINGRICH: So — so…

ROMNEY: We have congressmen who also say that you came and lobbied them in favor…

GINGRICH: I didn’t lobby them.

ROMNEY: You have congressmen who say…[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: … that you came and lobbied them with regards to Medicare Part D, at the same time…

GINGRICH: Now, wait. Whoa, whoa.

ROMNEY: … your center was taking in contributions…

GINGRICH: You just jumped a long way over here, friend.

ROMNEY: Well, another — another area of influence-peddling.

GINGRICH: No, not — now, let me be very clear, because I understand your technique, which you used on McCain, you used on Huckabee, you’ve used consistently, OK? It’s unfortunate, and it’s not going to work very well, because the American people see through it.

I have always publicly favored a stronger Medicare program. I wrote a book in 2002 called “Saving Lives and Saving Money.” I publicly favored Medicare Part D for a practical reason, and that reason is simple. The U.S. government was not prepared to give people anything — insulin, for example — but they would pay for kidney dialysis. They weren’t prepared to give people Lipitor, but they’d pay for open-heart surgery. That is a terrible way to run Medicare.

I am proud of the fact — and I’ll say this in Florida — I’m proud of the fact that I publicly, openly advocated Medicare Part D. It has saved lives. It’s run on a free enterprise model. It also included health savings accounts and it include Medicare alternatives, which gave people choices.

And I did it publicly, and it is not correct, Mitt — I’m just saying this flatly, because you’ve been walking around this state saying things that are untrue — it is not correct to describe public citizenship, having public advocacy as lobbying. Every citizen has the right to do that.

ROMNEY: They sure do.

GINGRICH: And what I did on behalf of Medicare…

ROMNEY: They sure do.

GINGRICH: … I did out in the open, publicly, and that is my right as a citizen.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen…

ROMNEY: Here’s why it’s a problem, Mr. Speaker. Here’s why it’s a problem. And that is, if you’re getting paid by health companies, if your entities are getting paid by health companies that could benefit from a piece of legislation, and you then meet with Republican congressmen and encourage them to support that legislation, you can call it whatever you’d like. I call it influence-peddling.

It is not right. It is not right. You have a conflict. You are — you are being paid by companies at the same time you’re encouraging people to pass legislation which is in their favor.

WILLIAMS: Governor…

ROMNEY: This is — you spent now 15 years in Washington on K Street. And — and this is a real problem, if we’re going to nominate someone who not only had a record of — of great distress as the speaker, but that has worked for 15 years lobbying.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, we’ve let this go because of the state of the race, and a certain amount of this conversation, I guess, had to happen. We — this also has to happen. We have to go to a break. We’ll come back. We’ll talk about foreclosure. We’ll talk about foreign policy. We’ll welcome in the other two gentlemen to this conversation when we continue from Tampa. [applause]

[commercial break]

WILLIAMS: Welcome back to what has already become an interesting night in Tampa, Florida. Gentlemen, welcome back to you.

And, Senator Santorum, let’s begin this segment with you. Since we’ve been nibbling around the edges of the foreclosure crisis, since, what, 40 percent of homeowners in this state are underwater, 53 percent of the homes in Tampa, Florida, are worth less today than before this crisis. Was it too easy? Did vehicles of the U.S. government make it too easy to own a home in America?

SANTORUM: Well, the answer, unfortunately, is yes to that. And there were several of us in the United States Senate back in 2005 and 2006 who saw this on the horizon, who saw the problem with Freddie and Fannie, and tried to move forth with a bill — I was on the Banking Committee. We voted a bill out of committee to try to solve this problem, to constrain Fannie and Freddie, and there were a lot of people out there fighting that, including Harry Reid and his minions on the other side of the aisle.

I sent — I signed a letter, along with 24 other senators, that said, we either do something now, stop the filibuster of this bill, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, all of whom were in the Senate at the time. They were filibustering this bill to allow reform of Fannie and Freddie. And we said, if this doesn’t happen, if we don’t constrain these two behemoths from continuing to underwrite this subprime mortgage problem, then we’re going to have a collapse. Unfortunately, that proved — proved to be true.

The problem now is, what are you going to do about it? And what I’ve said is that, as you heard me say before, let capitalism work. Allow these — allow these banks to — to realize their losses. And create an opportunity for folks who have houses to realize their losses and at least help them out.

That’s why I proposed in my tax plan — and I talk about five areas where I allow deductions — well, one of them would be, be able to deduct losses from the sale of your home. Right now, you can’t do that. You have to pay gains, depending on the amount, but you can’t deduct the losses.

This is something I think is important temporarily to put in place to allow people the freedom to be able to go out and get out from underneath these houses that they’re holding onto and at least get some relief from the federal government for doing so.

WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul, should that be any role for the government? Are those folks owed anything for being under?

PAUL: Well, the government owes them a free market and a sound monetary system, but they didn’t give it to them. They gave them a mess. They gave them a financial system that literally created this problem.

And it was compounded — first, the line of credit to the — to the Federal Reserve, it was excessive. Everybody now admits in Washington interest rates were kept too low, too long.

But not only that, in addition to that, it was an insult to injury, because they kept interest rates especially low with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and there was a line of credit there, and it was a guarantee. As a matter of fact, I had introduced legislation 10 years before the bubble burst to eliminate that line of credit. But then the Community Reinvestment Act added more fuel to it, you know, forcing banks to make loans that are risky loans.

So the whole bubble was easily seen. The consequences were anticipated. It was all government manufactured. But the question is, is what do you do after you come upon a mess that the government and the politicians created?

The best thing you can do is get out of the way, because you want the prices to come down so that people will start buying them again, but politicians can’t allow that to happen. Our policies in Washington still has been to try to stimulate houses and keep — keep prices up.

But this whole thing about how we get involved in this low interest rate to stimulate the economy, almost everybody in Washington now in almost all spectrums of the economic sphere do not believe in wage and price controls, but they believe in controlling interest rates. That’s one-half of the whole economy, and here we have a bunch of guys getting in a room in secret, deciding what interest rates should be, and they create this mess. So, yes, we need to get out of the way, but instead the debt has to be liquidated.

The mortgage derivatives was a monster. A lot of people made a lot of money on that. But guess what? The Federal Reserve, to the tune of trillions and trillions of dollars, as well as TARP funds, were used to bail out the people that made all this money.

Guess what happened to the bad debt? It should have been wiped off the book. They should have gone bankrupt. It was dumped on the taxpayers, and the taxpayers still have it. And as long as you maintain that debt on the books, you’re not going to have growth.

This is why Japan hasn’t recovered. We’re in four years now, and it’s going to continue until we understand who creates the business cycle, how it happens, and what you have to do to get out of it.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, 30 seconds, please, on this, starting with Governor Romney.

To help these homeowners or not?

ROMNEY: To help them? Of course we help them.

Pam Mati here in Florida is cracking down on people who are committing fraud, number one. Number two, you have to get government out of the mess. Government has created the mess.

Number three, you’re going to have to help people see if they can’t get more flexibility from their banks. Right now, with Dodd- Frank, we made it harder for banks to renegotiate mortgages to help people get out.

And finally, you’ve got to get the economy going again with people having jobs. With Florida with 9.9 percent unemployment, and with 18 percent real unemployment in this state, and underemployment, you’re not going to get housing recovered unless you get jobs created again.

WILLIAMS: Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, if you could repeal Dodd- Frank tomorrow morning, you would see the economy start to improve overnight. I mean, people don’t realize this bill is — a little bit of what Congressman Paul said.

The fact is Dodd-Frank has led the biggest banks to get bigger. It is crushing independent banks. It has an anti-housing bias. Federal regulators are slowing down and making it harder to make loans for housing, and it is crippling small business borrowing.

All those things are a function of a bill passed by the Democrats called Dodd-Frank. If they would repeal it tomorrow morning, you would have a better housing market the next day.

WILLIAMS: Do you really think the financial system is overregulated? That’s the second mention of Dodd-Frank tonight.

GINGRICH: I really think that when — yes, of course it’s overregulated. When you put that much power in the Treasury under Geithner, you know, it’s an invitation to corruption.

When you have a bias in the bill which makes the big banks get bigger, exactly the opposite of what a rational policy would be, it’s a bad bill. When you have regulators walk in small local banks and say, do not loan money on housing, it’s a bad idea.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, was it overregulated prior to the collapse?

ROMNEY: It was poorly regulated. Markets have to have regulation to work. You can’t have everybody open a bank in their garage. You have to have regulation, but it’s got to be up to date.

And they didn’t have capital requirements put in place for the different classes of assets banks had. They also didn’t have regulation properly put in place for mortgage lenders. Derivatives weren’t being regulated.

You need to have regulation that’s up to date. They had old regulation, burdensome. Then they passed Dodd-Frank, which the Speaker is absolutely right. It has made it almost impossible for community banks.

I was with the head of one of the big banks in New York. He said they have hundreds of lawyers working on Dodd-Frank to implement it.

Community banks don’t have hundreds of lawyers. It’s just killing the residential home market and it’s got to be replaced.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, let me ask you this. There was a lot of talk in the last presidential campaign about that 3:00 a.m. phone call. Let’s say President Romney gets that phone call, and it is to say that Fidel Castro has died. And there are credible people in the Pentagon who predict upwards of half a million Cubans may take that as a cue to come to the United States.

What do you do?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, you thank heavens that Fidel Castro has returned to his maker and will be sent to another land. [applause]

Now, number two, you work very aggressively with the new leadership in Cuba to try and move them towards a more open degree than they have had in the past.

We just had, with Wilman Villar, his life was just lost in a hunger strike fighting for democracy. This president has taken a very dangerous course with regards to Cuba saying we’re going to relax relations, we’re going to open up travel to Cuba.

This is the wrong time for that, with this kind of heroics going on. We want to stand with the people of Cuba that want freedom. We want to move that effort forward not by giving in and saying we lost, but by saying we will fight for democracy.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, as a practical matter, along the Florida coast, though, you know the policy, so called wet foot/dry foot. What do you do if folks start arriving in the United States?

GINGRICH: Well, Brian, first of all, I guess the only thing I would suggest is I don’t think that Fidel is going to meet his maker. I think he’s going to go to the other place.

Second, I would suggest to you the policy of the United States should be aggressively to overthrow the regime and to do everything we can to support those Cubans who want freedom. You know, Obama is very infatuated with an Arab Spring. He doesn’t seem to be able to look 90 miles south of the United States to have a Cuban Spring.

So I would try to put in place a very aggressive policy of reaching out to every single Cuban who would like to be free, helping network them together, reaching out to the younger generation inside the dictatorship, and indicating they don’t have a future as a dictatorship because a Gingrich presidency will not tolerate four more years of this dictatorship.

WILLIAMS: Overt and covert, are you talking about engaging the U.S. military?

GINGRICH: No, I’m talking about using every asset available to the United States, including appropriate covert operations, to maximize the distance, what Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher did to the Soviet empire, bring together every asset we have to minimize the survival of the dictatorship and to maximize the chance for freedom in Cuba.

WILLIAMS: Congressman?

PAUL: I — I have a little bit of work to do yet on him on foreign policy. [laughter] [applause]

No, I would do pretty much the opposite. I don’t like the isolationism of not talking to people. I was drafted in 1962 at the height of the Cold War when the missiles were in Cuba. And the Cold War’s over.

And I think we propped up Castro for 40-some years because we put on these sanctions, and this — only used us as a scapegoat. He could always say, anything wrong, it’s the United States’ fault.

But I think it’s time — time to quit this isolation business of not talking to people. We talked to the Soviets. We talk to the Chinese. And we opened up trade, and we’re not killing each other now. We fought with the Vietnamese for a long time. We finally gave up, started talking to them, now we trade with them. I don’t know why — why the Cuban people should be so intimidating.

I — I don’t know where you get this assumption that all of a sudden all the Cubans would come up here. I would probably think they were going to celebrate and they’re going to have a lot more freedom if we would only open up our doors and say, we want to talk to you, and trade with you, and come visit. Sometimes they can’t even send packages down there.

I — I think we’re living in the dark ages when we can’t even talk to the Cuban people. I think it’s not 1962 anymore. And we don’t have to use force and intimidation and overthrow of a — in governments. I just don’t think that’s going to work.

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, an admittedly…[applause]…cynical question. If there was a strong lobby of Chinese dissidents living in a state as politically important of — as Florida, do you think we’d have a trade policy with China that looks more like the trade policy with Cuba?

SANTORUM: Not if they were not 90 miles off our shore. This is an important doctrine of the United States to make sure that our hemisphere and those who are close to us are — are folks that we can and should deal with.

And right now, we have and have had for 50 years a dictatorship in Cuba. We’ve had sanctions on them. They should continue. They should continue until the Castros are dead, and then we should make it very clear that if you want mountains of aid, if you want normal relationships, if you want to improve your economy, if you want to have the opportunity for freedom, that the United States stands ready now to embrace you now that you’ve gotten rid of these tyrants who — who have controlled you for these 50-plus years. That’s why the sanctions have to stay in place, because we need to have a — a very solid offer to come forward and help the Cuban people.

And you’re right, Ron. It’s not 1962. They’re now with the Cubans and the Venezuelans, the Nicaraguans. There is a growing network of folks now working with the jihadists, the Iranians, who are very, very excited about the opportunity to having platforms 90 miles off our coast, just like the Soviets were, very anxious to have platforms 90 miles off our coast, or in Venezuela, or in Nicaragua, and other places they could come across the southern border.

This is a serious threat. It’s a threat that I’ve been talking about for about six or seven years. And it’s one that’s not going to go away until we — we confront the threat and hopefully are able to convince the Cuban people that, through what Newt and others have suggested, to — to change their government at the appropriate time. WILLIAMS: Governor — Governor Romney, last night, the Abe Lincoln, U.S. aircraft carrier and a couple other attendant U.S. Navy vessels passed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. If Iran was able to fulfill, carry out that threat to shut down the strait, would you consider that an act of war? What would you do about it as president?

ROMNEY: Of — of course it’s an act of war. It is appropriate and — and essential for our military, for our Navy to — to maintain open seas. We have control of the commons, of space, air, and the seas. Our Navy has the capacity to do that — or did in the past.

Under this president and under prior presidents, we keep on shrinking our Navy. Our Navy is now smaller than any time since 1917. And — and — and the president is building roughly nine ships a year. We ought to raise that to 15 ships a year, not because we want to go to war with anyone, but because we don’t want anyone to take the — the — the hazard of going against us. We want them to see that we’re so strong they couldn’t possibly defeat us.

So we ought to have an aircraft carrier in the gulf, an aircraft carrier, and, of course, the task force with it in the Mediterranean. We want to show Iran, any action of that nature will be considered an act of war, an act of terror and — and America is going to be keep those sea lanes open.

WILLIAMS: So, Speaker Gingrich if you accept that bedrock definition that it is an act of war, how do you gauge the appetite on the part of the American people after the better part of a decade of warfare, fighting dual wars overseas for something like that?

GINGRICH: The American people have no interest in going to war anywhere. We had no interest in going to war with the Japanese when they bombed Pearl Harbor. We had no interest in going to Afghanistan when Jihadist’s destroyed the World Trade Center. The fact is, we’ve historically been a country that would like peace, we’d like stability. But we also have a historic commitment to — to freedom of the sea. And I would say that the most dangerous thing, which by the way, Barack Obama just did, the — the Iranians are practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz, actively taunting us, so he cancels a military exercise with the Israelis so as not to be provocative?

Now, dictatorships respond to strength, they don’t respond to weakness and I think there’s a very grave danger that the Iranians think that in fact this president is so weak, they could close the Straits of Hormuz and not suffer substantial consequences.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, how do you end a war in Afghanistan without talking to the Taliban?

ROMNEY: By beating them. By standing behind our troops and making sure that — that we have transitioned to the Afghan military, a capacity for them to be successful in holding off the Taliban. Our — our mission there, is to be able to turn Afghanistan and it’s sovereignty over to a military of Afghan descent — Afghan people that can defend their sovereignty. And that is something which we can accomplish in the next couple of years.

This president, however, has done — made — made it very difficult for our troops to be able to be successful in that mission by, number one, announcing a withdrawal date for our troops, number two drawing down our surge troops faster than the time the commanders on the ground was necessary. You don’t draw them down during the middle of the fighting season. And finally, by not overseeing elections in Afghanistan to assure that the — the selection of their president was seen by the people as being legitimate. And he has failed in — in executing a policy in Afghanistan that would optimize our prospects of success. [crosstalk]

WILLIAMS: Go ahead. I was just going to ask, any appetite on this stage to negotiate with the Taliban? Congressman?

PAUL: No, but I wanted to get involved in the discussion.

WILLIAMS: No, go ahead?

PAUL: Because the question was, you know, would you go to war? And Mitt said he would — he would go to war. But you have to think about the preliminary act that might cause them to want to close the Straits of Hormuz, and that’s the blockade. We’re blockading them. Can you imagine what we would do if somebody blockaded the Gulf of Mexico? That would be an act of war. So the act of war has already been committed and this is a retaliation.

But besides, there’s no interest whatsoever for Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz. I mean they need it as much as we do. I mean so you have to put that into perspective. But this whole idea that — that it’s – – we — we have to go to war because we’ve already committed an act by blockading the country and I — I don’t see — I — I — and — and I think Newt is right. I think he’s wrong about World War II, I think the people were ready because we did it properly. We declared it and we won it quickly.

But, not the people are not ready. We don’t have any money. We have too many wars. We — the people want to come home and they certainly don’t want a hot war in Iran right now and I — I think that would be the most foolish thing in the world to do right now is take on Iran.

WILLIAMS: Right now for us another break. I’ll welcome two colleagues out here to the stage when we continue from Tampa right after this.

[commercial break]

WILLIAMS: And welcome back to Tampa.

I am happy to welcome two fellow journalists to this stage. Happy to be joined now by our partners in this debate. In fact, “The Tampa Bay Times” and “National Journal.”

Adam Smith is the longtime political editor at “The Tampa Bay Times,” covering national, state and local politics for more than a decade, one of the very best in the trade. And besides, a lot of people just thought a GOP debate should have Adam Smith present.

Beth Reinhard is a political correspondent for “National Journal.” She is a Florida native, was a veteran political reporter at “The Miami Herald” for 11 years.

But one piece of business, Senator Santorum, I had to go to a break. I didn’t get you in on what we’ll call the Iran round, because you’ve talked about this a lot. Specifically, as a last resort, as you said, taking out Iran’s nuclear program.

The problem with that, so many in the military tell you, is the target list. Where do you limit it — the air strikes that some estimate would begin at 30 to 60 days sustained, taking out air defenses, all of that familiar language the American people have just been through for a decade?

SANTORUM: Well, the contrast for that is, what happens if Iran gets a nuclear weapon and the entire world changes? Iran is not just another country, or a little, small country, as President Obama said classically during the campaign. Obama’s Iran policy has been a colossal failure.

It’s been a failure because he’s not been true to the American public about the threat that Iran poses to the world. Not just to Israel, but to the world and to the United States.

The bottom line is the theocracy that runs Iran is the equivalent of having al Qaeda in charge of a country with huge oil reserves, gas reserves, and a nuclear weapon. That is something that no president could possibly allow to have happen under any circumstances.

And when you asked the question, Brian, are we at — is this is an act of war? Well, let’s look at the acts of war that Iran — they are — they are holding hostages, they are attacking our troops, their IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, that are killing our troops in Afghanistan, and killed them in Iraq, and maimed so many were produced, and people were trained and funded in Iran specifically to kill American troops.

You look at the ships that have been attacked by Iran, embassies were attacked by Iran. A — Iran has plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador here in this country. It is a long list of attacks of — of warlike behavior on the part of this regime. And to believe that if they have a nuclear weapon they’re somehow going to become into the community of nations is a reckless act on the part of a president. It would be reckless not to do something to stop them from getting this nuclear weapon.

WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you. And to interests of local state politics, Beth Reinhard will take over the questioning.

REINHARD: Senator Santorum, here in Florida, BP is still airing apologetic appeals on television, but there are proposals to expand offshore oil drilling. The state’s most optimistic estimates say more drilling would create 5,000 jobs, but an oil spill would threaten Florida’s tourism industry, which employs nearly 1 million people. Is that worth the risk?

SANTORUM: What threatens the tourist industry in Florida, as we’ve seen, is a very bad economy, and a very bad economy that became a bad economy why? Because of a huge spike in oil prices in the summer of 2008. So energy is absolutely key to keep all of our country healthy, specifically Florida, which is a destination place. This is a — this is a place that relies upon people being able to travel and afford to be able to travel to come down here, relies upon an economy being strong.

I was at a manufacturer in Sarasota County today and was talking about them as a manufacturer and that, you know, the — the importance of manufacturing jobs, yes, even here in the state of Florida, and the price of energy for them to be able to be competitive.

It is absolutely essential that we have as much domestic supply of oil, that we build the Keystone pipeline, that we create the jobs that — that that would create, and provide oil from domestic sources. Pipelines that run on the floor of the sea or pipelines that come through America are the safest way to transport oil. It is tankers that are causing — that cause much more problems. Pipelines are the safe way. Building those rigs, piping that oil into — into — into our shore is the best way to create a good economy for the state of Florida.

REINHARD: All of you favor making English the official language of the United States, which could mean that ballots and other government documents would not be available in Spanish. But, Speaker Gingrich, you’re sending out press releases in Spanish; Governor Romney, you’re advertising in Spanish. Why is it OK for you to court voters in Spanish, but not OK for the government to serve them in Spanish?

Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, you immediately jump down to a very important language, but not the only language. The challenge of the United States is simple. There are 86 languages in Miami Dade College, 86. There are over 200 languages spoken in Chicago.

Now, how do you unify the country? What — what is the common bond that enables people to be both citizens and to rise commercially and have a better life and a greater opportunity?

I think campaigning, historically, you’ve always been willing to go to people on their terms in their culture, whether it’s Greek Independence Day or something you did for the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. And I’m perfectly happy to be on Radio Mambi, and I’m perfectly happy to have a lot of support in the Hispanic community.

But as a country to unify ourselves in a future in which there may well be 300 or 400 languages spoken in the United States, I think it is essential to have a central language that we expect people to learn and to be able to communicate with each other in.

REINHARD: So to be clear, you would only have ballots in English?

GINGRICH: I would have ballots in English. And I think you could have programs where virtually everybody would be able to read the ballots.

REINHARD: Governor Romney, can you take that question?

ROMNEY: I think Speaker Gingrich is right with regards to what he’s described. I’d note that in my state we had a tradition of teaching people in the language of their birth, and so we had in our school systems people being taught in a whole range of languages. And we had to have teachers that could teach in Cambodian, in Vietnamese, and other languages. And our kids were being taught in foreign languages in our own schools. And we found at the end of their education experience they couldn’t all speak English well. It made absolutely no sense.

And so we campaigned for English immersion in our schools and said kids coming in will have a transition period. Then we’re going to teach them in English.

ROMNEY: Look, English is the language of this nation. People need to learn English to be able to be successful, to get great jobs. We don’t want to have people limited in their capacity to achieve the American dream because they don’t speak English. And so encouraging people through every means possible to learn the language of America is a good idea.

Recognize at the same time we want people coming here from other cultures that speak other languages. That strengthens America. It’s a great thing. But having them learn English is also a great thing for them and for their kids.

REINHARD: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Yes, my answer is similar, but a little bit different, because at the national level, obviously we have to have one language. I mean, we can’t have multiple languages. So, for legal reasons, we would have one language.

But our system really gives us a way to be more generous, because if Florida wanted to have some ballots in Spanish, I certainly wouldn’t support a federal law that would prohibit Florida from accommodating a city election or a local election or a state election. I think that’s the magnificence of our system, where you can solve some of these problems without dictating one answer for all states. But nationally, we should have one language.

REINHARD: Speaker Gingrich, I want to move on to a slightly different topic, the Dream Act, which, as you know, would provide a pathway to citizenship for children who have been brought to the U.S. illegally if they attend college or enroll in the military.

Now, Governor Romney and Senator Santorum have both said they would veto this legislation. Would you do the same?

GINGRICH: No. I would work to get a signable version which would be the military component. I think any young person living in the United States who happened to have been brought here by their parents when they were young should have the same opportunity to join the American military and earn citizenship which they would have had from back home.

We have a clear provision that if you live in a foreign country, and you are prepared to join the American military, you can, in fact, earn the right to citizenship by serving the United States and taking real risk on behalf of the United States. That part of the Dream Act I would support. I would not support the part that simply says everybody who goes to college is automatically waived for having broken the law.

WILLIAMS: The questioning continues.

ROMNEY: I just doubt that’s the same position that I have, and that is that I would not sign the Dream Act as it currently exists, but I would sign the Dream Act if it were focused on military service.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Governor.

Questioning continues with Adam Smith.

SMITH: Let’s stay on immigration for a second.

Governor Romney, there is one thing I’m confused about. You say you don’t want to go and round up people and deport them, but you also say that they would have to go back to their home countries and then apply for citizenship. So, if you don’t deport them, how do you send them home?

ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here. And so we’re not going to round people up.

The way that we have in this society is to say, look, people who have come here legally would, under my plan, be given a transition period and the opportunity during that transition period to work here, but when that transition period was over, they would no longer have the documentation to allow them to work in this country. At that point, they can decide whether to remain or whether to return home and to apply for legal residency in the United States, get in line with everybody else. And I know people think but that’s not fair to those that have come here illegally.

SMITH: Isn’t that what we have now? If somebody doesn’t feel they have the opportunity in America, they can go back any time they want to.

ROMNEY: Yes, we’d have a card that indicates who’s here illegally. And if people are not able to have a card, and have through an E-Verify system determine that they are here illegally, then they’re going to find they can’t get work here. And if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place where they can get work.

Ultimately, with this transition period in place, we would then allow people to get in line at home and to come back to this country after they have reached the front of the line. But I just don’t think it’s fair to the people who have loved ones waiting in line legally to come to America and say, guess what? We’re going to encourage a wave of illegal immigration by giving amnesty of some kind to those who have come here illegally.

SMITH: Senator Santorum, is self-deportation. Is that a valid concept?

SANTORUM: Well, it’s happening now. I mean, people are going back now because they can’t find jobs because of the lack of employment opportunities.

The bottom line is, is that if you do enforce the law and say that people who are here illegally, who are doing illegal acts — and that is working, which you’re not allowed to do — and if you’re working, probably you’ve stolen someone’s Social Security number, which you are not allowed to do — and that’s another law that is broken — that we should enforce the law. It’s not someone who has come here illegally in the first place and they’ve only broken the law once. They continually break the law in this country, and I don’t think that’s not something that should be rewarded.

My father came to this country, my grandfather came to this country. He left my dad behind for five years. My dad was without a dad for almost the first five years of his life.

And there are millions of stories across America of people making sacrifices because America was worth it to do it the right way. You come to this country and the first thing you do is to respect our laws. If you want to be an American, you respect the laws of America, and you do so continually while you’re here.

We reward that kind of behavior. We don’t reward behavior where you don’t respect our laws in your initial act and then you continually break the laws in order to stay here.

SMITH: Speaker Gingrich, in Iowa you were a big supporter of ethanol subsidies. Here in Florida, sugar is a very important industry, and it’s subsidized, as well, with import restrictions, quotas. There’s a conservative movement to do away with these programs. In the case of sugar, critics say it — it adds billions of dollars to — to consumers’ grocery bills every year. What would you do about that?

GINGRICH: Well, I pretty enthusiastically early in my career kept trying to figure out how to get away from the sugar subsidy. And I found out one of — one of the fascinating things about America, which was that cane sugar hides behind beet sugar. And there are just too many beet sugar districts in the United States. It’s an amazing side story about how interest groups operate.

In an ideal world, you would have an open market. And that’s — I think that would be a better future and, frankly, one where cane sugar would still make a lot of money. But it’s very hard to imagine how you’re going to get there. I spent a lot of time trying to reform agriculture when I was speaker. And I would say it was one of the two or three hardest things to try to do because the — the capacity of the agricultural groups to defend themselves is pretty amazing.

SMITH: Governor Romney, you’re going some campaign support from sugar growers. It’s a very influential group in this state. What’s your view on the sugar subsidies?

ROMNEY: Yeah, my view is, we ought to get rid of subsidies and let markets work properly. But let’s step back for a second, talk about what’s really going on in Florida right now. And you know, you both know what’s going on here.

I spent time this morning with — with eight different individuals, listening to them talk about their circumstances. There are a lot of people in Florida that are hurting. You got a lot of homes underwater. This president came into office saying he’d turn this economy around, and everything he has done has made it harder for the people of Florida.

We have 25 million Americans out of work. We have, in Florida, 9.9 percent unemployed. We have 18 percent of our people in this state that are underemployed. Home values, 40 percent are underwater.

This president has failed miserably the people of Florida. His plans for NASA, he has no plans for NASA. The space coast is — is struggling. This president has failed the people of Florida. We have to have a president who understands how to get an economy going again. He does not. He plays 90 rounds of golf when you have 25 million people out of work. He says gasoline prices doubled during his presidency. He says don’t build a Keystone pipeline.

We have $15 trillion of debt. We’re headed to a — to a Greece- type collapse, and he adds another trillion on top for Obamacare and for his stimulus plan that didn’t create private-sector jobs. This president has failed. And this economy needs a president who understands this economy.

SMITH: Congressman Paul, Florida’s Everglades provide one in three Floridians with their drinking water. It affects thousands of jobs. Right now, there’s a — there’s a joint federal-state program to save what’s left of the Everglades. Would you commit to continuing that federal financing of the Everglades preservation?

PAUL: Sure. I — I don’t see any reason to go after that. I would still look into the details on whether that could be a state issue or not.

But with all the wars going on, and the economy is in shambles, as it is, and the unemployment, to — to worry about dealing with that program, we could do it in a theoretical sense. But I would see no reason to, you know, complicate things. But I wouldn’t have any desire to interfere with that.

WILLIAMS: At this point, we’ll take another break. We’ll return from Tampa with this line of questioning right after this. [applause]

[commercial break]

WILLIAMS: We are back from Tampa tonight. As the conversation continues, once again the questioning continues.

Adam Smith of “The Tampa Bay Times.”

SMITH: Thank you.

Senator Santorum, in 2005, Florida was in the middle of a huge national debate over Terri Schiavo, whether her feeding tube should be removed after the courts had ruled that she had been in a vegetative state for years. You were at the center, at the front of advocating congressional intervention to keep her alive. You even came down here, came to her bedside after a fund-raiser.

Why should the government have more say in medical decisions like that than a spouse?

SANTORUM: Well, number one, I didn’t come to her bedside, but I did come down to Tampa. I was scheduled to come down anyway for that event, and it so happened that this situation was going on.

I did not call for congressional intervention. I called for a judicial hearing by an impartial judge at the federal level to review a case in which you had parents and a spouse on different sides of the issue.

And these were constituents of mine. The parents happen to live in Pennsylvania, and they came to me and made a very strong case that they would like to see some other pair of eyes, judicial eyes, look at it. And I agreed to advocate for those constituents because I believe that we should give respect and dignity for all human life, irrespective of their condition.

And if there was someone there that wanted to provide and take care of them, and they were willing to do so, I wanted to make sure that the judicial proceedings worked properly. And that’s what I did, and I would do it again. [applause]

SMITH: Do not resuscitate directives, do you think they’re immoral?

SANTORUM: No, I don’t believe they’re immoral. I mean, I think that’s a decision that people should be able to make, and I have supported legislation in the past for them to make it.

SMITH: Speaker Gingrich, in that case the courts had ruled repeatedly. How does that square, the Terri Schiavo, action with your understanding of the Constitution and separation of powers?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think that we go to extraordinary lengths, for example, for people who are on murderers row. They have extraordinary rights of appeal.

And you have here somebody who was in a coma, who had, on the one hand, her husband saying let her die and her parents saying let her live. Now, it strikes me that having a bias in favor of life, and at least going to a federal hearing, which would be automatic if it was a criminal on death row, that it’s not too much to say in some circumstances your rights as an American citizen ought to be respected. And there ought to be at least a judicial review of whether or not in that circumstance you should be allowed to die, which has nothing to do with whether or not you as a citizen have a right to have your own end-of-life prescription which is totally appropriate for you to do as a matter of your values in consultation with your doctor.

SMITH: Congressman Paul, you’re a doctor. What was your view of the Terri Schiavo case?

PAUL: I find it so unfortunate, so unusual, too. That situation doesn’t come up very often. It should teach us all a lesson to have living wills or a good conversation with a spouse. I would want my spouse to make the decision. And — but it’s better to have a living will.

But I don’t like going up the ladder. You know, we go to the federal courts, and the Congress, and on up. Yes, difficult decisions. Will it be perfect for everybody? No. But I would have preferred to see the decision made at the state level.

But I’ve been involved in medicine with things similar, but not quite as difficult as this. But usually, we deferred to the family. And it wasn’t made a big issue like this was. This was way out of proportion to what happens more routinely.

But I think it should urge us all to try to plan for this and make sure either that one individual that’s closest to you makes the decision or you sign a living will. And this would have solved the whole problem.

WILLIAMS: Beth?

REINHARD: Governor Romney, this is the state that put the first men on the moon. America right now has no way to put people into space except to hitch a ride with the Russians. Meanwhile, the Chinese are ramping up their space program. At a time when you all want to shrink federal spending, should space exploration be a priority?

Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: It should certainly be a priority. What we have right now is a president who does not have a vision or a mission for NASA. And as a result of that, there are people on the space coast that are suffering. And Florida itself is — is suffering as a result.

So what’s the right way forward? Well, I happen to believe our space program is important not only for science, but also for commercial development and for military development. And I believe the right mission for — for NASA should be determined by a president together with a collection of people from those different areas, from NASA, from the Air Force space program, from our leading universities, and from commercial enterprises, bring them together, discuss a wide range of options for NASA, and then — and then have NASA not just funded by the federal government, but also by commercial enterprises. Have some of the research done in our universities.

Let’s have a collaborative effort with business, with — with government, with a military, as well as with our educational institutions. Have a mission, once again excite our young people about the potential of space and the commercial potential will pay for itself down the road.

This is a great opportunity. Florida has technology. The people here on the space coast have technology and vision and passion that America needs. And with a president that is actually willing to create a mission and a vision for — for NASA and for space, we can continue to lead the world.

REINHARD: Speaker Gingrich, would you put more tax dollars into the space race and commit to putting an American on Mars, instead of relying on the private sector?

GINGRICH: Well, the two are not incompatible. For example, most of the great breakthroughs in aviation in the ’20s and ’30s were as a result of prizes. Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000 prize. I would like to see vastly more of the money spent encouraging the private sector into very aggressive experimentation. And I’d like a leaner NASA.

I don’t think building a bigger bureaucracy and having a greater number of people sit in rooms and talk gets you there. But if we had a series of goals that we were prepared to offer prizes for, there’s every reason to believe you have a lot of folks in this country and around the world who would put up an amazing amount of money and would make the space coast literally hum with activity because they’d be drawn to achieve these prizes.

Going back to the moon permanently, getting to Mars as rapidly as possible, building a series of space stations and developing commercial space, there are a whole series of things you can do that could be dynamic that are more than just better government bureaucracy. They’re fundamentally leapfrogging into a world where you’re incentivizing people who are visionaries and people in the private sector to invest very large amounts of money in finding very romantic and exciting futures.

REINHARD: Speaker Gingrich, I have another question for you on another topic. You’ve talked about the millions of jobs created by the Reagan tax cuts. If tax cuts create jobs, why didn’t the Bush tax cuts work?

GINGRICH: Well, the Bush tax cuts, I think in a period of great difficulty, with the attack of 9/11, actually stopped us from going into a much deeper slump. I think we would have been in much, much worse shape, and I think most economists agree, that in 2002 and ’03 and ’04 we’d have been in much worse shape without the Bush tax cuts.

But — but you have to also look at the regulatory burden. The reason I called for repealing Dodd-Frank and for repealing Obamacare and for repealing Sarbanes-Oxley is you now have these huge layers of paperwork and government intervention and bureaucratic micromanagement that are crippling the American system and are making it much harder for us to create the kind of jobs we’d want.

In North Dakota today, we have a boom in oil development, unemployment is down to 3.2 percent. They have had seven straight tax cuts at the state level because the oil was on private land.

If that oil had been on public land, the environmentalists and Barack Obama would have stopped its development, and North Dakota would be mired in 8 percent or 9 percent unemployment. So, get the regulations out of the way, get the tax incentives right, and you can get back to creating an amazing number of jobs very fast.

WILLIAMS: To my fellow questioners, our panelists tonight, my thanks.

So ends this section of our conversation. The final bit of our debate from Tampa tonight coming up after this last break.

[commercial break]

WILLIAMS: Welcome back to Tampa for this final section of our conversation tonight. We’re back down to the five of us here on stage. I thought we’d talk a little bit more big picture.

This has been called, in addition to this unprecedented primary contest the GOP is in the midst of, a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Governor Romney, the question is, about that soul, what have you done to further the cause of conservativism as a Republican leader?

ROMNEY: Well, number one, I’ve raised a family. And I’ve — I’ve — with my wife, we’ve raised five wonderful sons, and we have 16 wonderful grandkids.

Number two, I’ve worked in the private sector. The idea that somehow everything important for conservativism or for America happens in government is simply wrong. I’ve been in the private sector. I worked in one business that was in trouble and helped turn it around. Another I started. And as part of that, we were able to create thousands and thousands of jobs.

And then I took an opportunity to become governor of a state that was slightly Democrat. About 85 percent of my legislature was Democrat. And I worked very hard to promote a conservative agenda. We cut taxes 19 times. We balanced the budget every year, put in place a rainy day fund of over $2 billion by the time I left. We were also successful in having English immersion in our schools, driving our schools to be number one in the nation.

That kind of conservative model in a state like Massachusetts was a model in many respects that other states could look at and say, “OK, conservative principles work.” We were able to reach across the aisle to fight for conservative principles, and now I’m taking that to a presidential campaign, wrote a book about those principles that lay out why I believe they’re right for America.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, you’ve been talking a lot about conservative principles in this campaign so far. Is that enough for you? Is that good enough?

GINGRICH: Look, I don’t want to spend my time commenting on Mitt. I’d like to just tell you that I started — I went to a Goldwater organizing session in 1964. I met with Ronald Reagan for the first time in 1974. I worked with Jack Kemp and Art Laffer and others to develop supply- side economics in the late ’70s. I helped Governor Reagan become President Reagan. I helped pass the Reagan economic program when I worked with the National Security Council on issues involving the collapse of the Soviet empire.

I then came back, organized a group called GOPAC, spent 16 years building a majority in the House for the first time since 1954, the first re-elected majority since 1928, developed the Conservative Opportunity Society, talked about big ideas, big solutions.

So I think it’s fair to say I’ve spent most of my lifetime trying to develop a conservative movement across this country that relates directly to what we have to do. And I think only a genuine conservative who’s in a position to debate Obama and to show how wide the gap is between Obama’s policies and conservativism can, in fact, win, because he’s going to spend a billion dollars trying to smear whoever the nominee is. And we’d better be prepared to beat him in the debate and prove exactly how wrong his values are and how wrong his practices are.

WILLIAMS: Which, Senator Santorum, gets us back to electability, the gap between the Republican Party and the president. Some of the newspaper headlines about this gathering we were going to have tonight, in Florida, Romney seeks to link Gingrich to foreclosure crisis. And here’s a second one: The verdict is in, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital problem is real.

What’s the net effect of all this, of the tax release tomorrow, of Freddie — the Freddie Mac release tonight on your party, say your candidacy, as you try to go forward?

SANTORUM: Well, I would say that there are more fundamental issues than that, where there’s a gap and a problem with two of the gentlemen who are up here with me. And one is on the biggest issue that they — we have to deal with in this election, that’s — that’s crushing the economy, will crush it even further and crush freedom, and that’s Obamacare.

Governor Romney’s plan in Massachusetts was the basis for Obamacare. Speaker Gingrich for 20 years supported a federal individual mandate, something that Pam Bondi is now going to the Supreme Court saying is unconstitutional. Speaker Gingrich, for 20 years, up until last year supported an individual mandate, which is at the core of Obamacare.

If you look at cap-and-trade, Governor Romney was very proud to say that he was the first state in the country as governor to sign a cap on CO- 2 emissions, the first state in the country to put a cap believing in — in global warming and criticized Republicans for not believing in it, as did, by the way, Speaker Gingrich, who was for a cap-and-trade program with incentives, business incentives, but was for the rubric of cap-and-trade, not specifically the cap-and-trade bill that was out there.

Again, huge, huge differences between my position and where President Obama is, but not so on two major issues. You go down and you look at the Wall Street bailouts, I said before, here’s one where you had folks who preach conservativism, private sector, and when push came to shove, they got pushed. They didn’t stand tall for the conservative principles that they argued that they were for. And as a result, we ended up with this bailout that has injected government into business like it had never been done before.

SANTORUM: They rejected conservativism when it was hard to stand. It’s going to be hard to stand whoever this president is going to be elected. It’s going to be tough. There is going to be a mountain of problems. It’s going to be easy to be able to bail out and compromise your principles.

We have gentlemen here on the three issues that got the Tea Party started, that are the base of the conservative movement now in the Republican Party. And there is no difference between President Obama and these two gentlemen. And that’s why this election in Florida is so critical, that we have someone that actually can create a contrast between the president and the conservative point of view.

WILLIAMS: Congressmen Paul, are the two men in the middle insufficiently conservative for you?

PAUL: Well, I think the problem is, is nobody has defined what being conservative means.

WILLIAMS: Go ahead.

PAUL: And I think that is our problem.

Conservative means we have a smaller government and more liberty. And yet, if you ask, what have we done? I think we have lost our way.

Our rhetoric is still pretty good, but when we get in charge, we expand the government. You talk about Dodd-Frank, but we gave Sarbanes- Oxley. We gave debts as well, you know, when we’re in charge.

So, if it means limited government, you have to ask the basic question, what should the role of government be? The founders asked that question, had a revolution and wrote a Constitution. And they said the role of government ought to be to protect liberty.

It’s not to run a welfare state and not to be the policemen of the world. And so if you’re a conservative, how can you be conservative and cut food stamps, but you won’t cut spending overseas? There is not a nickel or a penny that anybody will cut on the conservative side, overseas spending. And we don’t have the money.

They are willing to start more wars. So, I say, if you’re conservative, you want small government across the board, especially in personal liberty. What’s wrong with having the government out of our personal lives? So, this is what — we have to decide what conservative means, what limited government means.

And I have a simple suggestion. We have a pretty good guide, and if we follow the Constitution, government would be very small and we would all be devoted conservatives.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, again tonight, so called Romneycare and so-called Obamacare have been positioned very closely side by side by your opponent, the senator. And again, you have been called insufficiently conservative.

ROMNEY: You know, I have a record. You can look at my record. I just described what I had accomplished in Massachusetts. It’s a conservative record.

Also, the fun of running against Ted Kennedy. What a great thrill that was. I didn’t beat him, but he had to take a mortgage out on his house to make sure that he could defeat me. I believe that the policies he put in place had hurt America and helped create a permanent underclass in this country.

My health care plan, by the way, is one that under our Constitution we’re allowed to have. The people in our state chose a plan which I think is working for our state.

At the time we crafted it, I was asked time and again, “Is this something that you would have the federal government do?” I said absolutely not.

I do not support a federal mandate. I do not support a federal one- size-fits-all plan. I believe in the Constitution. That’s why the attorney general here is saying absolutely not.

You can’t impose Obamacare on the states. What I will do if I’m president, I will repeal Obamacare and return to the states the authority and the rights the states have to craft their own programs to care for their own poor.

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, I know none of you believe in polls, but as we came in here tonight, of the numbers in the known world, your numbers were on the rise. What scares you about the presidency if you made it to the job you want?

GINGRICH: I actually agree with what Rick Santorum said. I believe that whoever the next president is, if we’re going to get America back on the right track, is going to face enormous, difficult problems, some of which have been accurately diagnosed by Dr. Paul.

And the fact is that we have tremendous institutional biases against doing the right thing and against getting things done. And we have huge interest groups who would rather preside over the wreckage than lose their favored position by helping the country.

So I always tell audiences I never ask anyone to be for me. Because if they are for me, they vote yes and go home and say, I sure hope Newt does it. I ask people to be with me, because I think this will be a very hard, very difficult journey. And I find it a very humbling and a very sobering thought that one would have to try to get America back on the right track despite all of our elites and all of our entrenched bureaucracies.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, you talk about restoring America’s greatness. Given that, in your view when was America last great?

ROMNEY: America still is great, but we have a lot of people suffering. We have people that are underemployed that shouldn’t be, unemployed that shouldn’t be. Home values continue to go down. We have the median income in this country has declined 10 percent in the last four years.

We’re still a great nation, but a great nation doesn’t have so many people suffering. And I’m running in part because I have experience in how the economy works. And I want to use that experience to get people working again, to get our economy working again.

And the idea to get our economy working is not to have the government play a more intrusive role in how our economy works, but instead to do the seven things that always get an economy going: get taxes competitive, regulation as modest as possible and modernized, get ourselves energy independent, open up trade with other nations and crack down on cheaters, make sure we don’t have crony capitalism — that’s what we have going on right now — build human capital through education, and also finally balance the budget.

People will not invest in an economy and create new jobs if they think we’re going to hit a Greece-like wall. I will do those seven things and get America working again.

WILLIAMS: I want to thank all of our candidates and our hosts, of course, here at the University of South Florida. We are obligated at this point to say, “Go Bulls.” [applause]

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.

January 16, 2012: Fox News / South Carolina Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina January 16, 2012

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
Brett Baier (Fox News)

BAIER: Thanks, Bill, and welcome to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and the Republican presidential debate. It’s being sponsored by Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the South Carolina Republican Party.

Now let’s meet the five remaining candidates. Texas Governor Rick Perry. [applause]

Former Senator Rick Santorum. [applause]

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. [applause]

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. [applause]

And Congressman Ron Paul. [applause]

And, of course, our stage is down one podium, with Governor Jon Huntsman’s announcement today that he is leaving the race. You at home can participate through Twitter tonight. You can weigh in on how well the candidates are answering the questions. Tweet the candidate’s last name and hashtag answer if you think he’s tackling the question or hashtag dodge if you think he’s avoiding the question.

Then you can go to foxnews.com/debate to see the results during the break. You can head there and check it out.

Now let’s meet our panelists tonight. Fox News political analyst and my colleague, Juan Williams. [applause]

And from the Wall Street Journal, economics correspondent Kelly Evans. [applause]

And Washington bureau chief Jerry Seib.

Our rules are similar to our previous Fox debates, except now answers will be 1 minute and 30 seconds to allow for a fuller discussion of the issues. But follow-ups will still be 30 seconds.

Now, in past debates, we’ve reminded candidates it’s time to wrap up with various sounds. We started with a doorbell. That didn’t work for dog-owners. And then we had a digital sound, which seemed rarely — pretty ineffective.

Tonight, after a long string of debates and with longer answer time, we’re going to try to not use any sound. You all have done this now 15 times. I’m sure you know the drill. But warning: We do reserve the right to bring back the bell if we have to.

Today, as you know, is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. As we look live at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in Washington, its first year on the mall, we’re reminded of one of the many notable quotes from the late Dr. King. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in a moment of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

This campaign has been filled with challenge and controversy. The challenges are large. Here in South Carolina, the unemployment rate is near 10 percent, well above the national average. And on this MLK Day, unemployment in African-American communities is near 16 percent.

But the controversy on the campaign trail in recent days has been about Governor Romney’s record. We are going to talk extensively about jobs, federal debt, world hotspots, and social issues, but, first, let’s clear the air.

Speaker Gingrich, on a debate stage in September, you vowed to, quote, “repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama, who deserves to be defeated,” close quote. And yet in recent days, you and your campaign have cited numerous outlets, from the New York Times to Salon.com, to attack Governor Romney’s business record, the exact line of attack the Obama campaign is using. Why?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think that the staying positive through Iowa, through $3.5 million of negative attacks, proved you either have to unilaterally disarm and leave the race or you have to at least bring up your competitor’s record.

Second, I think it’s very important for us to look at job creation. As a young member of Congress, I worked with President Ronald Reagan. We passed an economic growth package. We created 16 million jobs. The American people within a framework that Reagan had established created 16 million jobs.

As speaker I came back — working with President Bill Clinton, we passed a very Reagan-like program, less regulation, lower taxes. Unemployment dropped to 4.2 percent. We created 11 million jobs. Now, those are real numbers that people can verify out in the open.

Governor Romney as governor raised taxes and Massachusetts was 47th in job creation, fourth from the bottom. That’s a public record difference.

The second part of his campaign is citing his experience in business, which is perfectly legitimate, but if that’s a part of your campaign, then questioning it has to be equally legitimate.

And it struck me raising those questions, giving me an opportunity to answer them is exactly what campaigns ought to be about. And we need to satisfy the country that whoever we nominate has a record that can stand up to Barack Obama in a very effective way. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Romney, I will give you time to respond in just a minute. Speaker Gingrich, the Wall Street Journal editorial page calls your attacks crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism. And they write that you are embarrassing yourself by taking the Obama line.

How do you respond to that?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I don’t think raising questions is a prerogative only of Barack Obama and I don’t think Republicans should allow themselves to automatically be intimidated because every time you raise a question somebody yells you are doing something the Democrats will do.

I raise questions that I think are legitimate questions. The questions, some of which came straight out of Wall Street Journal articles. The governor has every opportunity to answer those questions to give us facts and data and I think that’s part of his responsibility as a candidate and I think that’s part of what a campaign is about, is to raise question and see whether or not whether or not your competitor can answer them effectively before you get to a general election where you know those questions are going to be asked.

BAIER: One more time. You said last week if somebody comes in and takes all the money out of your company and leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that’s not traditional capitalism. That doesn’t sound like a question.

GINGRICH: I think if you look at the record, part of which is published in the Wall Street Journal, remember its very limited public record because he was in a very private company. But there was a pattern in some companies, a handful of them, of leaving them with enormous debt and then within a year or two or three having them go broke. I think that is something he ought to answer.

BAIER: Governor Romney, your response.

ROMNEY: Well, I appreciate the chance to talk about my record and the private sector and also the governmental sector. And I appreciate the speaker’s work working in the Reagan years and in the Clinton years. We did see good growth in this country. I want to see that come back again.

My experience in the private sector took me, one to be head of a consulting firm that got in trouble and work to create jobs there and hold on to jobs. We were in tough times. And then I got the chance to start a business of my own.

And four of the companies that we invested in, they weren’t businesses I ran, but we invested in, ended up today having some 120,000 jobs. Some of the business we invested weren’t successful and lost jobs. And I’m very proud of the fact that we learned from the experience.

We invested in well over 100 different businesses. And the people have looked at the places that have added jobs and lost jobs and that record is pretty much available for people to take a close look at.

But my record as the governor of Massachusetts and as the person that led the Olympics flowed from the fact that I had experience turning around tough situations, that I worked in the private sector, demonstrated a record of success. By virtue of that I was asked to come out and organize the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

And then was asked after the success of that experience to come back to Massachusetts by a number of people there, encouraged me to come back, run for governor. I did. We were fortunate to have an unemployment rate by the time I left office of 4.7 percent. Sounds pretty good today.

And I was also proud of the fact that we balanced the budget every year I was in office. We reduced taxes 19 times, put in place a rainy day fund of over $2 billion by the time I left.

And so my record is out there, proud of it, and I think if team want to have someone who understand how the economy works, having worked in the real economy, that I’m the guy that can best post up against Barack Obama. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Perry, you have gone so far as to call what Mitt Romney did at Bain vulture capitalism. But you’ve also said regulations in America are killing America. In fact, you said we should repeal the most recent financial regulations law, Dodd-Frank.

So what specific regulations would you put in place to curb vulture capitalism?

PERRY: Well, let me go back and say that having been the governor of the state that created over a million net new jobs, that we are all about capitalism, and I think our record proves that we are all about capitalism.

But I visited Georgetown, South Carolina. It was one of those towns where there was a steel mill that Bain swept in, they picked that company over and a lot of people lost jobs there.

And the fact of the matter is we’ve got records. We’ve got records. My record is one of those that’s been open to the public for quite a few years. And as a matter of fact, my income tax have been out every year.

Newt, I think you will let your income tax come out Thursday.

And Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money. And — and I think that’s a — I think that’s a fair thing. Listen, here’s the real issue for us, as — as — as Republicans, we cannot fire our nominee in September. We need to know now. So I hope you’ll put your tax records out there this week so the people of South Carolina can take a look and decide if, you know, we’ve got a flawed candidate or not.

But the fact is on the regulatory side, Dodd-Frank does need to — to be gone. We’ve got too many regulations. Everyone knows that. We are strangling this country with regulations. [applause]

And we as a country, need to get rid of Dodd-Frank. We’ve got plenty — matter of fact, I would get rid of a substantial amount of those financial regulators so that we can in fact, get back to capitalism without Washington strangling it.

BAIER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds. [applause]

ROMNEY: Well, Brett I need a little longer than that, we had a couple of…

BAIER: Well there will be plenty of time.

ROMNEY: Well…

BAIER: Thirty seconds for this time.

ROMNEY: Lets take a little more time than that. First — first of all, I think — I think Governor Perry makes a — a very good point about — about Georgetown. For those that don’t know, it was a steel mill and — and my firm invested in that steel mill and another one in Kansas City, tried to make them successful. Invested there for seven or eight years. And ultimately what happened from abroad, dumping steel into this country lead to some 40 different steel mills being closed.

And — and that was one of those. I understand what happens when China cheats, or when others cheat and dump products into this country. That’s one of the reasons I’m running is to make sure we crack down on cheaters. By the way, we also started a new steel mill with new technology in Indiana. That one’s growing and thriving. I — I think that experience is what America needs in a president. Secondly I — I agree with the governor with regards to regulations. Regulations are choking off this economy.

I will do everything in my power to put a halt to all the Obama era regulations, review those that kill jobs and get rid of those so we can get the private sector working again. [applause]

BAIER: Gerald Seib with the Wall Street Journal.

SEIB: Governor Romney, let’s look a little deeper at the business record that you’re talking about. In a nutshell, what your opponents here are saying is that Bain Capital and other private equity firms, buy companies, load them up with debt, take the profits and then head for the exits. Let’s look at another example and allow you to respond through that. America Pad and Paper is a company that Bain Capital bought with $5 million, took on more debt to expand, couldn’t pay back the loans, went bankrupt and several hundred people lost their jobs.

Bain Capital though, took $100 million in profits and fees. Does that show a flaw in the Bain Capital model? Or is that just the rough and tumble of America capitalism?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all you never want to seen an enterprise go bankrupt. And you never want to see anyone lose a job. At the time I was at Bain Capital, the business was still going and didn’t go bankrupt. What the company did, is they had one paper company and then they bought another one down the road and they said, we don’t need to have, in — in an industry that’s shrinking, two different plants making the same product, so lets consolidate the two plans together.

And all the people in the plant that was closed were offered jobs in the new plant. Now they were union workers. They didn’t all want that non-union plant work rule setting. But ultimately, do I believe that — that free enterprise works? And that — and that private equity and the various features of our economy work to actually improve our economy? To make America more productive with higher incomes and a brighter future? Absolutely. The — the — this is a major part of our economy, has been for a long time. Free enterprise, with all of it’s different dimensions and players, makes America the — the strongest economic nation in the world.

The GDP per capita in this country, income per capita in this country, is about 50 percent higher than the average in Europe. Every time we invested, we tried to grow an enterprise, add jobs to make it more successful. And — and I know that people are going to come after me. I know President Obama is going to come after me. But the record is pretty darn good. You look at places like Staples, Bright Horizons, that steel company I talked about, the Sports Authority. They alone added 120,000 jobs as of today.

And — and those kinds of experiences are the kinds of things that allow me to know what it takes to get this economy working and to put people back to work. We’ve got a president in office three years, and he does not have a jobs plan yet. I’ve got one out there already and I’m not even president, yet. Thank you. [applause]

BAIER: Kelly Evans from the Wall Street Journal.

EVANS: Congressman Paul — Congressman Paul, this morning when he suspended his campaign, Governor Huntsman said the Republican presidential race has, quote “degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks, not worthy of the American people.” You have been particularly scathing in your ads against the other candidates up here on stage tonight. Do you agree with Governor Huntsman that these attacks should be abandoned?

PAUL: Well, they should be abandoned if you’re not telling the truth. But if you’re exposing a voting record I think it’s quite proper. There was one ad that we used against Senator Santorum, and I was only — I only had one problem, is I couldn’t get all the things in I wanted to say in one minute. [applause]

But, you know, we mentioned No Child Left Behind and that he supported deficits times five, raising the national debt, and that he voted for prescription drug programs, as well as he voted against right-to-work. And I could have added, you know, things like — he voted for Sarbanes-Oxley. So my only regret is that I couldn’t get enough in in that one minute that I should have.

UNKNOWN: Congressman Paul?

QUESTION: Hold up. Senator Santorum, you are going to get a question next, but respond, please, to Congressman Paul.

SANTORUM: Look, Congressman Paul has been quoting sources like CREW, which is a George Soros or a left-wing-backed organization, saying that I was corrupt. And in fact, throughout his entire ad, he quotes a lot of left-wing organizations.

Well, of course, left-wing organization say a lot of bad things about me. I would expect them. And that’s — I wear that as a badge of honor, not something that I’m ashamed of.

With respect to some of the votes that they elicit, I admit, I’m a strong conservative, but I’m not perfect. President Bush’s signature initiative of No Child Left Behind, I voted for it, I shouldn’t have. It was something that I said, and I will say publicly, that we should repeal. In fact, we should repeal all of federal government’s role in primary and secondary education, and if you give me the opportunity, I’ll do that. [applause]

QUESTION: We have a question for you — go ahead; finish your thought.

SANTORUM: And with right-to-work, look, I represented the state of Pennsylvania, which is one of the — which is not a right-to-work state. If you look at who voted for the right-to-work bill in the Congress, those who came from right-to-work states voted for it. Those who came from non-right-to-work states represented their states. I wasn’t going to vote in Washington, D.C., to change the law in my state.

I support right-to-work. I actually, as president, will sign and advocate for a right-to-work bill, but when I represented the people of Pennsylvania, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to do in Washington and change the law in my state when my state didn’t want to have that provision in their laws.

QUESTION: Juan Williams.

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, today you said Governor Romney is guilty of distorting your record as well as, quote, “lies and hypocrisy.” You said this behavior is classic Romney, and no one is holding him accountable.

So the same question that Kelly asked, this time to you, should these barbed personal attacks against fellow Republicans be abandoned by the candidates?

SANTORUM: I — look, I have run a very strong and positive campaign. My ads have been positive. The only ad that I’ve ever put up that has contrasted myself with the other candidates, and does so in a way talking about issues.

Governor Romney’s super PAC has put an ad out there suggesting that I voted to allow felons to be able to vote from prison, because they said I’m allowing felons to vote, and they put a prisoner — a person in a prison jumpsuit.

I would ask Governor Romney, do you believe people who have — who were felons, who served their time, who have extended — exhausted their parole and probation, should they be given the right to vote?

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: First of all, as you know, the PACs that run ads on various candidates, as we unfortunately know in this —

SANTORUM: I’m looking for a question — an answer to the question first. [applause]

ROMNEY: We have plenty of time. I’ll get there. I’ll do it in the order I want to do. I believe that, as you realize that the super PACs run ads. And if they ever run an ad or say something that is not accurate, I hope they either take off the ad or make it — or make it correct. I guess that you said that they — they said that you voted to make felons vote? Is that it?

SANTORUM: That’s correct. That’s what the ad says.

ROMNEY: And you’re saying that you didn’t?

SANTORUM: Well, first, I’m asking you to answer the question, because that’s how you got the time. It’s actually my time. So if you can answer the question, do you believe, do you believe that felons who have served their time, gone through probation and parole, exhausted their entire sentence, should they be given the right to have a vote?

This is Martin Luther King Day. This is a huge deal in the African-American community, because we have very high rates of incarceration, disproportionately high rates, particularly with drug crimes, in the African-American community.

The bill I voted on was the Martin Luther King Voting Rights bill. And this was a provision that said, particularly targeted African-Americans. And I voted to allow — to allow them to have their voting rights back once they completed their sentence.

QUESTION: Governor Romney, 30 seconds to respond.

ROMNEY: Yes. I don’t think people who have committed violent crimes should be allowed to vote again. That’s my own view. [applause]

SANTORUM: That’s very —

QUESTION: Last thing, Senator.

SANTORUM: You know, it’s very interesting you should say that, Governor Romney, because in the state of Massachusetts, when you were governor, the law was that not only could violent felons vote after they exhausted their sentences, but they could vote while they were on probation and parole, which was a more liberal position than I took when I voted for the bill in the — in the Congress. So…

BAIER: Governor?

SANTORUM: If, in fact — let me finish — if, in fact, you felt so passionately about this that you are now going to go out and have somebody criticize me for restoring voting rights to people who have — who have exhausted their sentence and served their time and paid their debt to society, then why didn’t you try to change that when you were governor of Massachusetts?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, as… [applause] As governor of Massachusetts, I had an 85 percent Democratic legislature. This is something we discussed. My view was people who committed violent crimes should not be able to vote, even upon coming out of office.

Secondly, I did not have a super PAC run an ad against you. That’s — as you know, that’s something which is completely out of the control of candidates.

One of the things I decried in the current financial system that gets behind campaigns is that we have these voting requirements that put these super PACs in power that say things we disagree with. And I’ll tell you, there have been some — there have been some attacks on me, I mean, that — that have just been outrageous and completely inaccurate and have been shown to be inaccurate. That’s the nature of the process. I hope…

BAIER: We have a…

ROMNEY: I hope — I hope it ends. I hope it ends.

BAIER: We have a lot of questions.

SANTORUM: I need to — I need to respond to this. What the governor said is he didn’t propose anything to change that law, and what he’s saying is that the — the ad that says that I said that — or I voted to allow felons to vote is inaccurate. And it is inaccurate. And if I had something — the super PAC that was supporting me that was inaccurate, I would go out and say, “Stop it,” that you’re representing me and you’re representing my campaign. Stop it. [applause]

BAIER: Governor — Governor Perry, go ahead.

PERRY: Here’s — here’s the issue.

ROMNEY: I actually think…

PERRY: And this is a great — this is a great example of the insiders that are having the conversation up here. And the fact of the matter is this. [applause] Washington, D.C., needs to leave the states alone and let the states decide these issues and don’t do it from Washington, D.C. That’s what needs to happen. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Romney, any response to either one of those?

ROMNEY: I — I agree with Governor Perry, that it should be decided at the state level. I also agree with — with Congressman Paul that — that a number of the positions that were described that Governor — or that Senator Santorum took were — were positions that were very different than the conservative views that he would suggest today.

I think the decision on — on voting against right-to-work was a bad decision and was made — as he indicated — based upon the — the reflection of the people of the state he was representing. It’s politics, if you will.

In my state, I had a state that — that said that they did not favor my position. I’m not letting felons who had committed violent crimes vote. I think it’s a — a position that’s reasonable, and that’s the position I’ve got.

BAIER: We may have to rethink that whole bell thing, but we’re going to take a break right here. Remember to send your thoughts on how the candidates are answering the questions via Twitter. Tweet the candidate’s last name and hashtag answer or hashtag dodge. Send me questions at bretbaier. Include that hashtag scdebate.

After the break, key issues and some more fireworks. We’ll see. Stay with us.

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and the Republican presidential debate.

We are getting questions from Twitter. Governor Romney — Governor Huntsman endorsed you today. But in New Hampshire he called you a, quote, “perfectly lubricated weather vein on the important issues of the day.” And just last week, Governor Huntsman charged that it’s hard to find your core. Which leads to our first Twitter question.

From MissinDixie, quote, “I want to support Mitt Romney, but considering his changing views, convince me you won’t change again.”

ROMNEY: You know, the issue where I change my mind, which obviously draws a lot of attention was that when I was running for governor, I said I would leave the law in place as it related to abortion. And I thought I could go in that narrow path between my personal belief and letting government stay out of the issue.

Then a piece of legislation came to my desk and it said we would begin to create embryos for the purpose of destroying those embryos, and I said I simply couldn’t sign something like that. And I penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe and said I’m pro-life, described my view and served as a pro-life governor.

The Massachusetts Citizens for Life have just written a letter last week describing my record and saying this is a solid record of a very pro-life governor. I’m proud of that record.

My view on other social issues such as gay marriage, I’ve always opposed gay marriage. I believe that we should provide equal rights to people regardless of their sexual orientation but I do not believe that marriage should be between two people of the same gender.

My care by getting in this race is about my belief in America and my concern that what we’re seeing with this president is a change in course for America to be become something we wouldn’t recognize. I think he is drawing us into becoming more like a European social welfare state. I think he wants us to become an entitlement society where people in this country feel they’re entitled to something from government and where government takes from some to give to others.

I’m running to make sure that we don’t transform America into something we don’t recognize, but instead we restore the principles that made America the hope of the Earth.

I believe in free enterprise, I believe in freedom, I believe in liberty, I believe in an opportunity society. And everything I do will be designed to strengthen the values of this country, to strengthen the families of this country, to strengthen our economy and to keep a military that is second to none in the world. [applause]

BAIER: Juan Williams, Juan?

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, last month the Department of Justice challenged South Carolina’s new law requiring registered voters to show state issued identification before they can vote. Governor Haley has pledged to fight the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court. You sided with the government. [applause]

Now, Governor Perry, are you suggesting on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, that the federal government has no business scrutinizing the voting laws of states where minorities were once denied the right to vote?

PERRY: I’m saying — I’m saying that the state of — of Texas is under assault by federal government. I’m saying also that South Carolina is at war with this federal government and with this administration. [applause]

If you look at what this Justice Department has done, not only have they taken them to task on voter ID, they’ve also taken them to task on their immigration law and in then the most egregious thing obviously is this National Labor Relations Board, where they come into a right to work state and tell the state of South Carolina…[applause]…we’re not going to let a private company come in here. That is irresponsible. I would suggest to you it’s unconstitutional. And when I’m the president of the United States, the states are going to have substantially more right to take care of their business. And not be forced by the EPA, or by the Justice Department for that matter, to do things that are against the will of the people.

Look, I’ve said this administration is at war against organized religion. And when you look at what they’ve done, going after churches because churches have that ministerial exception in there and can decide who they were going to hire at — at their churches. The idea that the Catholic charities cannot take money or the federal government, this administration won’t give them those dollars for sexually trafficked individuals because this administration doesn’t agree with the Catholic church on the issue of abortion.

If that’s not a war on religion, I don’t know what it is. And this administration is out of control. [applause]

BAIER: Senator Santorum, we talked about the high unemployment rate here in South Carolina, almost 10 percent, well above the national average. We’ve talked about the skyrocketing national debt. In December, Congress authorized an additional 20 weeks of jobless benefits. Benefits being paid by the federal government in many cases because states can’t afford them. Do you support extending these benefits when they expire at the end of the month? Why or why not?

SANTORUM: Well, I think we have to look at having a reasonable time for people to be able to come back, get a job and then turn their lives around. But, what we’ve seen in — in the past under this administration, is extending benefits up to 99 weeks. I don’t support that. I think if you have people who are out of work that — that long a period of time, it’s — it’s without question it makes it harder to find work when you come back. When you’re that far long away from a job, then you lose certain skills. You lose — you lose a lot of things when you’re out of work.

And that’s — there’s a lot of research that show that to be the case. And so what I believe is, just like I did with welfare reform when we reformed welfare, we sent it back to the states. And we gave the states the flexibility to design these programs. Just as I would do here with unemployment insurance. It should go back to the states. Let the states design it. If South Carolina because of a unique situation, wants to have a longer unemployment period of time because of a unique situation here, fine. But to have a federal program that roughly and crudely tries to assess the problem of unemployment from state to state and area to area, is the wrong approach.

What we should do, is have it just like welfare. Give it to the states, put a time limit. In the case of welfare, it was 40 weeks. Give flexibility to the states to — to — to operate those programs and even in unemployment, I mean, you can — you can have as we did on welfare, have some sort of either work requirement of job training required as a condition. We’re not doing people any favors by keeping them on unemployment insurance for a long period of time. [applause]

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum just mentioned it, the surge in unemployment has created these so-called 99’ers, people who collect benefits for the maximum 99 weeks offered now. What is the maximum length anyone should be able to collect unemployment checks?

GINGRICH: Well, you know Brett, I think there’s a better way to — to think about this. All unemployment compensation should be tied to a job training requirement. If somebody can’t find a job…[applause]… and they show up, and they say, “You know, I need help,” the help we ought to give them is to get them connected to a business-run training program to acquire the skills to be employable. Now the fact is, 99 weeks is an associate degree. [applause]

It — it tells you — I think it tells you everything. I — I hope my four colleagues would agree here. It tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Barack Obama and the five of us, that we actually think work is good. [applause]

We actually — we actually think saying to somebody, “I’ll help you if you’re willing to help yourself,” is good. [applause]

And we think unconditional efforts by the best food stamp president in American history to maximize dependency is terrible for the future of this country. [applause]

BAIER: Kelly Evans?

EVANS: Governor Romney — Governor Romney, core European nations have just been downgraded, and several are only able to raise funds because of help from central banks. As president, you could immediately be faced with another financial crisis, perhaps this time sparked in Europe. This is not some imaginary event. How far would you be willing to go to keep the financial system functioning?

ROMNEY: Well, of course you want to keep our financial system functioning, but we’ve learned some lessons from the experience of the last several years. What you don’t want to do is to give the president or anyone else a blank check or a slush fund to take care of their friends or take care of industries or companies they think they want to save. What we have to do…[applause]

What we have to do is to recognize that — that bankruptcy can be a process, reorganization for banks, as well as other institutions, that allow them to get rid of their excess costs, to re-establish a sound foundation, and to emerge stronger. We’re seeing that as a result of the bankruptcy in the auto industry. We could see that in our banking sector, as well, if a bank or two get in trouble.

And so the right course for us is not to think we have to go run over to Europe to try and save their banking system or to try and pump money into the banks here in this country. This is time for us to recognize that the system of laws we have and the free enterprise system works and we don’t need government stepping in with regulations and higher taxes and telling us what we can and cannot do as a society to try and keep America strong.

The best way to get America’s economy going is not to think about how much we can push government into the American economy, but instead how much we can get government out of the American economy. [applause]

And our — our tax rates — our tax rates are too high on individuals, as well as on our employers. Our regulations are too burdensome. Regulators see themselves as the — the opponents of free enterprise as opposed to those that encourage it.

We have an energy policy that doesn’t take advantage of our natural resources. That makes no sense. We need our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear.

And, finally, we need to open up new markets. This president has opened up no new markets for American goods around the world in his three years, even as European nations and China have opened up 44. We have to have a policy to open markets, put Americans to work. That’s the answer, not bailouts.

BAIER: Jerry Seib has the next question.

SEIB: Congressman Paul, South Carolina has seven major military bases, and thousands of people employed in the defense industry. But you want to make major cuts in defense spending, several hundred billion dollars in the coming years, that inevitably would cost South Carolina jobs. What do you say to people in this state who worry that your military plans would hurt the national security and cost South Carolina jobs?

PAUL: I would say your — your question suggests you’re very confused about my position. [applause]

I want to cut money, overseas money. That’s what I want to do. I want to cut military money. I don’t want to cut defense money. I want to bring the troops home. I’d probably have more bases here at home. We were closing them down in the 1990s and building them overseas. That’s how we got into trouble.

So we would save a lot more money and have a stronger national defense, and that’s what we should do. But to say that we would be weaker is absolutely wrong, because — and — and — and another important thing you should consider is the fact that the military is behind me more than the others. I get twice as much money from the…[applause]… from the active military duties than all the other candidates put together. So they’re saying that I’m on the right track. They’re sick and tired of those wars. They’re sick and tired of the nation- building and the policing activity.

But to say that we would have less money for defense, we’d actually have more money. And if I may, I’d like to go back to the international financial thing.

SEIB: Congressman, just to be clear, your plan calls for freezing defense spending at 2006 levels, which is where —

PAUL: No, see, I — you still don’t understand.

BAIER: What is he missing, Congressman?

PAUL: You don’t understand there’s a difference between military spending and defense spending. Just because you spend a billion dollars on an embassy in Baghdad, bigger than the Vatican, you consider that defense spending. I consider that waste. [applause] So if you want to — a little while ago we were talking about funding the unemployed — and of course that should be privatized and I don’t support it — but I don’t support cutting it off like that. I would cut some of this military spending like Eisenhower advises, watch out for the military industrial complex. Defend this country. We have to have a strong national defense, but we don’t get strength by diluting ourselves in 900 bases in 130 countries. That is where the problem is.

But you need to understand that there is a difference between just military spending and defense spending, just to spend money. We understand this domestically. If you spend more money domestically, we know it’s wrong, but we are supposed to spend more money and that’s conservative. I’ve never quite understood this. We are supposed to be conservatives. Spend less money. [applause]

BAIER: I’d like to ask a question about keeping money for all of the candidates down the line. What is the highest federal income tax any American should have to pay? We are looking for a number.

Governor?

PERRY: Seven 7 percent flat tax. Simple. Keep it simple.

BAIER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, my plan has two rates, 10 and 28 percent, which is the highest rate under Ronald Reagan when he cut taxes.

BAIER: Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: I would like 25 percent, but right now it’s at 35, so people better pay what is legally required. But ultimately let’s get it down to as low as we possibly can, if it’s 20, if it’s 25 but paying more than 25 percent, I think, is taking too much out of our pockets.

BAIER: So the highest you had was 35?

ROMNEY: Well, that’s what the law is right now, but 25 is where I would like to see us go.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich.

GINGRICH: I would like to see it be a flat tax at 15 percent and I would like to see us reduce government to meet the revenue, not raise revenue to meet the government.

BAIER: Congressman Paul.

PAUL: Well, we should have the lowest tax that we’ve ever had, and up until 1913 it was 0 percent. What’s so bad about that? [applause]

Now, I would like to follow up on that, because I think the question on taxes is generally misleading, because anytime you spend money, it’s a tax. You might tax, you might borrow, you might inflate. The vicious tax, that’s attacking the American people, the retired people today, is the inflation tax, the devaluation of the currency, the standard of living is going down, and you need to address that. And that’s why I want to make the inflation tax zero, as well.

BAIER: So your answer is zero?

PAUL: Zero.

BAIER: OK. About taxes. Kelly?

EVANS: Governor Romney, Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum and now vocally tonight Senator Perry — Governor Perry — are calling for you to release your tax records. The Obama campaign is asking for the same thing. Governor, will you release your income tax records?

ROMNEY: You know, I looked at what has been done in campaigns in the past with Senator McCain and President George W. Bush and others. They have tended to release tax records in April or tax season. I hadn’t planned on releasing tax records because the law requires us to release all of our assets, all the things we own. That I have already released. It’s a pretty full disclosure. But, you know, if that’s been the tradition and I’m not opposed to doing that, time will tell. But I anticipate that most likely I am going to get asked to do that around the April time period and I’ll keep that open.

EVANS: Governor, you will plan then to release your income tax records around April?

ROMNEY: I think I’ve heard enough from folks saying, look, let’s see your tax records. I have nothing in them that suggests there’s any problem and I’m happy to do so. I sort of feel like we are showing a lot of exposure at this point. And if I become our nominee, and what’s happened in history is people have released them in about April of the coming year and that’s probably what I would do.

BAIER: OK. Next round of questions, Juan Williams.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, your father was born in Mexico. You still have family there, yet you have taken the hardest line of anyone on this stage on immigration reform, including opposition to key parts of the DREAM Act, which is supported by 80 percent of Latinos in this country. Are you alienating Latino voters that Republicans will need to win the general election?

ROMNEY: You know, I think Latino voters, like all voters in this country, are interested in America being an opportunity nation. People come here because they believe they want to have a brighter future and that’s been the story of America. The president looks out across the country and says it could be worse. I can’t believe saying that. The American people recognize it’s got to be better.

In my view, as long as we communicate to the people of all backgrounds in this country that it can be better, and that America is a land of opportunity, we will get those votes.

Now with regards to immigration policy, I absolutely believe that those who come here illegally should not be given favoritism or a special route to becoming permanent residents or citizens that’s not given to those people who have stayed in line legally. I just think we have to follow the law, I think that’s the right course. [applause]

ROMNEY: And I have indicated I would veto the DREAM Act if provisions included in that act to say that people who are here illegally, if they go to school here long enough, get a degree here that they can become permanent residents.

I think that’s a mistake. I think we have to follow the law and insist those who come here illegally, ultimately return home, apply, and get in line with everyone else.

Look, I want people to know I love legal immigration. Almost all of us in this room are descendants of immigrants or are immigrants ourselves. Our nation is stronger and more vibrant by virtue of a strong legal immigration system.

But to protect our legal immigration system we have got to protect our borders and stop the flood of illegal immigration and I will not do anything that opens up another wave of illegal immigration.

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, the Obama administration has not specifically addressed high levels of joblessness and a 25 percent poverty rate in black America. They say they want to fix the economy for all, but given the crisis situation among a group of historically disadvantaged Americans, do you feel the time has come to take special steps to deal with the extraordinary level of poverty afflicting one race of America?

SANTORUM: It’s very interesting, if you look at a study that was done by the Brookings Institute back in 2009, they determined that if Americans do three things, they can avoid poverty. Three things. Work, graduate from high school, and get married before you have children. Those three things…[applause]

Those three things, if you do, according to Brookings, results in only 2 percent of people who do all those things ending up in poverty, and 77 percent above the national average in income. It’s a huge, huge opportunity for us.

But what is the Obama administration doing? Elaine Bennett runs a program called Best Friends, the wife of Bill Bennett. And she told me through Bill that the Obama administration now has a policy, and this program is a program targeted at at-risk youth, specifically in many case necessary the African-American community, who are at-risk young girls. The Obama administration now has regulations that tells them that they can no longer promote marriage to these young girls. They can no longer promote marriage as a way of avoiding poverty and bad choices that they make in their life. They can no longer even teach abstinence education. They have to be neutral with respect to how people behave.

The problem is neutrality ends in poverty, neutrality ends in choices that hurt people’s lives. This administration is deliberately telling organizations that are there to help young girls make good choices, not to tell them what the good choice is. That is absolutely unconscionable. [applause]

WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul. An analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative finds that blacks who are jailed at four times the rate of whites in South Carolina are most often convicted on drug offenses. Do you see racial disparities in drug-related arrests and convictions as a problem? And if so, how would you fix it?

PAUL: Yes. Definitely. There is a disparity. It’s not that it is my opinion, it is very clear. Blacks and minorities who are involved with drugs, are arrested disproportionately. They are tried and imprisoned disproportionately. They suffer the consequence of the death penalty disproportionately. Rich white people don’t get the death penalty very often.

And most of these are victimless crimes. Sometimes people can use drugs and arrested three times and never committed a violent act and they can go to prison for life. And yet we see times just recently we heard where actually murders get out of prison in shorter periods of time. So I think it’s way — way disproportionate.

I don’t think we can do a whole lot about it. I think there’s discrimination in the system, but you have to address the drug war. You know, the drug war is — is very violent on our borders. We have the immigration problem, and I’m all for having, you know, tight immigration policies, but we can’t ignore the border without looking at the drug war.

In the last five years, 47,500 people died in the drug war down there. This is a major thing going on. And it unfairly hits the minorities.

This is one thing I am quite sure that Martin Luther King would be in agreement with me on this. As a matter of fact, Martin Luther King he would be in agreement with me on the wars, as well, because he was a strong opponent to the Vietnam War.

So I — I — I would say, yes, the judicial system is probably one of the worst places where — where prejudice and — and discrimination still exists in this country.

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?

GINGRICH: No. I don’t see that. [applause]

You know, my daughter, Jackie, who’s sitting back there, Jackie Cushman, reminded me that her first job was at First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia, doing janitorial work at 13. And she liked earning the money. She liked learning that if you worked, you got paid. She liked being in charge of her own money, and she thought it was a good start.

I had a young man in New Hampshire who walked up to me. I’ve written two newsletters now about this topic. I’ve had over 50 people write me about the jobs they got at 11, 12, 13 years of age. Ran into a young man who started a doughnut company at 11. He’s now 16. He has several restaurants that take his doughnuts. His father is thrilled that he’s 16 because he can now deliver his own doughnuts. [laughter]

What I tried to say — and I think it’s fascinating, because Joe Klein reminded me that this started with an article he wrote 20 years ago. New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor, and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They’d learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They could work in the front office. They could work in the library. They’d be getting money, which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money. [applause]

WILLIAMS: Well…[applause]

The suggestion that he made was about a lack of work ethic. And I’ve got to tell you, my e-mail account, my Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities.

You saw some of this reaction during your visit…[booing]… to a black church in South Carolina. You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people. [booing]

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. [applause]

Now, I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable. [laughter] [applause]

Second, you’re the one who earlier raised a key point. There’s — the area that ought to be I-73 was called by Barack Obama a corridor of shame because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built the road. They haven’t helped the people. They haven’t done anything. [applause]

So… [applause]

BAIER: Finish your thought, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: One last thing.

BAIER: Yes, sir.

GINGRICH: So here’s my point. I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job. [applause]

BAIER: Okay. When we come back — they can’t hear me, but I’ll talk to you, foreign policy. Bring me your questions, BretBair, include hash tag SCdebates after this break.

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That was a time lapsed video of a sand sculpture right outside the convention center here. It does still have Governor Huntsman on that sand sculpture. He’s not here tonight. Next round of questions is on foreign policy. And we’ll begin with Congressman Paul. In a recent interview, Congressman Paul with a Des Moines radio station you said you were against the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. You said the U.S. operation that took out the terrorist responsible for killing 3,000 people on American soil, quote, showed no respect for the rule of law, international law.

So to be clear, you believe international law should have constrained us from tracking down and killing the man responsible for the most brazen attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor?

PAUL: Obviously no. And that’s what — I did not say that.

What I — as a matter of fact, after 9/11 I voted for the authority to go after him. And my frustration was that we didn’t go after him. It took us ten years. We had him trapped at Tora Bora and I thought we should have trapped him there. I even introduced another resolutuion on the principle of market reprisal to keep our eye on target rather than getting involved in nation building.

BAIER: But no respect for international law was the question about the quote that you used in Des Moines.

PAUL: Well, you know, I can’t say — his colleague was in Pakistan, and we communicated, you know, with the government of Pakistan and they turned him over. And what I suggested there was that if we have no respect for the sovereignty of another nation that it will lead to disruption of that nation.

Here we have a nation that we are becoming constantly trying to kill people who we consider our enemies. At the same time we are giving the government of Pakistan billions of dollars. Now there’s a civil war going on, the people are mad at us but yet the government is getting money from us and I think it’s a deeply flawed policy.

But to not go after him — and if I voted for the authority, obviously I think it was proper. But once they waited ten years, I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t have done it like they did after Khalid Sheikh Aman. And that would have been a more proper way.

If somebody in this country, say a Chinese dissident come over here, we wouldn’t endorse the idea, well, they can come over here and bomb us and do whatever. I’m just trying to suggest that respect for other nation’s sovereignty — and look at the chaos in Pakistan now. We are at war in Pakistan, but to say that I didn’t want him killed…

BAIER: No, I just quoted from your radio.

PAUL: I’m just suggesting that there are processes that if you could follow and that you should do it. There is proper procedures rather than digging bigger holes for ourselves.

That’s what we have been doing in the Middle East, digging bigger and bigger holes for ourselves and it’s so hard for us to get out of that mess. And we have a long ways to go. We are still in Iraq and that’s getting worse and we are not leaving Afghanistan and the American people are sick and tired of it. 80 percent of the American people want us out of there. I am just suggesting that we work within the rule of law.

Like only going to war when you declare the law, then we wouldn’t be…

BAIER: International law. I understand.

I guess U.S. intelligence officials say they had documents recovered in the compound in Abbottabad that that shows that al Qaeda was planning other attacks, perhaps bigger than 9/11. I asked you in our debate in Sioux City on the topic of Iran about this. But on this topic, GOP nominee Ron Paul would be running far to the left of President Obama on the issue of tracking down and killing terrorists who want to attack the U.S.

PAUL: I would say that if you do your best and you can’t do anything, yes, we had the authority, we voted for it, you got it from the congress, you do it. I just didn’t think they had gone through the process enough to actually, you know, capture him in a different way.

I mean, think about Saddam Hussein. We did that. We captured him. We tried him. I mean the government tried him and he got hung. What’s so terrible about this?

This whole idea that you can’t capture — just a minute. This whole idea you can’t capture people…

BAIER: but you voted against the war in Iraq.

PAUL: Adolf Eichmann was captured. He was given a trial. What is wrong with capturing people? Why didn’t we try to get some information from him? You know, we are accustomed to asking people questions, but all of a sudden gone, you know, that’s it.

So I would say that there are different ways without trying to turn around and say, oh, for some reason this doesn’t mean he’s supporting America.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich?

If you received, Speaker Gingrich actionable intelligence about the location of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar inside Pakistan would you authorize a unilateral operation, much like the one that killed bin Laden, with or without the Pakistani government knowing, even if the consequence was an end to all U.S.-Pakistani cooperation?

GINGRICH: well, let me go back to set the stage as you did awhile ago. Bin Laden plotted deliberately, bombing American embassies, bombings the USS Cole, and killing 3,100 Americans, and his only regret was he didn’t kill more. Now, he’s not a Chinese dissident. [applause]

You know, the analogy that Congressman Paul used was — was utterly irrational. A Chinese dissident who comes in here — a Chinese dissident who comes here seeking freedom is not the same as a terrorist who goes to Pakistan seeking asylum.

Furthermore, when you give a country $20 billion, and you learn that they have been hiding — I mean, nobody in their — nobody believes that bin Laden was sitting in a compound in a military city one mile from the national defense university and the Pakistanis didn’t know it. Now…[applause]

We’re in South Carolina. South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them. [applause]

BAIER: Congressman Paul, 30 seconds, please, 30 seconds to respond, since you were mentioned.

PAUL: My — my — my point is, if another country does to us what we do others, we’re not going to like it very much. So I would say that maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in — in foreign policy. Don’t do to other nations…[booing]… what we don’t want to have them do to us. So we — we endlessly bomb — we endlessly these countries and then we wonder — wonder why they get upset with us? And — and yet it — it continues on and on. I mean, this — this idea…

BAIER: That’s time.

PAUL: This idea that we can’t debate foreign policy, then all we have to do is start another war? I mean, it’s — it’s warmongering. They’re building up for another war against Iran, and people can’t wait to get in another war. This country doesn’t need another war. We need to quit the ones we’re in. We need to save the money and bring our troops home. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Romney? And, again, the bell may be making a comeback. [laughter]

Governor Romney, should the United States negotiate with the Taliban to end the fighting in Afghanistan?

ROMNEY: Of course not. And Speaker Gingrich is right. Of course you take out our enemies, wherever they are. These people declared war on us. They’ve killed Americans. We go anywhere they are, and we kill them. And the — the right thing for…[applause]

The right thing for Osama bin Laden was the bullet in the — in the head that he received. That’s the right thing for people who kill American citizens. [applause]

Now, the Taliban is killing Americans. This president has done an extraordinary thing. He announced the date of our withdrawal. He announced the date of the withdrawal of our surge forces based upon a political calendar, not the calendar that the commanders on the ground said it was based for our mission. That was wrong. [applause]

And then he announced the day that we’re going to pull out of the country all together. And now he wants to negotiate from a position of extraordinary weakness? You don’t negotiate from — with your enemy from a position of weakness as this president has done.

The right course for America is to recognize we’re under attack. We’re under attack by people, whether they’re Al Qaida or other radical violent jihadists around the world, and we’re going to have to take action around the world to protect ourselves.

And hopefully we can do it as we did with Osama bin Laden, as opposed to going to war as we had to do in — in the case of — of Iraq. The right way, Congressman Paul, in my view, is — to keep us from having to go to those wars is to have a military so strong that no one would ever think of testing it. That’s the kind of military we have to have, and we have to pursue our interests around the world. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Romney, Mitchell Rice — Mitchell Rice, who I believe is one of your top foreign policy advisers, said that the Taliban may well be, quote, “our enemy and our negotiating partner.” He said this means that some type of negotiated solution is the best near-term bet to halt the fighting. Is he wrong?

ROMNEY: Yes. The — the right course for America is not to negotiate with the Taliban while the Taliban are killing our soldiers. The right course is to recognize they’re the enemy of the United States. It’s the vice president who said they’re not the enemy of the United States. The vice president’s wrong. They are the enemy. They’re killing American soldiers.

We don’t negotiate from a position of weakness as we’re pulling our troops out. The right course for us is to strengthen the Afghan military force so they can reject the Taliban.

Think what it says to the people in Afghanistan and the military in Afghanistan, when we’re asking them to stand up and fight to protect the sovereignty of their people, if they see us, their ally, turning and negotiating with the very people they’re going to have to protect their nation from. It’s the wrong course. The vice president’s wrong. We should not negotiate with the Taliban. We should defeat the Taliban. [applause]

BAIER: Senator Santorum, you said earlier, in the Libyan operation that President Obama missed an opportunity to capitalize on rebel offensives. Now, in Syria at the hands of Bashar al Assad, it’s estimated that some 5,000 people have been killed. The country appears to be sliding into civil war and Arab League peace monitors seem to be failing. How would President Santorum, deal with this international crisis?

SANTORUM: Well, the — first off President Obama has dealt with it about as badly as possible. First he emboldened Assad by coming into office and establishing an embassy there, reestablishing diplomatic relationships, going through the process of trying to rehabilitate this tyrant. All, I’m sure, to the consternation of our friend, Israel who has consistently done the opposite, tried to step away and isolate Israel while at the time they’re trying to negotiate in a very difficult situation in their country.

With respect to — to — to Syria, look, Syria and Assad are a threat to Israel. I was the author of a bill when I was in the United States Senate to put sanctions on Syria. And in fact, they worked to get Syria out of Lebanon, which was — which was step number one. That’s no longer a viable option. We need to rally the international community, work and cooperate with removing Assad and work in — in concert with the Arab League, work with others.

As far as a military mission on our own, no I do not support a military mission into Syria, but we should be much more aggressive in following through with policies that effectuate the removal of Assad for the benefit of the Syrian people and for our neighbor — and for their neighbor, Israel. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Perry, since the Islamist-oriented party took over in Turkey, the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent there. Press freedom has declined to the level of Russia. The prime minister of Turkey has embraced Hamas and Turkey has threatened military force against both Israel and Cypress. Given Turkey’s turn, do you believe Turkey still belongs in NATO?

PERRY: Well, obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by, what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then yes. Not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it’s time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it. [applause]

And you go to zero with foreign aid for all of those countries. And it doesn’t make any difference who they are. You go to zero with that foreign aid and then you have the conversation about, do they have America’s best interest in mind? And when you have countries like Turkey that are moving far away from the country that I lived in back in the 1970’s as a pilot in the United States Air Force that was our ally, that worked with us, but today we don’t see that.

Our — our — our president, has a foreign policy that makes our allies very nervous and emboldens our enemies. And we have to have a president of the United States that clearly sends the message, whether it’s to Israel, our friend and there should be no space between the United States and Israel, period. [applause]

PERRY: And we need to send a powerful message to countries like Iran, and Syria and Turkey that the United States is serious and that we’re going to have to be dealt with.

BAIER: Governor Perry, you sounded like you wanted to get in when Congressman Paul was talking at the beginning of this round on foreign policy.

PERRY: Well, I was just saying that I thought maybe that the noise that you were looking for was a gong. [laughter]

BAIER: Do you have any reaction to what Congressman Paul said? [applause]

PERRY: Listen, as — you know, I volunteered to wear the uniform of our country. And what bothers me more than anything, is this administration and this administration’s disdain all too often for our men and women in uniform. Whether it was what they’ve said about the Marines — now these young men made a mistake. They obviously made a — a mistake.

BAIER: You’re talking about urinating on the corpses?

PERRY: They — they made a — a mistake that the military needs to deal with. And they need to be punished. But the fact of the matter — the fact of the matter is this, when the Secretary of Defense calls that a despicable act, when he calls that utterly despicable. Let me tell you what’s utterly despicable, cutting Danny Pearl’s head off and showing the video of it. [applause]

Hanging our contractors from bridges. That’s utterly despicable. For our president for the Secretary of State, for the Department of Defense secretary to make those kinds of statements about those young Marines — yes, they need to be punished, but when you see this president with that type of disdain for our country, taking a trillion dollars out of our defense budget, 100,000 of our military off of our front lines, and a reduction of forces, I lived through a reduction of force once and I saw the result of it in the sands of Iran in 1979. Never again.

BAIER: Kelly.

Yes, sir.

Congressman Paul.

PAUL: Just a very brief statement. I, too, served in the air force for five years during the height of the Cold War from ’62 to ’68 so I’ve had a little bit of experience. In a matter of fact, I was over in the Afghanistan, Pakistan region.

But I would like to point out one thing about the Taliban. The Taliban used to be our allies when we were fighting the Russians. So Taliban are people who want — their main goal is to keep foreigners off their land. It’s the al Qaeda you can’t mix the two. The al Qaeda want to come here to kill us. The Taliban just says we don’t want foreigners. We need to understand that, or we can’t resolve this problem in the Middle East. We are going to spend a lot of lives and a lot of money for a long time to come.

BAIER: Kelly Evans.

EBANS: Governor Romney, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, he enacted a provision allowing him to indefinitely detain American citizens in U.S. military custody, many, including Congressman Paul, have called it unconstitutional. At the same time the bill did provide money to continue funding U.S. troops.

Governor Romney, as president, would you have signed the National Defense Act as written?

ROMNEY: Yes, I would have. And I do believe that it is appropriate to have in our nation the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country, who are members of al Qaeda.

Look, you have every right in this country to protest and to express your views on a wide range of issues but you don’t have a right to join a group that is killed Americans, and has declared war against America. That’s treason. In this country we have a right to take those people and put them in jail.

And I recognize, I recognize that in a setting where they are enemy combatants and on our own soil, that could possibly be abused. There are a lot of things I think this president does wrong, lots of them, but I don’t think he is going to abuse this power and I that if I were president I would not abuse this power. And I can also tell you that in my view you have to choose people who you believe have sufficient character not to abuse the power of the presidency and to make sure that we do not violate our constitutional principles.

But let me tell you, people who join al Qqaeda are not entitled to rights of due process under our normal legal code. They are entitled instead to be treated as enemy combatants.

EVANS: Senator Santorum…

ROMNEY: I’ve still got time. So as long as I still have time I just want to go back and agree with what Governor Perry said, the most extraordinary thing that’s happened with this military authorization is the president is planning on cutting $1 trillion out of military spending. Our navy is smaller than it’s been since 1917. Our air force is smaller and older than any time since 1947.

We are cutting our number of troops. We are not giving the veterans the care they deserve. We simply cannot continue to cut our Department of Defense budget if we are going to remain the hope of the Earth. And I will fight to make sure America retains military superiority.

EVANS: Senator Santorum, 30 seconds to you, sir. Same question would you have signed, as president would you have signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law as written?

SANTORUM: So he gets two minutes and I get 30 seconds?

BAIER: Take whatever time you want.

SANTORUM: OK.

First off, I would say this, what the law should be and what the law has been is that if you are a United States citizen and you are detained as an enemy combatant, then you have the right to go to federal court and file a habeas corpus position and be provided a lawyer. That was the state of the law before the National Defense Authorization Act and that should be the state of the law today.

You should not have — you should not have — if you are not an American citizen, that’s one thing. But if you are a citizen and you are being held indefinitely, then you have the right to go to a federal court — and again, the law prior to the National Defense Authorization Act was that you had the right to go to a court, and for that court to determine by a preponderance of the evidence whether you could continue to be held. That is a standard that should be maintained and I would maintain that standard as president.

EVANS: Congressman Paul, different question.

PAUL: Why can’t I answer about that one?

BAIER: You were included in the question in the first place. Do you want 30 seconds to respond to this?

PAUL: I need a minute.

No, I think we are going in the wrong direction for the protection of our liberties here at home. They are under deep threat. The PATRIOT Act has eliminated the fourth amendment. We now have a policy of preemptive war, you don’t have to declare war and you don’t even have to have an enemy. We can start the wars, that’s what preemptive war is all about.

Now with the military appropriations defense act, this — this is — this is major. This says that the military can arrest an American citizen for under suspicion, and he can be held indefinitely, without habeas corpus, and be denied a lawyer indefinitely even in a prison here.

Let me give you one statistic. You’re worrying about all these — all these — where we’re going to try people, where are they going to do it, we have to do it secretly, because our rule of law is so flawed. We have arrested 362 people related to Al Qaida-type operation; 260 of them are in prison. They’ve been tried and convicted. So don’t give up on our American judicial system so easily, I beg of you. [applause]

BAIER: Kelly?

EVANS: All right. Change of topic. This question to Governor Perry. What measures would you immediately take to improve the housing market? Or do you consider any such intervention to be an overreach of government?

PERRY: Well, obviously, the first thing we need to do in this country is cut the tax rate down to where the people feel confident that they can risk their capital and have a return on their investment. That’s the reason I laid out a simple and — and flat tax of 20 percent with their home mortgage deduction and charitable expenses and local taxes, get rid of capital gains tax, get rid of the benefits tax, get rid of the tax on Social Security benefits, and then take 20 percent of that and mail your check in. I mean, even Timothy Geithner can get his taxes in on time with that type of a system. [applause]

And — and — and that is where we need to be focused, is creating jobs. As — pulling back those regulations that we talk about since ’08, that this administration have pushed into place that have strangled jobs, getting America back to work again. That’s what I’ve done for 11 years as the governor of the 13th-largest economy in the world. A million jobs have been created in our state. And our housing market not only is — is pretty solid, it’s growing, and it’s doing because we have created that climate where job creators know that they can go out and risk their capital and have a return on investment.

As the president of the United States, that’s what I’m going to do, is to walk into Washington, D.C., work towards a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution, and try to pass a constitutional amendment, if the people will accept and work with me, to make Congress a part-time body, so they stay less time in Washington, D.C., they go back home and get a real job, like everybody else has, and live under the laws that they passed. [applause]

EVANS: Governor, so beyond moving to a part-time Congress and encouraging the rest of the nation to follow Texas in terms of job creation, you would take no pointed measures aimed at helping the U.S. housing market?

PERRY: I think I said two things that are pretty powerful: cut the taxes and cut the regulations, and — which will increase the jobs and people will have the income to come in.

It is — I don’t think it is the government’s responsibility. Look, we’ve already seen that with Freddie and Fannie. We don’t need the federal government in the housing market anymore. They need to be out of the housing market. [applause]

BAIER: Jerry Seib?

SEIB: Governor Romney, in the book you wrote just before this campaign began, you said you were surprised that the press in the last campaign didn’t press for more specifics on how to fix Social Security and Medicare, so let’s fix that tonight. Let me ask you specifically: Would you reduce the cost of these programs by raising the retirement age for Social Security, by raising the eligibility age for Medicare, or by reducing benefits for seniors with higher incomes?

ROMNEY: Let me lay it out. First of all, for the people who are already retired or 55 years of age and older, nothing changes. It’s very important, because I know the Democrats are going to be showing videos of, you know, old people being thrown off cliffs and so forth. But don’t forget…[applause]

Don’t forget who it was that cut Medicare by $500 billion, and that was President Obama to pay for Obamacare. So let’s not forget that. [applause]

What — what I would do with Social Security is that I would lower — if you will, the 2.0, the version for the next generations coming up, I’d lower the rate of inflation growth in the benefits received by higher-income recipients and keep the rate as it is now pretty high for lower income recipients. And I’d also add a year or two to the retirement age under Social Security. That balances Social Security.

ROMNEY: With regards to Medicare, I would lay out the plan that — well, I actually did a couple of months ago that said, again, for higher-income recipients, lower benefit, a premium support program which allows people to buy either current standard Medicare or a private plan.

And this is the proposal which Congressman Paul Ryan has adopted. It’s a proposal which I believe is absolutely right on. We have a premium support program. Give people choice. Let competition exist in our Medicare program by virtue of the two things that I’ve described: higher benefits for lower-income people, lower benefits for higher-income people and making a premium support program in Medicare and in — and Social Security a slightly higher retirement age. You balance those two programs.

By the way, the third major entitlement, Medicaid, you send back to the states. And the fourth new entitlement, ObamaCare, you repeal that one and finally get our balance sheet right. [applause]

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich. Speaker Gingrich, the plan that you have endorsed for addressing Social Security, you suggest also that younger workers should be allowed to put their tax money into private accounts rather than into the government program.

But that plan also says that if those private accounts don’t pay out as much as the government program would, Washington should cut a check to make up the difference. Is that really a free market outcome if the government guarantees the outcome?

GINGRICH: Well, it is, as a historian, a fact-based model that has Galveston, Texas, and the entire country of Chile as testing grounds. Chile has done this. Jose Pinera’s glad to talk about it, the guy who created it, they have done it for over 30 years.

First of all, it’s totally voluntary. If you want to stay in the current system, stay in it. If you are younger and you want to go and take a personal savings account, which would be a Social Security savings account, you can take it.

Your share of the tax goes into that. The employer’s share goes into the regular fund to pay for the regular fund. The historic record in Chile is the average young person gets two to three times the retirement income. In 30 years they have never written a single check, because nobody has fallen below the minimum payment of Social Security, and these are historic facts.

They now have 74 percent of the GDP in their savings fund, so much that they now allow people to actually invest outside the country. The principal group in Des Moines, Iowa, actually runs part of this program, and I actually interviewed the person who is in charge of it for the principal group.

So the Social Security actuary estimate if you make it a voluntary program, 95 to 97 percent of young people will take the program, because it is such a big return on your investment, you’d be relatively stupid not to do it. OK. [applause]

Now, what does it do? It gets the government out of telling you when to retire. It gets the government out of picking winners and losers. You save — it makes every American an investor when they first go to work. They all have a buildup of an estate, which you do not get in the current system.

And the estimate by Martin Prostein at Harvard is, who was Reagan’s chief counsel and economic advisors, was you actually reduce wealth inequality in America by 50 percent over the next generation because everybody becomes a saver and an investor and you have a universal investing nation. [applause]

BAIER: Senator Santorum, Senator Santorum, in your jobs program you propose to eliminate the corporate income tax for manufacturers, but not for other businesses. Isn’t that picking winners and losers in the same way the Obama administration did when it gave grants to one solar energy company, Solyndra, and it went bankrupt?

SANTORUM: No, it’s not. What we do is cut corporate taxes for everybody. We cut it from 35 percent to 17.5 percent, make it a — basically a net profits tax. And then we take the area of the economy that’s under competition from overseas for our jobs. The rest of the economy is not being shipped off like the mills here in South Carolina were to other countries around the world because of foreign competition.

Why? The foreign competition that we are dealing with right now is much cheaper to do business, excluding labor costs than we are, about 20 percent more, and that 20 percent differential is government. It’s government regulation and it’s also government taxation.

So part of what we are trying to do is to have a government system that can compete with who our competitor is. The competitor at the local drugstore is not China. The competitor is other people.

And as long as that is level and everybody’s paying, the big corporations and the little ones — and that’s why we have a flat 171/2 percent — so we keep the little guys paying the same rate as the big guys who have — right now, with this very complex code, a lot of folks in there trying to reduce rates by using the tax code to shrink their tax liability.

So we’ve leveled the playing field for the guys here in this country and we’ve created a competitive environment for the manufacturer. I want to make a point about Newt and his plans because they are not bold. And they’re not — in the case of Governor Romney.

SANTORUM: And they are — and they’re irresponsible. And I say that against Newt because there’s nobody for the last 15 years that’s been more in favor of personal savings accounts than I have for Social Security. But we were doing that when we had a surplus in Social Security. We are now running a deficit in Social Security. We are now running a huge deficit in this country.

Under Congressman Gingrich’s proposals, if he’s right, that 95 percent of younger workers taken, there will be hundreds of billions of dollars in increased debt, hundreds of billions of more debt being put on the books, which we can’t simply — we’re going to be borrowing money from China to fund these accounts, which is wrong. I’m for those accounts, but first we have to get our fiscal house in order, balance this budget and then create the opportunity that Newt wants. But the idea of doing that now, is fiscal insanity.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich?

SANTORUM: And Mitt Romney’s plan is simply not bold. We have a deficit now in Social Security. We have deficits now in Medicare. And he wants to say, well we’re not going to touch anybody now. There’s 60,000 people in this country who are earning over $1 million a year as a senior and he’s saying, no let’s not touch them. I’m saying, yes. We should absolutely do something about people who don’t need Social Security when we’re borrowing money from China to pay those millionaires.

BAIER: Okay, first Speaker Gingrich, your response?

GINGRICH: Well if you actually look at the plan at newt.org, you’ll see that one of the ways we pay for it is we take 185 different federal bureaucracies that deal with low income Americans. Think about this, there are 185 separate bureaucracies with separate regulations, all dealing with low income Americans. We can consolidate them into a single block grant. We send it back to the states and we take the billions of dollars in federal overhead that saves and put that into Social Security in order to make up the difference.

So in fact Rick, it is a very sound plan and I say this as somebody who helped balance the budget four times in a row. [applause]

BAIER: Quickly. Quickly.

SANTORUM: Newt, I support that idea. But we need that to reduce the deficit we have now, not doing what you’re suggesting, which is ballooning the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars more and then using things that we should be doing now to strengthen this budget deficit, to add more fiscal — financial responsibility on to the federal government.

BAIER: Last one.

GINGRICH: Okay, Martin Feldstein estimates that if you have a personal savings account model, you increase the size of the economy by $7 to $8 trillion over a generation because of the massive reinvestment. In addition, I would just suggest having helped balance the budget for four consecutive years, for the only time in your lifetime, I’m reasonably confident I can find ways to balance the budget. [applause] Without hurting young people and blocking them from Social Security. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Romney, do you want your 30 seconds? Or are you just enjoying this back and forth? Would you like to weigh in?

ROMNEY: Rick is right. I — I know it’s popular here to say, oh we could just — we can do this and it’s not going to cost anything. But look, it’s going to get tough to get our federal spending from the current 25 percent of the GDP down to 20, down to 18 percent, which has been our history. We’ve got a huge number of obligations in this country and cutting back is going to have to happen. I know something about balancing budgets.

In the private sector, you don’t have a choice. You balance your budget, or you go out of business. And we — we simply can’t say we’re going to go out and borrow more money to let people set up new accounts that take money away from Social Security and Medicare today. Therefore, we should allow people to have a voluntary account, a voluntary savings program, tax free. That’s why I’ve said anybody middle income should be able to save their money tax free. No tax on interest, dividends or capital gains.

That will get American’s saving and accomplishes your objective, Mr. Speaker, without threatening the future of America’s vitality by virtue of fiscal insanity. [applause]

BAIER: Coming up, social issues. And a reminder, go to foxnews.com/debate to see how well the candidates are answering the questions with your votes. Keep it here.

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And now for the next round of questions, my colleague Juan Williams.

WILLIAMS: Gov Romney, Speaker Gingrich says your record of support for gun owners is weak. You signed the nation’s first ban on assault weapons in Massachusetts and steeply increased fees on gun owners in that state, in fact by 400 percent. How can you convince gun owners that you will be an advocate for them as president?

ROMNEY: Well, Juan, in my state we had a piece of legislation that was crafted both by the pro gun lobby and the anti-gun lobby. Massachusetts has some very restrictive rules and the pro gun lobby said, you know what, this legislation is good for us, it includes provisions that we want that allows us, for instance, to crossroads with weapons when we’re hunting that had not been previously allowed.

And so the pro gun folks in our state, the the Gun Owners Action League and others said, look, we would like you to sign this legislation. And the day when we announced our signing, we had both the pro gun owners and anti-bun folks all together on the stage because it worked. We worked together. We found common ground.

My view is that we have the second amendment right to bear arms and in this country my view is also that we should not add new legislation. I know that there are people that think we need new laws, we need to find new ways to restrict gun ownership. And there is in Washington a non-stop effort on the part of some legislators, and I believe the president, to restrict the right of law-abiding American citizens from owning a gun.

I disagree with that. I believe we have in place all the laws we need. We should enforce those laws. I do not believe in new laws restricting gun ownership and gun use.

WILLIAMS: By the way, governor, I remember that you were teased mightily a few years ago to say you hundred varmints. I’m just wondering if you have gone hunting since ’07.

ROMNEY: I’m not going to describe all of my great exploits. But I went moose hunting actually — not moose hunting, I’m sorry, elk hunting with friends in Montana. I’ve been pheasant hunting. I’m not the great hunter that some on this stage, probably Rick Perry, my guess is you are a serious hunter. I’m not a serious hunter, but I must admit — I guess I enjoy the sport and when I get invited I’m delighted to be able to go hunting.

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, you voted in support of requiring trigger locks on handguns. You also voted for background checks on firearm purchases made at gun shows. These positions have led your rivals to question your second amendment bona fides. What can you say tonight to reassure gun owners that you will stand with them?

SANTORUM: Both of those things were supported by the National Rifle Association. I worked with them to craft a bill. This was during the Clinton administration, where I voted against the gun ban, voted against the assault weapons ban, voted — voted 100 percent with the NRA. And this was a piece of legislation that was crafted that they endorsed, they supported, and worked with me to make sure that we could — we’d not have something far worse pass.

And so sometimes you have to pass something that can get enough votes to be able to satisfy folks that they won’t pass something that’s much worse. And so that’s what you have to do to make sure that rights aren’t taken away.

I’ve been a strong — again, lifetime A-plus record with the NRA, worked with them. They came to me repeatedly when I was in the Senate to help them and — and — and sponsor legislation and work toward making sure in ensuring gun rights.

Contrast that with Congressman Paul. And one of the most important things that we did in — in — in protecting the Second Amendment — and I provided a leadership role on it — was the gun manufacturers’ liability bill. There were a lot of lawyers out there who were trying to sue gun manufacturers and hold them liable for anybody who was harmed as a result of the gun properly functioning.

And we — we went forward and passed, with the NRA’s backing, a bill that put a ban on those types of lawsuits. If that ban had not been passed, if that gun manufacturer’s liability bill, removing them from liability from that, had that not been passed, there would have been no gun industry in this country and there would have de facto been no Second Amendment right.

Congressman Paul voted against that bill. And — and that’s a very big difference between someone who actually works with the gun — Second Amendment groups for — for legislation that can protect that right and someone who says they’re for Second Amendment, has attacked me on my Second Amendment issues, which you just referred to, and here’s a man that would have wiped out the Second Amendment by — if his vote would have been — carried the day.

BAIER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Hardly would that wipe out the Second Amendment. But the jurisdiction is obviously with the state. Even when tort law is involved with medical malpractice, which is a real problem, now, our governor worked on and our state has done a little bit on medical liability. I think that’s the way it should be handled.

You don’t have — you don’t have national tort law. That’s not part of the process. That should be at the state level. So to argue the case that that does away with the Second Amendment, when I’m the one that offers all — all the legislation to repeal the gun bans that have been going on [inaudible] everything else. [applause]

I mean, I’ve introduced legislation like that. So that’s a bit — a bit of an overstretch to — to say that I’ve done away with the Second Amendment.

SANTORUM: No, I need to respond to that, because the fact is, if we did not have a national liability bill, then people would have been able to go to states like, say, Massachusetts or New York and sue gun manufacturers where they would not pass a gun liability bill. So unless you have a national standard to protect guns — manufacturers of guns, you would create the opportunity for the elimination of guns being manufactured in this country and de facto elimination of the right to bear arms. [applause]

PAUL: Well, this is the way — this is the way our Constitution disappears. It’s nibbled away. You say, well, I can give up on this, and therefore, I’ll give that, and so eventually there’s nothing left. But, no, tort law should be a state function, not a federal function.

BAIER: Jerry Seib?

SEIB: Speaker Gingrich, a super PAC supporting Governor Romney is running an ad here citing a pro-life’s group charge that you voted for a bill in Congress, co-sponsored by Nancy Pelosi, that supported China’s one-child policy. And they say that means you provided government funding for abortion, but you oppose abortion. What’s your response to that charge?

GINGRICH: Well, this is typical of what both Senator Santorum and I have complained about with Governor Romney’s super PAC, over which he apparently has no influence, which makes you wonder how much influence he’d have if he were president. [applause]

Well, let me take that particular bill. That bill was introduced by Claudine Schneider, who is a Republican from Rhode Island. It was introduced at a time when Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy was enforced. The Mexico City policy said no U.S. funding will be used to fund any activity that relates to abortion.

So it is explicitly a falsehood to suggest that a bill introduced under Mexico City policy would have paid for China’s one-child policy. In fact, I have explicitly opposed it. I have a 98.6 percent National Right to Life voting record in 20 years. And the only vote we disagreed on was welfare reform, which had nothing to do with abortion. So I think it is an absurdity and it would be nice if Governor Romney would exercise leadership on his former staff and his major donors to take falsehoods off the air.

BAIER: Governor Romney? [applause]

ROMNEY: Speaker Gingrich, I — I already said at our last debate that anything that’s false in PAC ads, whether they are supportive of me or supportive of you should be taken often the air and fixed. I’ve already said that.

Now I can’t call these people and direct them to do that, as you know, because that would violate federal law, is that correct?

GINGRICH: Absolutely.

BAIER: All right.

So I can’t do what you just asked me to do, but I can tell them publicly as I can here if there’s anything that’s inaccurate in any ads that support me I hope they take it off and don’t run it.

But if we are talking about Super PAC ads that are inaccurate, Mr. Speaker, you have a Super PAC ad that attacks me. It’s probably the biggest hoax since Big Foot. The people that looked at it have said that this ad is entirely false, that this documentary that they are running includes businesses I had no involvement with, the events that they described. And yet that’s out there on a Super PAC that is supporting you.

You said that you think it’s bad just as I said the Super PAC that support me is doing bad things. But somehow for you to suggest that you and I have different standards here is just not quite right.

GINGRICH: I said publicly — I said publicly it ought to be edited. And I believe, in fact, the head of that group has actually submitted your campaign a set of questions to make sure that they edit it accurately and put only the correct facts in.

So I think it should be edited. And I would be delighted if you would agree that the ad that was just referred to was false and people see the Romney Supe PAC ad attacking me on that particular issue should know in advance it is false and shouldn’t be run.

UNKNOWN: Me too.

EVANS: Governor Perry.

ROMNEY: We all would like to have Super PACs disappear, to tell you the truth. Wouldn’t it nice to have people give what they would like to to campaigns and campaigns could run their own ads and take responsibility for them. But you know what, this campaign is not about ads, it’s about issues.

BAIER: So governor Romney, in the general election, if you are the nominee you would like to see Super PACs ended?

ROMNEY: Oh, I would like to get rid of the campaign finance laws that were put in place McCain-Feingold is a disaster, get rid of it. Let people make contributions they want to make to campaigns, let campaigns then take responsibility for their own words and not have this strange situation we have people out there who support us, who run ads we don’t like, we would like to take off the air, they are outrageous and yet they are out there supporting us and by law we aren’t allows to talk to them.

I haven’t spoken to any of the people involved in my Super PAC in months and this is outrageous. Candidates should have the responsibility and the right to manage the ads that are being run on their behalf. I think this has to change.

EVANS: Governor Perry, you advocate placing more troops and bigger walls along the nation’s southern boarder to stop illegal immigration, but border crossings are at a 4 year low — 40 year low, illegal immigration overall is down substantially and the U.S. has other pressing infrastructure and defense needs.

Governor, wouldn’t we be better off not spending more money on border walls?

PERRY: Let me tell you the reason that those crossings are at 40 year lows is because the economy of the United States is probably at a 40 year low and the president of these United States needs to change. That’s the reason.

As the governor of the second largest state and the state with the longest border, I have spent 11 years dealing with this issue. And the idea that Americans don’t want us to spend the money to secure that border is just flat out false. We are going to secure the border with Mexico, that means strategic fencing, that means thousands of national guard troops on the border until we can train up those border patrol to be there.

And it means predator drones and other aviation assets to that we have the real-time information to flow down to those individuals that are in law enforcement so that they can immediately respond to any activities that they see on the border that is either weapons related or drug related or illegal immigration that’s occurring on that border.

Americans want that border secure. The issue isn’t about how much is it going to cost, the issue is when are you going to get it done? And when I’m the president of the United States that border will be locked down and it will be secure by one year from the time I take my hand off the Bible.

BAIER: Last Twitter question is from an eighth grade teacher in Hobart, Indiana. And it’s for you, Speaker Gingrich.

Mr. Whiteman, has No Child Left Behind been a success or a failure? If the latter, what needs to be done to change it?

GINGRICH: I think it’s clearly a failure. I think it has led teachers to be forced into a bureaucratic system of teaching to the test. I find virtually no teacher who likes it.

It is grossly disproportionate. You end up with first-generation immigrants who don’t speak very good English being tested against a national standard. And a perfectly good school looks bad even though it’s doing a great job because there’s no measurement that’s reasonable.

The correct answer is to radically reduce the Department of Education, cut out all federal regulations, return the money and the power back home to the states. But I would say to the states, it will be good for them to shrink their Departments of Education and return the power back to the local county boards, and then let parents and teachers and students get back to learning. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you all very much. That is the end of our debate, a fiery debate. We appreciate it. That’s it for our debate tonight. Our thanks to the candidates, their staffs, the South Carolina Republican Party, and the great people here in Myrtle Beach, fantastic crowd. [applause]

Of course, the state of South Carolina, as well. They could not have been more hospitable.

January 8, 2012: NBC News / Facebook Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Concord, New Hampshire January 8, 2012

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
David Gregory (NBC News)

GREGORY: And good morning and welcome to this special edition of “Meet the Press,” the final debate before New Hampshire voting begins. All six candidates are here. And before we begin, you know the drill. We quickly go through the rules.

Each candidate will have one minute, 60 seconds, to make their statement, to respond to questions, and at my discretion, 30 seconds for follow-ups or rebuttals. We’re on a pretty tight schedule, so I will ask the candidates to stay within their allotted time, and we’ll see how that goes.

We’ve partnered with Facebook, so some of the questions will come from me and some, of course, will come from you. We encourage you to weigh in on the debate in real time, our online app at mtp.msnbc.com. You can monitor the conversation there, and we’ll see some of your feedback during that debate — over the course of this debate.

Candidates, good morning. I just want to say, on behalf of all Americans, that I thank you for being willing to debate each other every 10 hours, whether you feel you need it or not. [laughter]

This is an important moment. Elections are about choices. They’re about distinguishing one from the other. There’s a political element to that, and of course, it has to do with policy, as well.

Governor Romney has won the Iowa caucuses, although narrowly. He’s up in the polls here in New Hampshire. He’s also up in the polls down in South Carolina. Speaker Gingrich, why shouldn’t Governor Romney be the nominee of this party? What about his record concerns you most or makes him disqualified to be the nominee?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think what Republicans have to ask is, who’s most likely in the long run to survive against the kind of billion-dollar campaign the Obama team is going to run? And I think that a bold Reagan conservative, with a very strong economic plan, is a lot more likely to succeed in that campaign than a relatively timid, Massachusetts moderate who even the Wall Street Journal said had an economic plan so timid it resembled Obama.

So I think you’ve got to look at — you know, Massachusetts was fourth from the bottom in job creation under Governor Romney. We created 11 million jobs while I was speaker, and I worked with Governor — with President Reagan in the entire recovery of the 1980s. So I just there’s a huge difference between a Reagan conservative and somebody who comes out of the Massachusetts culture with an essentially moderate record who I think will have a very hard time in a debate with President Obama. It’s that simple.

GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, bottom line, you believe that Governor Romney is unelectable?

GINGRICH: No, I don’t believe he’s unelectable, but I think he has a — look, against Obama’s record, I think, you know, the fact is, President Obama is going to have a very hard re-election effort. But I do think the bigger the contrast, the bolder ideas, the clearer the choice, the harder it is for that billion-dollar campaign to smear his way back into office.

GREGORY: Speaker, this is your flyer that you’re circulating here in New Hampshire. It says very clearly, “Romney is not electable”?

GINGRICH: I think he will have a very hard time getting re- elected — getting elected.

GREGORY: Governor?

ROMNEY: David, I’m very proud of the record that I have, and I think the one thing you can’t fool the people about New Hampshire about is the record of a governor next door. And people have watched me over my term as governor and saw that I was a solid conservative and that I brought important change to Massachusetts.

They recognized that I cut taxes 19 times, balanced the budget every one of the four years I was governor, put in place a $2 billion rainy day fund by the time I’d gone. We had — we’d seen job losses in the months leading up to my becoming the governor, and then we began to finally create jobs.

By the way, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than Barack Obama’s created in the entire country.

ROMNEY: We also got our state police to enforce illegal immigration laws, put in place English immersion in our schools. I’m very proud of the conservative record I have, and I think that’s why some of the leading conservatives in today’s world, who are fighting the conservative battles of today, that don’t have any axe to grind, have gotten behind my campaign.

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, right here, the great senator of New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte. These are conservatives who looked at my record, looked at my plan to get this economy going.

I happen to believe that if we want to replace a lifetime politician like Barack Obama, who had no experience leading anything, you have to choose someone who’s not been a lifelong politician, who has not spent his entire career in Washington, and instead has proven time and again he can lead, in the private sector twice, in the Olympics, and as a governor. We’ve got to nominate a leader if we’re going to replace someone who is not a leader.

GREGORY: Well, Senator Santorum, had you not lost re-election in 2006, you would have been in Washington even longer than you were. It would have been 21 years. So you’ve got a long Washington record. How do you address this question? Why shouldn’t Governor Romney be the nominee? What is disqualifying, in your judgment?

SANTORUM: Well, if his record was so great as governor of Massachusetts, why didn’t he run for re-election? I mean, if you didn’t want to even stand before the people of Massachusetts and run on your record, if it was that great, why didn’t — why did you bail out?

I mean, the bottom — the bottom line is, you know, I go and fight the fight. If it was that important to the people of Massachusetts that you were going to go and fight for them, at least you can stand up and — and make the battle that you did a good job.

I did that. I ran for re-election a couple of times, and I won a couple of times, and — and in a 71 percent Democratic district, when I ran for re-election, I was redistricted. And I was in a 71 percent Democratic district, had a 90 percent conservative voting record. It was a hard thing to do. My district was more Democrat than the state of Massachusetts that I ran in. It was the steel valley of Pittsburgh.

And I stood up and fought for the conservative principles. I didn’t do what Governor Romney did in 1994. I was running the same year he ran, in 1994. I ran in a tough state of Pennsylvania against an incumbent. Governor Romney lost by almost 20 points. Why? Because at the end of that campaign, he wouldn’t stand for conservative principles. He ran from Ronald Reagan. And he said he was going to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights, on abortion, a whole host of other issues.

We want someone, when the time gets tough — and it will in this election — we want someone who’s going to stand up and fight for the conservative principles, not bail out and not run, and not run to the left of Ted Kennedy.

GREGORY: Well, you did say when you endorsed him four years ago, just those words, that he would stand up for conservative principles, Senator.

SANTORUM: Vis-a-vis John McCain.

GREGORY: Vis-a-vis John McCain. Governor, your response?

ROMNEY: Well, a lot of things were inaccurate in that, and I’m not going to go through them one by one. But I can tell you this: I think it’s unusual and perhaps understandable that people who spend their life in politics imagine that if you get in politics, that that’s all you want to do, that if you’ve been elected to something, well, you get — want to get re-elected and re-elected.

I went to Massachusetts to make a difference. I didn’t go there to begin a political career, running time and time again. I — I made a difference. I put in place the things I wanted to do. I listed out the accomplishments we wanted to pursue in our administration. There were 100 things we wanted to do. Those things I pursued aggressively. Some we won; some we didn’t.

Run again? That would be about me. I was trying to help get the state into the best shape as I possibly could, left the world of politics, went back into business. Now I have the opportunity, I believe, to use the experience I have — you’ve got a surprised look on your face. [crosstalk]

ROMNEY: It’s still — it’s still my time.

SANTORUM: Are you going — are you going to tell people you’re not going to run for re-election for president if you win?

ROMNEY: Rick, Rick, it’s still my time.

SANTORUM: I’m just asking.

ROMNEY: OK.

GREGORY: Go ahead. Governor Romney — Governor Romney, take 30 seconds there.

ROMNEY: Yeah. What I’m going to tell you is, this — this for me, politics is not a career. For me, my career was being in business and starting a business and making it successful. My — my life’s passion has been my family, my faith, and my country.

I believe, by virtue of the experiences I’ve had, that I’m in a good position to make a contribution to Washington. I long for a day when instead of having people who go to Washington for 20 and 30 years, who get elected, and then when they lose office, they stay there and make money as lobbyists or connecting to businesses, I think it stinks.

I think when people go to Washington and serve Washington and — and serve as — as their — the people of their — of their nation and go home. I’d love to see term limits in Washington.

SANTORUM: So one — so one term?

ROMNEY: And so — no, as the president of the United States, as the president of the United States, if I’m elected, of course I’ll fight for a second term. There’s a lot of work to be done.

GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, take 30 seconds here to get in.

GINGRICH: Well, yeah. Mitt, I realize the red light doesn’t mean anything to you, because you’re the frontrunner. [applause]

But — but can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is, you ran in ‘94 and lost. That’s why you weren’t serving in the Senate with Rick Santorum. The fact is, you had a very bad re- election rating, you dropped out of office, you had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president. You didn’t have this interlude of citizenship while you thought about what you do. You were running for president while you were governor. You were going all over the country. You were — you were out of state consistently.

You then promptly re-entered politics. You happened to lose to McCain as you had lost to Kennedy.

Now you’re back running. You have been running consistently for years and years and years. So this idea that suddenly citizenship showed up in your mind, just level with the American people. You’ve been running for — at least since the 1990’s. [applause]

GREGORY: Governor, please.

ROMNEY: Mr. Speaker, citizenship has always been on my mind and — and I happened to see my dad run for governor when he was 54-years- old. He had good advice to me. He said, Mitt, never get involved in politics if you have to win an election to pay a mortgage. If you find yourself in a position where you can serve, well you ought to have a responsibility to do so, if you think you can make a difference.

He said also don’t get involved in politics if your kids are still young because it may turn their heads. I never thought I’d get involved with politics. When I saw Ted Kennedy running virtually unopposed in 1994, a man who I thought by virtue of the policies of the liberal welfare state, had created a permanent underclass in America, I said someone’s got to run against him. And I happened to have been wise enough to realize, I didn’t have a ghost of a chance at — at beating him.

This — this guy from — Republican from Massachusetts was not going to beat Ted Kennedy. And I told my partners at my firm, I’ll be back in six months, don’t take my chair. And I — I went in and gave it a real battle and went after it. It was — I was happy that he had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me. And I’m — I’m very proud of the fact that I have stood up as a citizen to battle when I felt it was best for the nation. And — and we’re talking about running for president.

I am in this race because I care about the country. I believe my background and experience are … [crosstalk]

GREGORY: Let me bring Dr. Paul into this, because there is a question about who is the true conservative in the race. And Governor Romney said only nine years ago during an interview with New England Cable News, he said the following, “I think people recognize that I’m not a partisan republican, that I’m someone who is moderate and my views are progressive.” Do you believe Governor Romney now when he says he is a man of constancy and that he’ll stand up for conservative principles?

PAUL: You know, I think this whole discussion so far has been very superficial. And I think the question in the way that you ask it is superficial and you’re talking about character, which is very important. But I feel we should deal with the issues as well. And I don’t see how we can do well against Obama if we have any candidate that, you know, endorsed, you know, single payer systems and TARP bailouts and don’t challenge the Federal Reserve’s $15 trillion of injection bailing out their friends.

I don’t see how we can have anybody really compete with Obama who doesn’t challenge this huge empire we have overseas and the overseas spending. I mean this is how nations come down. You see they extend themselves too far overseas. That’s how the Soviets came down. We — we really have to talk about real cuts. We haven’t gotten around to this yet.

So if we want to change things, this is what we have to talk about. Character is important and motivation is important, our history is important. But I really consider that, in the debate format, to be less significant than what we really believe in.

GREGORY: You read my mind, Dr. Paul. And we’re going to get to…[applause]…some of the touch choices, not just on politics, but on policy. First Governor Perry, I do want to ask you to flat out — your staking your campaign going down to South Carolina, is Governor Romney unelectable in your judgment?

PERRY: Well I think you have to ask the question of, who is it that can beat Obama. Who is it that can invigorate the — the Tea Party? Who is it that can take the message of — of smaller, outsider government that’s truly going to change that places (sic). I look from here down to Rick Santorum I see insiders. Individuals who have been the big spending Republicans in — in Washington, D.C.

And lets be honest with ourselves, I mean the fact of the matter is that Obama has thrown gasoline on the fire. But the bonfire was burning well before Obama got there. It was policies and spending, both from Wall Street and from the insiders in Washington, D.C., that got us in this problem. And we need a candidate that can not only draw that stark contrast between themselves and Barack Obama, but also stand up and lead the Tea Party movement back.

2010 was about the Tea Party standing up and understanding that Republicans, big spending Republicans that caused the — as much of this problem as anything, and it was their power that brought together — that brought Washington, D.C., and the House to Republican control. And that’s the kind of individual we’ve got to have to — to lead this election.

GREGORY: Before I get to Governor Huntsman, I’d be remiss, Governor Romney if I did not allow you to respond to the quote that I read from you nine years ago. What would you say to conservatives so that they’ll trust that you will stand up for conservative principles?

ROMNEY: They’ve got my record as governor. That — that’s the great thing of people here in New Hampshire is they see what I did as governor of Massachusetts. I also had the occasion after my last failed attempt to run for president, a learning experience, to sit down and write a book. And I wrote a book and described my view for the country. And people can describe it in differing ways but I — but my view is that — that the principles that I’ve learned in business and the principles as governor, frankly, it made me more conservative as time has gone on.

I’ve seen a lot of government trying to solve problems, and it didn’t work. And — and my view is, the right course for America is to have somebody who understands how the economy works, who will passionately get America back on track.

GREGORY: All right. We’re going to come back to the question of obstacles to the nomination, but let me get to policy, Governor Huntsman. This is, by all accounts, an age of austerity for this country, a jobs crisis, also a spending crisis in Washington. I wonder what specifically you would do to say to Americans, “These are cuts I’m going to make in federal spending that will cause pain, that will require sacrifice”?

HUNTSMAN: Let me say — let me say, first are all, with respect to Governor Romney, you know, there are a lot of people who are tuning in this morning, and I’m sure they’re terribly confused after watching all of this political spin up here.

I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first. And I just want to remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States that I think…[applause]

He criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China, yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking who — what political affiliation the president is.

I want to be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country: I will always put my country first. And I think that’s important to them.

GREGORY: All right. Well, why don’t you get a response, Governor Romney? And then I’ll come back to you on the austerity question. ROMNEY: I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama’s agenda. I think the decision to go and work for President Obama is one which you took. I don’t disrespect your decision to do that. I just think it’s most likely that the person who should represent our party running against President Obama is not someone who called him a remarkable leader and went to be his ambassador in China.

HUNTSMAN: This nation is divided, David, because of attitudes like that. [applause]

The American people are tired of the partisan division. They have had enough. There is no trust left among the American people and the institutions of power and among the American people and our elected officials. And I say, we’ve had enough, and we have to change our direction in terms of coming together as Americans first and foremost and finding solutions to our problems.

GREGORY: Dr. Paul said let’s not be superficial. Let’s talk substance. So, Governor Huntsman, name three areas where Americans will feel real pain in order to balance the budget.

HUNTSMAN: Well, I would have to say that I agree with the Ryan plan. I think I’m the only one standing up here who has embraced the Ryan plan. It’s a very aggressive approach to taking about $6.2 trillion out of the budget over 10 years. And it looks at everything.

And what I like about it is it says there will be no sacred cows. Medicare won’t be a sacred cow. Department of Defense won’t be a sacred cow. As president of the United States, I’m going to stand up and I’m going to say, we are where we are, 24 percent spending as a percentage of GDP. We’ve got to move to 19 percent…[crosstalk]

GREGORY: Three programs that will make Americans feel pain, sir.

HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say on — on entitlements, across the board, I will tell the upper-income category in this country that there will be means testing. There are a lot of people in this nation who don’t need…[crosstalk]

GREGORY: Social Security and Medicare?

HUNTSMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And also, I’m not going to tie Department of Defense spending to some percentage of GDP. I’m going to tie it to a strategy that protects the American people. And if we think that we can’t find efficiencies and cuts in the Department of Defense budget, then we are crazy.

GREGORY: Senator Santorum, same question. Three programs that would make — would have to be cut to make Americans feel pain, to sacrifice if we’re going to balance the budget?

SANTORUM: I would agree with Governor Huntsman that means testing — I talked about that in Hollis yesterday. We had about 1,200 people, and I walked through and talked about how we have to make sure that we’re not going to burden future generations with a Social Security program that’s underfunded. It’s already unfunded right now.

And we have to take those who have — who have been successful, who are seniors, who have a tremendous amount of wealth, and we’ve got to reduce benefits. It makes no sense for folks who are struggling right now to pay their payroll tax, which is the biggest tax. It’s tax on labor, makes us uncompetitive. And the idea that someone on the left would have to raise those taxes, to make labor even more uncompetitive for those working people who are trying to get a job to subsidize high-income seniors doesn’t make any sense to me.

Food stamps is another place. We’ve got to block grant it, send it back to the states, just like I did on welfare reform, do the same thing with Medicaid. Those three programs. We’ve got to — and including housing programs, block grant them, send them back to the states, require work, and put a time limit. You do those three things, we will help take these programs, which are now dependency programs, which people are continually dependent upon, and you take them into transitional programs to help people move out of poverty.

GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, on the issue of Medicare, when you were on “Meet the Press” earlier in the year, you had talked about what Paul Ryan was talking about as a step too far, which is moving seniors onto a premium support or a voucher program, depending on how you phrase it.

As you know, Senator Santorum thinks that current seniors should be moved off of that program into premium support or a voucher program.

Do you agree with doing it that quickly and making current seniors bear the brunt of that?

GINGRICH: Well, the fact is that the Ryan-Wyden bill, which was just introduced recently, actually incorporates allowing people to choose and allows them to stay in traditional Medicare with the premium support model or go to new methods. And I think it’s a substantial improvement, because it allows for a transition in Medicare in a way that makes sense.

But, David, you know, I — I find it fascinating that very, very highly paid Washington commentators and Washington analysts love the idea of pain.

What — who’s going to be in pain?

The duty of the president is to find a way to manage the federal government so the primary pain is on changing the bureaucracy. On — on theft alone, we could save $100 billion a year in Medicaid and Medicare if the federal government were competent. That’s a trillion dollars over 10 years. And the only people in pain would be crooks.

So I think a sound approach is…[applause]…to actually improve the government, not punish the American people because of the failure of the political class to have any sense of cleverness.

GREGORY: Governor Perry, from Facebook, a lot of question, as we mentioned, have been submitted. And this from Martin Montalvo, because we do have a spending crisis, but also, a lot of people hurting. He writes this: “With more Americans on government assistance than ever before, is it un-American for Americans to feel relieved when the government helps them?”

PERRY: Well, let me answer the question that you asked earlier, what are the three areas that you would make some reductions that people would feel some pain. And I will tell you, it would be those bureaucrats at the Department of Commerce and — and Energy and Education that we’re going to do away with. [applause]

GREGORY: And that’s your final answer? [laughter]

PERRY: You know, the fact of the matter is that Americans want to have a job. That’s — that’s the issue here. And the idea that — that there are people clamoring for government to come and to give them assistance is just wrong-headed. And — and that’s what he needs to be focusing on as a people, is how do we create the environment in this country where the entrepreneurs know that they can risk their capital, have a chance to have a return on the investment and create the — the jobs out there so people can have the dignity to take care of their families.

That’s what Americans are looking for.

I’ve done that for the last 11 years in the state of Texas and have the executive governing experience that no one else up here on this stage has.

GREGORY: All right, I’m going to leave it there.

We’re going to take a quick break.

We are going to come back live from New Hampshire with many more questions for the candidates and feedback from you. So please participate online at mtp.msnbc.com.

We’re coming right back to New Hampshire.

[commercial break]

GREGORY: And we are — we are back on this special edition of MEET THE PRESS from here in New Hampshire.

We want to get right back to the questions here with our candidates.

And before the break, we were talking about Medicare. Paul Ryan, Senator Santorum, had a plan where he’d like to move seniors off, give them a voucher or premium support and then they would take care of their health care from there.

There’s a lot of debate about that. And I mentioned, you said seniors should be affected right now, 55 plus, have them affected right now, which has been somewhat controversial.

You wanted to respond to that?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, I hear this all the time when I was — I’ve been campaigning around the state, you know, we should have the same kind of health care that members of Congress have.

Well, that’s pretty much what Paul Ryan’s plan is. It’s a — the members of Congress have a premium support model. So does every other federal employee.

I mean it works very well as, you know, the federal government has a liability. They put — put money out there and then if you want, you — you have about this thick, if you’re an employee in Washington, DC, have got a whole bunch of different plans to choose from. And you have all sorts of options available to you. If you want a more expensive plan, you pay more of a coinsurance. If you want a less expensive plan, you don’t.

But here’s the fundamental difference between Barack Obama and — and everybody up here. It’s whether you believe people can be free to make choices or whether you have to make decisions for them.

And I believe seniors, just like every other Americans, should be free to make the choices in their health care plan that’s best for them.

GREGORY: Governor Romney, there’s a lot of discussion…[applause]…a lot of discussion this morning on Facebook about taxes. And as we talk about taxes and spending, of course, what about economic security and economic growth.

There’s been a debate in Washington and beyond, as you well know, between Warren Buffet and Grover Norquist. Grover Norquist, the anti- tax crusader, who says no tax increases under any circumstances. Warren Buffet says, hey, the wealthier in this country can pay more and they should pay more. Indeed, balancing the budget is a way for more economic growth down the line.

Who knows more about the American economy, Grover Norquist or Warren Buffet?

ROMNEY: Well, who knows more about tax policy?

I’m not sure that we’re going to choose from the two of them. But I can tell you this, the right course for America is not to raise taxes on Americans. I understand that President Obama and people of his political persuasion would like to take more money from the American people. And they want to do that so that they can continue to grow government.

But the answer for America is not to grow government, it is to shrink government. We’ve been going — over the last 20, 30, 40 years, government keeps growing at a faster rate relative to inflation. We’ve got to stop the extraordinary spending in this country. That’s why I put out a — a plan that reduces government spending…[applause]…I cut — I cut programs, a whole series of programs, by — by the way, the number one to cut is ObamaCare. That saves $95 billion a year. [applause]

ROMNEY: Return this — as Rick indicated — return to states a whole series of programs — food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid. And then set how much goes to them.

And, finally, with regards to entitlements, in the entitlement reform area, I do not want to change Medicare and Social Security for current retirees. But for younger people coming up, they have to recognize that, in the future, higher income people will receive less payments of the premium support program.

GREGORY: Governor Huntsman, who knows more about the American economy?

You — you — and this is an odd question, you seem to be a little bit uncomfortable with a moment from earlier in this debate cycle when everybody said that they would reject even a 10 to one ratio of cuts to new taxes.

HUNTSMAN: It was — it was a silly format. I mean it was an important question they asked us to raise our hands. I mean for heaven’s sake, we didn’t get a chance to talk about it. I put a tax reform proposal on the table endorsed by the Wall Street Journal that goes farther than anybody elses on this stage. It calls for what absolutely needs to be done. And everybody knows about it.

We are so chock full of loopholes and deductions, it weighs down our tax code to the tune of $1 trillion, $100 billion. You can’t compete that way. It gives rise to lobbying on Capitol Hill that needs to clean up. We’ve got to phase out loopholes and deductions in total. And we’ve got to say, so long to corporate welfare and to subsidies. Because this country can no longer afford it. And we’ve got to prepare for competition in the twenty first century.

GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, if you become President Gingrich and the leader of the Democrats, Harry Reed says he’s going to promise to make you a one term president, how would you propose to work with someone like that in order to achieve results in Washington?

GINGRICH: I think every president who works with the leader of every opposition knows they’re working with someone who wants to make them a one term president. I mean you know that — that’s the American process. I worked with Ronald Reagan in the early 1990’s. Tip O’Neil was speaker. He wanted to make Reagan a one term president. We had to get one-third of the Democrats to vote for the Reagan tax cuts and we did.

As speaker I was negotiating with Bill Clinton. He knew I wanted him to be a one term president. And we got a lot of things done, including welfare reform. Because you have to reach — I agree with what Governor Huntsman said earlier, you have to at some point say, the country comes first. How are we going to get things done? We’ll fight later. Lets sit down in a room, lets talk it through. I’ll tell you what I need and I’ll tell you what I can’t do.

You tell me what you need and you tell me what you can’t do and it sometimes takes 20 or 30 days. But if people of goodwill, even if their partisans, come together, talk it out, you know, we’ve got welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, 4.2 percent unemployment and four straight years of a balanced budget, with a Republican speaker and a Democratic president. So it can be done with real leadership.

GREGORY: Anybody else have a point of view about how you would actually work with the other side when they’ve committed to working against you? Governor?

ROMNEY: Yeah I was governor of a state that had a slightly democratic leaning House and Senate. [laughter]

My legislature was 85 percent Democrat. And I went around at the very beginning of having been elected and met with the Speaker of the House and the Senate president. The Senate president said something I won’t forget, he said, Mitt the campaign is over. The people expect us to now govern for them. And we did. We met every week. We rotated in offices. We got to know each other personally. We developed a relationship of respect and rapport, even though we disagreed on a lot of issues.

And when crises arose, as they did time and again — we had a severe budget crisis. I went to them and said, will you give me unilateral power to cut spending? Without even a vote of the legislature, they had enough confidence in me and decided to do that. And — and I was able to cut the spending on an emergency basis, not just slow down its rate of growth. We can work together, Republicans and Democrats are able to go across the aisle because we have common — we really do have areas of — of common interest.

Even though there are dramatically different perspectives on how the world works and what’s right, we can find common ground. And I have proven in a state that is very Democrat that I’m able to work with people. Nineteen tax cuts, protected charter schools, drove our schools to be number one in the nation — kept them there rather. I — I — that — that record can work with Republicans and Democrats who are willing to work together.

GREGORY: Dr. Paul, there’s this question of argument versus accomplishment. The question again comes from Facebook. Health Treat (ph) writes, I want to — Paul Treat (ph) rather — I want to know what Ron Paul’s plan of action will be to achieve getting the House and Senate to help him do all he has promised. And here’s the record Dr. Paul. You have actually sponsored 620 measures. Only four made it to a vote on the House floor. And only one has been signed into law.

PAUL: You know that demonstrates how out of touch the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress is with the American people. Because I’m supporting things that help the American people. [applause]

That’s the disgust that people have. Is because they keep growing government. Whether it’s the Republicans in charge or the Democrats in — in charge. But as far as working with other groups, I think my record is about as good as anybody’s because I work on the principle that freedom and the Constitution bring people together, for different reasons. People use freedom in different ways like it does. It invites variations in our religious beliefs and economic beliefs.

We tell people that they’re allowed to, you know, spend their money as they choose. On civil liberties, that’s a different segment. Republican conservatives aren’t all that well known for protecting privacy and personal liberties. When it comes to this spending overseas, I can work a coalition. Matter of fact, my trillion dollar proposal to cut spending, doesn’t immediately deal with Social Security, it’s to try to work our way out of Social Security.

I’m cutting a trillion dollars by attacking overseas spending and going back to ‘06 budget. And I do not believe that you have to have — people who have gotten special privileges and bailouts from the government, they may get the pain, but the American people, they get their freedom back and get no income back, they don’t suffer any pain.

GREGORY: Senator Santorum, here’s the reality. Two previous presidents, President Bush talked about being a united and not a divider, President Obama talked about transforming Washington, and it hasn’t worked. Washington is polarized, the country is polarized, and the American people are pretty sick of the fact that nothing gets done in Washington. Specifically, how do you change that?

SANTORUM: Well, let me first address Congressman Paul, because the — the serious issue with Congressman Paul here is you’re right. He’s never really passed anything of any — any import.

And one of the — one of the reasons people like Congressman Paul is his economic plan. He’s never been able to accomplish any of that. He has no track record of being able to work together. He’s been out there on the — on the margins and has really been unsuccessful in — in working together with anybody to do anything.

The problem is that what Congressman Paul can do as commander-in- chief is he can on day one do what he says he wants to do, which is pull all our troops back out of seas, overseas, put them here in America, leave us in a — in a — in a situation where the world is now going to be created — huge amounts of vacuums all over the place, and have folks like China and Iran and others. Look at the Straits of Hormuz, as I said last night. We wouldn’t even have the Fifth Fleet there.

The problem with Congressman Paul is, all the things that Republicans like about him he can’t accomplish and all the things they’re worried about, he’ll do day one. And — and that’s the problem. [applause]

And so what we — what we need to do is have someone who has a plan and has experience to do all the things Republicans and conservatives would like to do.

GREGORY: Let me get Dr. Paul to respond…

[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: And then I’d like my opportunity to come back and answer the question.

GREGORY: Well…

PAUL: It’s not exactly a simple task to repeal approximately 100 years of us sliding away from our republic and still running a foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson, trying to make the world safe for democracy. And, look, we have elections overseas and we don’t even accept the elections.

No, changing foreign policy is significant, but that’s where a nation will come down if they keep doing this. We can’t stay in 130 countries, get involved in nation-building. We cannot have 900 bases overseas. We have to change policy.

What about changing monetary policy? Yes, we do. But we’ve had that for 100 years. And right now, we’re winning that battle. The American people now agree. About 75 percent of the American people now say we ought to audit the Federal Reserv