Republican presidential hopefuls squared off in a New Hampshire debate on Monday night united in their promises to create jobs and fuel faster economic growth while going out of their way to avoid taking serious jabs at one another in a civil — and moderate — affair.
President Barack Obama, on the other hand, wasn’t so fortunate.
"When 14 million Americans are out of work, we need a new president to end the Obama Depression," said Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich upon his introduction at the debate hosted by CNN.
Some 20 million people are out of work, looking for work or are underemployed, while the housing market continues to dampen recovery and hefty public spending isn’t improving life for those out of work, said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
"This president has failed, and he's failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing," Romney said
Other candidates agreed.
Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain said he would cut taxes, especially the capital gains tax, pointing out that "the economy is stalled, it's like a train on the tracks with no engine."
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said too many regulations were hindering growth.
"What we need is an economy that is unshackled," Santorum said, describing Obama's healthcare policies and economic regulations as "oppressive."
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has said he'll work to raise U.S. economic growth rates to 5 percent a year, far higher than the 1.8 percent the economy grew in the first quarter this year.
Some economists have said such a rate is out of reach, and have added that cutting taxes isn’t enough to create jobs.
Pawlenty stuck to his guns, pointing out that his policies go beyond tax cuts and include spending cuts needed to create jobs and reach 5 percent growth.
"This president is a declinist. He views America as one of equals around the world. We are not the same as Portugal, we're not the same as Argentina and this idea that we can't have 5 percent growth in America is hogwash. It's a defeatist attitude," Pawlenty said.
"If China can have 5 percent growth and Brazil can have 5 percent growth, then the United States of America can have 5 percent growth."
Pawlenty has criticized Obama's healthcare policy, dubbing the so-called Obamacare as Obamneycare in reference to the Democratic president's use of then-Governor Romney's healthcare model as a blueprint for the current plan used at the federal level.
While vowing to fight Obamacare, Pawlenty backed off on assailing the
Romney's policies while governor.
"Using the term 'Obamneycare' was a reflection of the president's comments that he designed Obamacare on the Massachusetts health care plan," Pawlenty said.
Romney, meanwhile, acknowledged there were similarities in his healthcare policies and that of the president but said Obamacare took money out of Medicare to fund the new plan and also raised taxes.
"It's huge power grab by the federal government," Romney said.
Turning to taxes, Senator Ron Paul, popular among Libertarians, argued for lower taxes and government abstention from public life wherever possible.
"The Obama administration is an anti-jobs, anti-business and anti-American energy destructive force," Paul said.
"We're trying to unwind a Keynesian bubble that has been going on for 70 years."
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, popular among Tea Party voters, pointed out her track record in voting against initiatives favored by Democrats, voting against the Dodd Frank banking reform bill to the TARP bank rescue funds.
She also said she would abolish Obamacare if elected.
"I want to make a promise to everyone watching tonight. As president of the United States, I will not rest until I repeal Obamacare."
"This is the symbol and signature issue of President Obama during his entire tenure. This is a job killer. The Congressional Budget Office has said that Obamacare will kill 800,000 jobs."
Under Obamacare, Bachmann says, the administration took $500 billion out of Medicare and "shifted it to Obamacare to pay for younger people."
Newt Gingrich recently drew fire when he criticized fellow Republican Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to overhaul Medicare by having people 54 and younger choose from a list of coverage options and have Medicare make "premium-support payments" to the plan they choose.
Gingrich stood by his calls for a go-slow approach to dealing with Medicare issues.
"If you are dealing with something as big as Medicare and you can't have a conversation with the country where the country thinks what you are doing is the right thing, you better slow down," Gingrich said.
"Remember we all got mad at Obama because he ran over us when we said don't do it. Well Republicans ought to follow the same ground rules. If you can't convince the American people that it's not a good idea, then maybe it's not a good idea."
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