I am live blogging the CNN South Carolina GOP debate here tonight. Watch it live on your CNN channel at 8 pm EST, billed as the Southern Republican Presidential Debate.
I’ll be typing as fast as I can and trying to get the gist of the questions and answers. Please ignore typos, which I’ll correct after the debate is over, and remember that at times I’m paraphrasing.
Participating tonight: Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum (if you missed it, Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out of the race today and endorsed Newt. I will initials of the candidates last name to identify the speaker.
The moderator is John King who got the nod for the worst debate moderation EVAH! after an earlier GOP debate when he continually interrupted the candidates.
Candidates in order of podiums: (L-R) Santorum, Romney, Gingrich, Paul Romney, Santorum
(Wow! Newt, Paul and Santorum got big applause, especially Newt and Paul.)
(my husband is screaming at the television in the Family Room as he watches Bill O’Reilly pander to Brian Ross, who had the tell-all (or fib) interview with Marianne Gingrich, which will air tonight on Nightline)
Any comments by me, Maggie, will be in bold italics and parenthesis)
John King and members of the audience will ask questions. If the candidate is mentioned by another candidate, that candidate will have 30 seconds to respond.
(Right out of the box John King is ugly )
KING: Your Ex gave an interview to ABC. Said you asked for an ‘open marriage.’
GINGRICH: (Gingrich says he doesn’t want to answer, but he will.) “Destructive, negative nature of media” makes it more difficult to govern or run for president. “I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate” this way. (The audience is roaring with approval of Newt.) To do this two days before the debate and just before the primaries is “despicable.”
(After the debate – 9:25 pm CDT: Gingrich is on with Greta saying after a great deal of talk ABC agreed to put his two grown daughters on, but not speak with family friends.)
KING: Tries to weasel out, saying it is the topic of interest today.
GINGRICH: You and your staff decided to open the debate with this. It is false. Several people asked to prove it’s false. We tried to prove it to ABC. They weren’t interested. “I am tired of the media protecting Barack Obama.”
KING: to other candidates: do you see this an issue?
SANTORUM: Those are things for everyone in the audience to look at. We’ve all done things we are not proud of, but it is something to look at.
ROMNEY: Let’s get on to the real issues. That’s all I’ve got to say.
PAUL: Too often all of us are on the receiving attacks from the media. (Mentions corporations that run the media are suspect.) People have to sort it out.
KING: From a voter: 9.9% employment in SC. List three programs to put people back to work. Should we have federal programs?
PAUL: Government needs to get of the way. They could have a sound currency, reduce regulations, and …. (sorry, didn’t get it all). Get rid of excessive debt or we will never be financially healthy. No bailouts. Enforce bankruptcy laws.
GINGRICH: Repeal Dodd Frank: $29B+ in natural gas offshore. Use some of those funds to renovate the Port of Charleston for traffic from the Panama Canal. Taking too long to study the renovation.
KING: You have sharply criticized Romney’s Bain Capitol connection. What do you see as wrong?
GINGRICH: Take over a company, manages it, takes money out of it and leaves it to die (speaking of Georgetown Steel Mill
ROMNEY: The tax code out of alignment, regulations are overwhelming, fix energy. Stop the crony capitalism. Mentions UAW, Solyndra, stacking the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board). Turns down Keystone Pipeline. This president is the biggest impediment to jobs.
KING: to Romney – back to Bain Capital.
ROMNEY: I know we are going to get attacks on capitalism from the Left and Obama. My view is that capitalism works. We started a number of businesses, 4 – created 120,000 jobs through this day. Some lost jobs. It’s been evaluated for years. Ten thousand jobs were lost by the failing companies. Compare 120,000 jobs to 10,000 lost jobs. I have built enterprises to return money to investors. Profit went to pension funds, charities. Profit means you can hire more people.
SANTORUM: I believe in capitalism for everyone, especially for the ordinary man. You have Dems who want to make them more dependent. Iowa is being fined because they are not signing up enough people for food stamps (I think this is what he said. I’ll have to verify). We must build the manufacturing industry to put people back to work. I was in Boeing today and BMW yesterday. SC can compete with anyone in the world in manufacturing. We need to cut the corporate tax in manufacturing to zero so they can compete with the rest of the world.
KING: SC is a military state. Vets are coming back to no employment. Should the federal government target this subgroup – tax incentives to employees?
PAUL: To some degree, it is probably necessary on some occasions. After WWII we had 10M come home all at once – a much bigger problem. The government cut the budget 60% and taxes by 30% – everyone went to work and we didn’t need special programs. Where the vets really deserve help is the people with health concerns. We have an epidemic of suicides with returning vets. The Veteran Admin needs to step up it’s game.
SANTORUM: Vets should have preferences for jobs when they return. We need to be much more aggressive. Obama said he will cut benefits and military, after 4, 5, 6 tours of duty. Obama will not cut a penny from social programs but wants to cut $1T from the military.
ROMNEY: Let’s distinguish what gets done at the federal level and the state level. In Massachusetts we gave bonuses and paid for training. Let’s do it at the state level, and not let the Feds spread their tentacles in this business. Send Federal monies to the states and let them decide. Cutting $1T from Defense is crazy. We have an aging Navy. We need a strong military, so strong no country will think of testing it.
GINGRICH: About Paul’s history: the US government did two things after WWII. We created the GI bill which allowed returning vets to go to college. We dramatically lowered taxes. We need a transition process for vets and an aggressive program of regularity changes…..
(Gingrich advocates for everyone on unemployement signing up for retraining education. My opinion, including the same program for vets (although to a lesser degree) will become a huge bureaucracy. These things don’t work. I’ve heard numbers of those laid off say they spent months in these schools and still couldn’t find a job after trying mightly).
KING: From audience to any candidate. Do you believe ObamaCare can be repealed or reversed in its entirety. Can that happen? What happens to preexisting conditions or a 20-something on his/her parents insurance now?
ROMNEY: We have to go after a complete repeal, but I will issue an Executive Order immediately to stop everything where it is until we can repeal. We’ll replace it. A bill that does care for people with pre-existing conditions. If they have such a condition and are insured, they will continue to have insurance. ….Ours is the party of free enterprise and choice. Obama thinks he knows what is best for us, but he’s wrong.
KING: Can it be repealed?
(Most important answer of the debate below in green text)
GINGRICH: Sure we can get it repealed in totality. We have to elect a House and Senate and President committed to doing it. I so deeply distrust Congressional staffs that I want no tweaking. Why does Obama want children to stay on insurance until they are 26? Answer: Because they can’t find jobs to pay for their own. To parents: elect me and I’ll move your kids out of your house.
SANTOURM: Agrees with Gingrich. Bashes RomneyCare in Massachusettes. $8B more expensive than current law. Massachusetts has highest healthcare premiums in country. 27% higher than any other state. Patients are waiting 44 days on average for care. Romney can’t stand up under Obama in a debate, because he has done the same thing. Also criticizing Gingrich for remarks a couple of years ago. He advocates for health savings accounts.
ROMNEY: So much of what Santorum said is wrong. The system in my state is not government run. 92% had their own insurance before the plan came in and are not on the program. 3-1 are still in favor. I have compassion for people who do not have insurance. ObamaCare is a medical monster.
SANTORUM: My facts are right. The 92% were not on private insurance. Many were on Medicaid and Medicare. You haven’t created a healthy market place. You did what Obama is trying to do here. Your plan is top down, not free market. It was the basis for ObamaCare.
ROMNEY: Medicaid is not a state program. Medicaid is mandated by the government: 50-50 feds and state. Get the federal government out of Medicare and Medicaid. Send the money to the states.
GINGRICH: Santorum thought I would have a hard time debating Obama over health care. I helped kill HillaryCare. I helped Santorum pass his health savings account (I think that’s what he said). I would let Obama use a teleprompter in debates. I’ll rely on notes and experience and do fine.
SANTORUM: The problem with ObamaCare is it mandates every person buy government health care. Newt has advocated for it.
GINGRICH: I figured out I was wrong, but you didn’t.
PAUL: Theoretically we can repeal ObamaCare, but the likelyhood we will, is not so good. We can set aside some of it. When Medicare and Medicaid came in, even when we had a Republican Congress, we gave them Prescription Drug Coverage. Santorum supported that. Where is the money going to come from. I’m going to cut $1T the first year. People now depend on those programs. My suggestion is look at some of the overseas spending we don’t need to be doing. Troops in Korea, in Japan, in Germany. Those are subsidies to those countries. We will get rid of those programs when our check bounces. We will be forced to stop providing.
KING: Gingrich has released his tax returns. They are online. We’ll ask about them when we return from break.
KING: to Santorum: Newt said you didn’t have any of the knowledge to do anything on this presidential scale.
SANTORUM: Grandiosity has never been a problem for Newt. (Newt asked Santorum to step down – Santorum is taking exception to it). I’m not flashy. I’m steady, I’m solid. You can depend on me.
GINGRICH: It depends on what scale you want to get things done on in the Capitol. (talking about cutting taxes, largest capital gains in 16 years). Yes I think grandiose thoughts for a grandiose country.
SANTORUM: I will give him his due on grandiose thoughts and projects, but I will not give him his due on completing those projects. I was there when he was thrown out. An idea a minute, no discipline. You have to admit that this Freshman congressman who was supposed to know nothing, came and blew the lid off the biggest scandal – Congress kiting checks. You knew about it – had for 10 years, you told me you knew about it.
GINGRICH: We all have selective memory. (Newt details some scandals that he went against, in opposition to the leadership at the time). I opposed the president in 1990 in raising taxes, against the wishes of my leadership. Congressional campaign committee, for 16 years I worked to create a majority and train it. Those are historic acts that are inconvenient to Santorum.
KING: to Romney: You have an ad, not a SuperPac ad, saying that Gingrich is unreliable.
ROMNEY: We need someone outside Washington to go to Washington (i.e. not Newt). I find it amusing listening to how much credit is taken for what goes on in Washington. Newt you are mentioned once in Reagan’s diary. He mentions George Bush 100 times, but he said you had one idea, and he dismissed it.
GINGRICH: Fundamental experience in leadership. (recounts Jimmy Carter years). When I became speaker we went back to the Reagan model and built jobs. You Mitt did well under the rules I help institute. You would have done less well under Carter.
ROMNEY: You aren’t going to take credit for my years of work.
KING: Question from audience: when will you release your tax returns?
GINGRICH: An hour ago (he released them on his website before the debate tonight).
PAUL: I haven’t thought it through but it may come to that. I’d be embarassed though with my lesser income. Right now I’m not thinking about it. I don’t talk to lobbyists.
ROMNEY: When my taxes are released for this year, I will release them in April, and probably for other years as come. Dems are trying to attack us for being successful. The challenge is not being successful. The problem is Obama playing golf while people struggle. The problem is the rejection of the Keystone Pipeline.
ROMNEY: I won’t release last years returns before the SC primary because I want to make certain we beat Obama. My taxes are carefully managed and I have nothing to hide.
GINGRICH: If there is anything in there that will help us lose the election, you should release it. If there is nothing in there, you should release it now.
SANTORUM: I do my own taxes and they are on my computer and there is no one there to get them for me. When I get home I’ll release them. My tax rate is higher than Romney’s.
KING to Romney: Your father set a ground breaking standard. He released his taxes for 12 years, saying one year could be a fluke. We need more.
ROMNEY: I don’t know. I’ll release them for multiple years but I don’t know how many years. I’m not going to apologize for being successful. But the Dems will go after me on that basis. I want to release them all at one time. My dad, born in Mexico, didn’t have a college degree, became the head of a car company in Detroit. I didn’t inherit. I could have stayed in Detroit but I went off on my own.
KING: Putting America back to work. Apple Computer very successful. 500,000 people employed in China. Has 46,000 employees in the states, mostly working in retail stores. What would you do about that?
SANTORUM: I have a plan for this. We must cut the corporate tax in half. The local pharmacy is not going to move to china, so they will pay higher taxes. We must cut the corporate tax for companies like Apple. Bring that money back. You are paying 35% now. If you bring it back to Charleston, we’ll cut your taxes to nothing. Bring those jobs home. The Obama admin has brought 2.5X the regulation burden. I will repeal all of them on day one.
PAUL: Create the right environment for companies to come back. The consumers have been benefitted by a good company, with good products (Apple). The dollars we send to China come back to us. The computer costs $900 not $1000. That’s money in the consumer’s pocket. Foreign companies build cars in this country and make a living out of it. The union problem, right to work states – Santorum has voted against right to work. We have to change the regulations, and our currency.
SANTORUM: I have said I will sign a pledge to support right to work. I voted against it when I represented Pennsylvania because they wanted it. As president, I will be an advocate for right to work.
KING: twitter question – what’s your position on SOPA?
GINGRICH: You’re asking a conservative about the economic welfare of Hollywood? I’m thinking it through. Google, YouTube says it will mess up the internet. I favor freedom. We have a patent office and a copyright law. If someone has been impinged upon, a company can use the copyright law.
ROMNEY: Gingrich got it right. The law as written is far too threatening, far too expansive. It would have an oppressive impact. Go after those pirating – especially those offshore. No. I’m standing for freedom.
PAUL: I was the first Republican to sign on with a host of Democrats to oppose this law. (big applause) This bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one. Republicans have been on the wrong side of this law.
KING: 10s of thousands of jobs are at stake, is the argument.
SANTORUM: The internet is not a free zone where you can pirate. The idea that that the government has no role to protect the intellectual rights of people. I am not for people to abuse the law. The idea that anything goes in the internet – where did that come from.
(I just disagree with Santorum on this. He’s advocating for more government intervention. We DO have copyright laws. My little blog is plagued with content scrapers and I’m trying to do something about it myself and with the help of friends. I don’t the government to do this for me. Once we make the laws, what happens when Democrats have control again?)
KING: After months of campaigning, if you could do one thing over since the campaign began, what would it be?
GINGRICH: I would not have hired ordinary consultants at the beginning of my campaign, trying to be the normal candidate. I’m not that person.
ROMNEY: I’d work to get 25 more votes in Iowa. Also I would take away every statement about anyone on this stage, and talk only about Obama. I would talk about our fundamentals.
SANTORUM: I wouldn’t change a thing. For me to be standing here in the final 4 is about as amazing a thing as I can imagine. I’ve had no money. I’ve just talked to people in 700 townhalls. Good ideas and hard work still works in America.
PAUL: I can’t think of one thing in particular. We can work for our own virtue and sustenance. The conviction I have is, if I speak slower and with more conviction it would help.
KING: Audience question: Illegal aliens. How would you secure that American citizens would have the jobs before legals.
GINGRICH: You have to control the border. I have a bill to control it by January 1, 2014. I will waive all regulations that inhibit that. I will move half of Homeland Security to the border to get that done. I would make English the official language. I will modernize the visa process. I will make it easier to deport people. We should be able to get rid of gangs in 2 weeks, not two years. I will outsource passports, visas to American Express, Visa, etc., because they know how to do that. People who have been here 25 years: they are working, they are married, they have children and grandchildren. I don’t think we will deport them. I have a plan for them to show proof that they are financially solvent, and have an American family sponsor them. They will not get citizenship without going home and getting in line to do so.
(I like everyone’s view on immigration and all the positions are so far, far better than what we have today. I don’t like Newt’s plan for those here over 25 years, but in the end, I bet he’s right: we probably would not deport these people. He said they would not receive citizenship, had to be financially solvent and be sponsored. In the past he has said they could have absolutely no criminal past. I’m mixed. I want them to go home. Can we make that happen?)
ROMNEY: Immigration is not tough. You build a fence and put enough agents on the border to protect it. You have a card that is your identification. If employers hire without seeing that identification, they are severely fined. These people will not have amnesty or any advantage to becoming a citizen of the U.S.
(Romney’s view is the one I advocate for. It IS easy. Build the dang fence and put people on the border. Think of the people we could hire. I’m sick of the ignorant saying a fence will not work. Of course it will most of the time.)
SANTORUM: I am the son of an immigrant. Coming here to be an American is a wonderful thing, but coming here illegally, you break our law immediately. (he’s talking about Newt’s position, and I’m sorry to say that Santorum is sounding lame – not saying it well.) America is worth respecting our laws when you come here. These people here for 25 years have probably stolen someone’s social security number.
(Santorum is probably right and “America is worth respecting our laws”…great sentiment.)
ROMNEY: I described the same position 4 years ago when I ran for president. People who come here illegally should not have a path to citizenship. The pathway I’ve described is that people who are here illegally should have time to register, settle their affairs and go home to get in line for entry. We are a party of legal immigration. We want legal immigration. To protect it, we want to stop illegal immigration.
KING: Should I be prosecuted if I hire an illegal to clean my home?
PAUL: I don’t think so. It should be the problem of Border Patrol. What we fail to do is look at the incentives: an economic incentive for them to come, and an incentive for people in this country not to take a low-paying job. In Texas there are federal mandates that we take care of their schooling and their health care. We need more resources, but they are all overseas. We are guarding Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are fighting and dying over that border. Move those forces back and put them on our borders.
GINGRICH: If you are going to raise immigration, I will issue an Executive Order to the DOJ to drop their lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona.
GINGRICH: Romney care pays for abortions. He appointed pro-abortion judges. He funded an abortion clinic after he became pro-life. Why?
ROMNEY: I don’t like being questioned on personal integrity. In Massachusetts health care there is no mention of abortion. The Supreme Court decided that it would pay for abortions, not me. Somewhere there is the mention of Planned Parenthood but it doesn’t specify abortion. Judges: we don’t have a litmus test asking if they are pro-life. I am pro-life and the Mass Citizens for Pro Life said they have watched my record and I am pro-life. This is not the time to be doubting a person’s words. You can count on me as president of the U.S. to pursue a track to protect life.
SANTORUM: If you write a piece of legislation and you do not say specifically, abortion is not covered, you will have abortions. Romney knew the courts would make him cover abortion. We need people to come out of the trenches and protect every human life. I’ve done that. In contrast with Gingrich – the Pledge to America kept social issues out of the pledge, directed by Gingrich.
(Santorum is spot on. How legislation is written is important and should be done with Governor working out every little angle that could rock the boat. We know this well about abortion)
ROMNEY: I admire that Santorum has protected life in a state where that’s not easy. I did the same. I vetoed cloning. I pushed and pursued abstinence education. I vetoed morning after pills.
GINGRICH: Fact is, I voted with Henry Hyde who was the leading pro-life advocate. I had a perfect rank on pro-life. In 2010, the freshman class has the highest number of pro-life in Congress. I will work toward more of that.
(WOW! King forgets Paul. The audience goes wild.)
PAUL: As a doctor before abortions were routing, I was told when taking care of a pregnant woman, I was treating two patients. Then the morality of the country changed during the Vietnam war. If you send funding out and say you can have it for birth control, but not for abortion, all money sent out is fungible. Send it out and they will use it as they want.
(A big Amen to that)
SANTORUM: Paul has a national right to life voting record of 50% – about what Harry Reid’s is.
PAUL: It’s true that we disagree. I follow the constitution and allow for the states to solve these problems. Murder, burglary are all handled by the states. Let the states write their own laws and you will repeal Roe v Wade automatically.
KING: In South Carolina, the winner often goes on to be the nominee. Most people believe if Romney wins here, he will be the favorite. Make your case to the people of SC.
PAUL: SC is know for their respect of liberty. If you understand liberty, it is equal for everybody in every state. We protect the private rights of people. Bring people together with the understanding of what made us great. We are in a mountain of debt. We didn’t even talk about that tonight. I propose we cut $1T immediately.
GINGRICH: We have a real challenge. It is imperitive that we defeat Barack Obama. This is the most dangerous president of our lifetime. The level of radicalism of his second term will be frightening. But we have to have a team win. We want dramatic, deep change in Washington. We have to overcome his Billion Dollar campaign. A Saul Alinsky follower cannot be reelected.
ROMNEY: I agree with Gingrich and Paul. This election is critical. The founders said the creator has endowed us with certain inalienable rights – not the State – not the Feds. This president is turning us away from a merit society to an entitlement society. That has never been the source of American greatness. We must restore the values that made America the hope of the earth. I will fight for free enterprise. I will get America working again.
SANTORUM: I agree with Romney 100% about what the stakes are. Question is who is the best person to take on Obama. (He believes he is best, sorry I couldn’t get it all). I am the only one in this race to beat a Democrat incumbent. I won a swing state. I come from the background of the working class with strong credentials. I fit in with those Reagan Democrats in Indiana and…..and….and….. Pick a strong conviction conservative – that’s me.