Campaign Buzz 2016 February 27, 2016: South Carolina Democratic Primary Results Hillary Clinton Wins

ELECTION 2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

South Carolina primary

DEMOCRATIC

Feb 2753 delegates

100% reporting Delegates Vote %
Clinton (won)
39
73.5%
Sanders
14
26.0%
Dropped out: O’Malley

Source: AP
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Campaign Buzz 2016 February 20, 2016: South Carolina Republican Primary Results Donald Trump Wins

ELECTION 2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

South Carolina primary

REPUBLICAN

Feb 20 50 delegates

100% reporting Delegates Vote %
Trump (won)
50
32.5%
Rubio
0
22.5%
Cruz
0
22.3%
Bush
0
7.8%
Kasich
0
7.6%
Carson
0
7.2%

Source: AP

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 June 1, 2015: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Campaign Launch Speech in Central, South Carolina Transcript

ELECTION 2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Transcript: Read Full Text of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Campaign Launch

Source: Time, 6-1-15

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham launched his presidential campaign Monday morning in his hometown of Central.

Here is a transcript of the full remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Good morning. Thank you for coming.

Many of you have known me for a long time. Some of you have known me since my family lived in the back of the bar in that building. But I’m pretty sure no one here, including me, ever expected to hear me say:

I’m Lindsey Graham, and I’m running for President of the United States of America.

It’s because of you that I can make that statement.

Everything I am, and everything I will be, I owe to the kindness and generosity and example of people in Central and Clemson and Seneca and Walhalla and other towns and farms of upstate South Carolina. Thank you . . . for everything.

I want to be president to protect our nation that we all love so much from all threats foreign and domestic.

So get ready. I know I’m ready.

I want to be president to defeat the enemies trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them.

Ronald Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength” kept America safe during the Cold War. But we will never enjoy peaceful co-existence with radical Islam because its followers are committed to destroying us and our way of life. However, America can have “Security through Strength.”

I want to be president to meet our problems head on. Honestly and realistically, for the purpose of solving them, not hiding them or taking political advantage of them.

I want to be president to make government work for you, not the other way around.

I want to make government keep its promises to you, to support your dreams, embrace your values, reflect your character.

I want to be president to help us build a future greater than our amazing past. And I’ll work with anyone to do it.

We’ve made some dangerous mistakes in recent years. The Obama Administration, and some of my colleagues in Congress, substituted wishful thinking for sound national security strategy. Every day the headlines attest to the failures of the Obama/Clinton policies.

Simply put, radical Islam is running wild.

They have more safe havens, more money, more weapons and more capability to strike our homeland than anytime since 9/11.

They are large, rich and entrenched.

As president I will make them small, poor and on the run.

I’m afraid some Americans have grown tired of fighting them. I have bad news to share with you — the radical Islamists are not tired of fighting you.

In partnership with others, we must take the fight to them, building lines of defenses over there so they can’t come here. Building up and supporting regional forces to go after their safe havens that could be used to attack our homeland.

The world is exploding in terror and violence but the biggest threat of all is the nuclear ambitions of the radical Islamists who control Iran.

If the United States isn’t firm in our intention to deny them such weapons, Iran will trigger a nuclear arms race in the least stable region on earth, and make it more likely that people who aspire to genocide will have the most effective means to commit it.

Our close ally, Israel, is at risk as a result of Obama’s failed leadership. We share values, we share democracy, and our friendship is unbreakable. To our friends in Israel, I will never abandon you. I will always stand firm in supporting the one and only Jewish state.

I too say – never again.

I am running for president because I have the experience, judgment and will to deny the most radical regimes the most dangerous weapons.

But to defeat this enemy, it will require more than military might.

The most powerful weapon in our arsenal isn’t a gun. It’s an idea. The terrorists are selling a glorious death. We must sell a hopeful life.

I’ve learned from my travels that a small schoolhouse in a remote region educating a young girl can do more damage to radical Islam than any weapon we possess.

Radical Islam is not the only threat we face, old adversaries are seizing new opportunities to challenge our interests. Putin seized Ukrainian territory, and threatens our NATO allies.

China is building – literally building – their own islands in resource rich waters claimed by other nations and challenging free navigation of the seas.

Our allies feel the absence of America’s leadership. Our adversaries are taking advantage. American weakness anywhere hurts us everywhere.

Our enemies are emboldened and our friends are going it alone. Both reactions are detrimental to our interests.

The next President must be an informed and decisive Commander-in-Chief, ready immediately to address these threats.

We’ve learned over the past six years that speeches alone won’t make us safer. Superior power and resolve will.

I’m running for President because I am ready to be Commander-in-Chief on day one.

I’m ready on day one to defend our nation with sound strategy, a strong military, stable alliances, and steady determination.

I’ve been to the Middle East more times than I can count, both in my capacity as a U.S. Senator and as a reserve officer in the United States Air Force.

I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate.

I know the players – our friends and our enemies alike. Most importantly, they know me.

I have listened, learned and prepared myself for the job of Commander-in-Chief.

I served in the Air Force for thirty-three years. I spent much of my adult life as part of a team committed to defending America.

Politicians focus on elections. The military focuses on the mission.

If given the privilege to serve as your President, I’ll focus on the mission – to defend America, protect our way of life, and leave the next generation a stronger, safer, better nation than we inherited.

That won’t be easy. It never has been.

There are dangers that must be faced, and as usual, the best of us will have to face the worst of them.

The best of us are the one-percent of Americans who are the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

I cannot promise as Commander-in-Chief that the dangers they confront, the risks they run, the sacrifices they make will be fewer or easier.

But I can assure them they will have the leadership to defeat our enemies. I can promise them their sacrifices won’t be wasted. They won’t fight with their hands tied behind their backs.

We will end this conflict on our terms. We will win.

Those who believe we can disengage from the world at large and stay safe by leading from behind, vote for someone else. I’m not your man.

Those who believe the best way to defend ourselves is to lead the world, to make history rather than be overwhelmed by it, I ask for your support.

Join me if you want to tackle problems at home that have been kicked down the road because they’re too hard to fix and too easy to demagogue.

Washington’s failure to do the hard but right thing has put Social Security and Medicare in serious jeopardy. As my generation retires both programs are on track to go bust. We’re living longer and fewer workers are supporting more retirees. That’s unsustainable. Everybody knows it. Not everybody admits it.

We have to fix entitlement programs to make sure people who need the benefits the most receive them. That’s going to require determined presidential leadership.

I know from personal experience how important those programs are to the lives of millions of Americans. I lost my parents when I was a young man and my sister was in middle school. We depended on Social Security benefits to survive.

I’ve been fortunate. I’ve done better than I’ve ever dreamed. If I and others like me have to take a little less and pay a little more to help those who need it the most, so be it. And, younger workers might have to work a little longer.

As President, I’ll gladly do what it takes to save a program that once helped my family.

To those who yearn for a safe and healthy environment, I will join your cause. To those who seek energy independence, I will be your champion.

I’m tired of sending hundreds of billions of dollars to buy oil from people who hate us. We must have energy independence. And in the process, I believe it is possible to produce a safe, clean environment, and create new well-paying jobs for Americans of all generations.

To my fellow Republicans, I’ll be a champion for limited and effective government and a strong national defense. I’ll be a voice for social conservative values without apology or animosity. I love my party. I’m committed to see it prosper and grow.

To my friends in the other party, on the big things we share a common fate. I’ll work with you to strengthen the country we both love. Our differences are real, and we’ll debate them. But you’re not my enemy. You’re my fellow countrymen.

My enemies are those who despise our shared values, the enemies of enlightenment, the culture of death that seeks to destroy the dignity of life. We’ll fight them together with our partners. And we’ll win.

To Americans who trust neither party, I will seek the political common ground our nation so desperately needs to find.

That’s what I’ve done before. Don’t take my word for it. Examine my record.

I intend to be president not of a single party, but of a nation. I want to do more than make big government smaller. I want to help make a great nation greater.

I’ve traveled the world, and had experiences and opportunities that I never dreamed of. I’ve been lucky so much of my life, but never luckier than in the people and place I come from.

Those of you who’ve known me a long time know I had some ups and downs as a young man. I lost my parents, and had to struggle financially and emotionally. I would not have made it through those times without you, and without the example my parents set for me.

There are a lot of so-called “self-made” people in this world. I’m not one of them. My family, friends, neighbors and my faith picked me up when I was down, believed in me when I had doubts. You made me the man I am today.

I’m a man with many debts to my family, to you, to South Carolina and to the country. I’m running for president to repay those debts, to fight as hard for you as you fought for me. In the end, that’s the only promise I can make and the only pledge I’ll sign, the only one that matters.

If you make me president, I’ll fight each day harder than I fought the day before to keep this country safe, prosperous and as good as the people who made it great. I humbly ask for your support and your vote. I will work everyday to make you proud.

Thank you, and God bless.

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.