We're live blogging the GOP presidential debate broadcast on CNN from Arizona.
This promises to be a crucial debate just ahead of Tuesday's pivotal primaries in Arizona and Michigan, as well as being the last debate before Super Tuesday on March 6. The candidates: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Texas Rep. Ron Paul; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
9:57 p.m.: Debate ends, about three minutes before scheduled conclusion.
9:51: Last question -- what is biggest misconception public has about you? Paul: "the myth by the media that I can't win, and ignoring statistics that show the opposite." Gingrich: "The amount of work it took to get to welfare reform, a balanced budget, a 4.2 percent unemployment rate." Romney: "You get to ask the questions you want; I get to give the answers I want. What we really need in my opinion is who can lead the country." Santorum: "Can you defeat Barack Obama?" "People are looking for someone who can do a lot with a little. We've got the programs and the plan to defeat Barack Obama." So, basically, Paul was the only one to answer the question.
9:50 p.m.: just in from Associated Press: The Republican candidates say more must be done to combat illegal immigration. Gingrich says he would devote as many resources as necessary to securing the U.S.'s southern border and that he would build two separate fences at the border to make it more difficult to cross illegally. He also says he'd send thousands more employees of the Homeland Security Department to border areas. Mitt Romney says he would put more resources into securing the border and support programs that make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. He says Arizona's approach to illegal immigration is a "model" for the country. Santorum says he would also beef up efforts to combat illegal immigration.
9:47 p.m.: Gingrich says he wants states to turn over schools responsibility to local school boards, and local boards to turn to parents for help. Paul: "There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education. There is no prohibition in the Constitution for states to be involved in education."
9:45 p.m.: Candidates asked about No Child Left Behind law. Santorum: "I voted for that; it was against the principles I believe in, but I did that to help the team. Sometimes you have to take one for the team." Admits his vote in favor was a mistake "and I won't make that mistake again." Says government should get out of education business. Romney says school choice and testing kids, holding teachers accountable helped Mass. create successful school system.
9:41 p.m.: Romney says one bright spot in the Iran problem is that their key ally, Syria, has a leader who's in trouble. "Military action is an action that could be taken if they pursue nuclear weapons." Paul says there is an economic argument too. Al-Qaida is trying to bankrupt U.S. by bogging nation down in Middle East. "Just remember, when the Soviets left, they left not because of fighting but because they bankrupted that country" trying to keep up with U.S.
9:40 p.m. Moving on to Syria. Santorum says Syria problem is offshoot of Iran. Obama is afraid to stop Iran. "We need a new president or we will have a cataclysmic situation. It has to be stopped, and this president is not in a position to stop it." Gingrich says he will create "very dramatic energy policy" to open areas for drilling and become the world's biggest energy producer. Gingrich adds we should have our allies helping to "covertly destroy the Assad regime." Romney agrees with his two rivals on Iran.
9:35 p.m.: Paul says there is no evidence Iran has a nuclear weapon. "The Iranians can't possibly attack anybody, and we're worried about the possibility of one nuclear weapon." Compares situation with cold war and Soviets. "If you want to worry, worry about the old nuclear weapons they have lying around." Says ask the people and Congress for declaration of war if U.S. decides to stop Iran. Says embargoes and threats just push Iranian people to defend their leaders.
9:30 p.m.: Santorm says he agrees with Romney on Iran. Says he has been trying to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon "for about eight years now." Gets cheers by saying: "If you want to know what foreign policy position to take, find out what [Vice President] Joe Biden's position is, and take the opposite position."
9:25 p.m.: Debate moves on to Iran nuclear issue and Israeli response. Gingrich asked if he agrees with Gen. Martin Dempsey, joint chiefs chairman, that strike against Iran now would be "destabilizing"? Asked if he would urge Israel to stand down, if he was president. Gingrich responds: "If you think a madman has nuclear weapons and that madman will use nuclear weapons, then you have moral obligation" to deal with problem. "I do believe there are moments when you pre-empt"
Romney says "We simply can not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons."
9:21 p.m.: Candidates asked for views of Obama's plan to open 14,000 new military jobs to women closer to frontline combat. Romney says Obama is shrinking military, cutting military budget by a trillion dollars while world is dangerous. Says need to add ships to Navy and personnel to all services. Gingrich says "You live in a world of total warfare. Anyone serving our country in uniform can be in danger at any minute." Says should ask military for opinion, "not social engineers of the Obama administration. "All of us are at more risk today; men and boys, women and girls." Paul says he fears draft coming back because we're "getting too overly involved" overseas. Says "I don't want the men being killed either. I don't want women being killed, and I also don't want the men being killed." Santorum says he agrees with Gingrich and Paul.
9:20 p.m.: Candidates asked to define themselves with one word and one word only. Paul: "consistent." Santorum: "courage." Romney: "resolute." Gingrich: "cheerful."
9:15 p.m.: AP reports ... Romney and Santorum are clashing on spending requests during a sharp confrontation that fellow Republican Gingrich calls "silly" as the Republican presidential contenders' debate. Romney on Wednesday criticized Santorum's tenure in the House and Senate for spending requests he sought. Santorum says Romney is trying to have it both ways because Romney sought financial help to fund the Olympic Games he ran, and later sought federal tax dollars as Massachusetts governor. Santorum is defending earmarks as a useful way to override an administration's goals and chiding Romney as not knowing what he is talking about. He also calls Ron Paul a "prolific" earmarker. Romney says he was "fighting to save the Olympics," while Santorum was "fighting to save the Bridge to Nowhere."
9:12 p.m.: John King quotes Sen. Marco Rubio saying some GOP comments on immigration are "harsh, intolerable, inexcusable." Gingrich says he doesn't know which Repubican Rubio is talking about. "First step is to control the border," Gingrich says, adding he's talked to people in the export-import industry. "People in the export-import business don't want a border that's closed. They want a border that's controlled."
9:10 p.m.: Romney says "You see a model here in Arizona." If person applies for job, there is an e-verify system to check on their legality. Promises to drop lawsuits against states, complete fence, staff adequately with border agents, check e-verify and sanction employers who break law. Santorum asked about private person hiring illegals. "I'm not going to require homeowners to e-verify. That's going to far." Wants authorities to enforce laws.
9:06 p.m.: Gingrich is asked if Texas Gov. Rick Perry is wrong to suggest double fence on border. Says Perry is not wrong. "The further we have gone with the fence, the fewer the people who get into Calif."
9:05 p.m.: Candidates asked what they will do to protect borders. Paul asked if $3 million per mile appropriate to spend on border. "Probably not," Paul replies; says forget about border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and concentrate on U.S. border. Federal government is responsible for borders.
9:05 p.m.: Santorum and Romney back-and-forth over Pennsylvania politics. Gingrich and Paul virtually ignored.
9:04 p.m.: Santorum, on Romney balancing budget, says Romney just did what he was supposed to do: "Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years. Does that make him qualified to be president of the United States."
9:04 p.m. Romney: If I am president of the U.S. I will repeal Obamacare. Lists several reasons, including costs.
9:03 p.m. -- Santorum says study listed 15 ways in which Romneycare was model for Obamacare.
9:02 p.m.: Paul -- federal government should not be spending money on abstinence.
9:01 p.m.: Santorum says he did not and would not sign bills that promote planned parenthood. Says he proposed Title 20 to counterbalance it.
9 p.m.: When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move toward tyranny
8:55 p.m: Romney: the issue isn’t birth control, though, it’s about preserving the foundation of the family. The best economic opportunities for a child come when they’re raised by a mother and a father,
8:49 p.m: Santorum refers to Charles Murray's new book on the dissolution of white America, and the huge numbers of children being born out of wedlock.
8:48 p.m: Romney says attacks on religion unprecedented in country's history.
8:46 p.m: Question is about birth control, but Gingrich is now lashing out at "elite media." Gingrich: nobody raised question about Obama's position to "legalize infanticide."
8:40 p.m: Romney says there’s no way the government would’ve let the American auto industry collapse. He advocated for bankruptcy followed by government loan guarantees, if necessary.
8:35 p.m: Topic now is government bailouts of the auto industry. Santorum: opposed to government intervention to help an industry. "I felt having the government come in ... and have huge influence on an industry would be damaging,"
"I believe in markets, not just when they're convenient for me," Santorum continues.
Santorum is pushing his plan to cut $5 trillion from the budget and gets applause for saying he'll repeal "Obamacare." He promises not to cut defense spending.
8:31 p.m: Gingrich weighs in. He used earmarks during Atlanta Olympics, takes on Romney. Says he's criticizing rivals for what he did when running Salt Lake City Olmpics.
8:29 p.m: Romney and Santorum in pitched battle over earmarks. Santorum slams Romney for doing exactly what Romney is criticizing Santorum for. But Santorum says Romney doesn't know what he's talking about, since he never served in Senate. Santorum notes Romney asked for earmarks for the Salt Lake City Olympics and as Massachusetts governor. Romney says he would put a ban earmarks because "it opens the door on excessive spending."
8:24 p.m: Gingrich: "It is utterly stupid to say the United States government can't control the border. It's a failure of will." Gingrich makes the case that controlling the border would result in a huge fiscal windfall in schools, emergency rooms etc -- the cost of caring for illegal aliens would be gone, or shrunk.
8:21 p.m: Romney explaining his self-description as "severe" conservative" -- says it means "strict." "You can't be anything but a fiscal conservative running a business, because if you don't balance your budget, you go out of business."
8:20 p.m: Paul points out that "report cards" comparing Congress members to each other no good, because American people can't stand Congress, gives them only 9 percent approval.
8:19 p.m: Santorum, given a chance to respond, takes on Romney, ignores Paul. He refers to a Weekly Standard article that scores him well on the issues, "issues that were tough in my state, senior issues."
8:18 p.m: Paul launches an attack on foreign aid: it goes to our enemies, isn't doing America any good.
8:18 p.m: Paul: "Nobody ever accused me of voting for too much. They accuse me of not voting for enough."
8:16 p.m: Ron Paul's folksy charm comes back: why did he put out ads calling Santorum a fake? "Because he's a fake."
8:15 p.m: Newt the historian: points out this is anniversary of George Washington's birth; moves on to calling for the opening of oil drilling on federal lands.
8:14 p.m: We've got a spirited back and forth going on between Santorum and Romney on spending, taxes.
8:12 p.m: Romney attacks Santorum's record in Senate; Santorum points out that government spending as portion of GDP went down on his watch; says he regrets some votes, but he never voted to raise taxes.
8:09 p.m: First question from audience on national debt...
8:07 p.m: Debate underway, candidates introducing themselves...
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