The host of Fox News’ “On the Record” Greta Van Susteren Monday spoke in Iowa with five potential 2012 presidential candidates to gauge their desires to seek the GOP nomination, what they would bring to the table, and how they would defeat President Barack Obama.
The lineup: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; Georgia businessman and talk show host Herman Cain; and former Louisiana Gov. Charles “Buddy” Roemer.
Gingrich, who began the exploratory phase of his campaign for the nomination last week, told Van Susteren the United States should immediately impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
“Communicate to the Libyan military that [leader Moammar] Gadhafi was gone and sooner they switch sides the more like they were to survive,” Gingrich said. “Provide help to the rebels to replace him. The idea we are confused about a man who has been an anti-American dictator since 1969 tells you how inept this administration is.”
Van Susteren turned to Gingrich’s infidelity in the 1990s and how he would address the issue to voters if he runs for president.
“I think they have to look at the totality of a person's life and decide who are they and what have they learned,” Gingrich said. “I've made no bones about the fact that there were times I did the wrong thing and I've made no bones about the fact that I've asked for forgiveness.”
Santorum said the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's presidential forum, the event the five potential candidates attended Monday, was the kickoff of the race – but told Van Susteren he has not yet made up his mind.
“All I'm doing is out here testing the waters. And that means you got to go out and talk to people and let people get a chance to see you, give you feedback, and you factor that in and you keep going,” Santorum said.
“I think when you're looking at a president, you're looking at qualities of leadership … if they have the discipline necessary to make the tough decisions,” he said. “Have they been strong and forthright? And have they had those qualities that make a good leader and can lead people? Are they visionary? Can they communicate well? You know, all of these things are important, as well as what they believe and how they articulate that.”
Cain said he would spend several days in Iowa, to introduce himself to people, who might not recognize his name.
“Knocking on doors, having coffees, going into restaurants, talking to people,” Cain said. “Like you said, a lot of people may not know who I am. So the more time that I spend here and meet people in these small groups, the better.”
Van Susteren asked Cain what his message was to Iowans and others who look at him as a potential candidate and how they will make their choice.
“It's the ‘L’ word, leadership. Which one best projects leadership that the American people are hungry for,” Cain said. “And if they look at the records and look at the things that they've done, how they talk about how they'll go about solving problems. What I found is that when I speak, I talk a lot about how I will approach solving the problems. That's resonating with people because there's this frustration that problems aren't getting solved right now, they're getting worse.”
Pawlenty also said he would impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
“Well, I think we need to make sure that we stand for our basic principles, including these,” he said. “Number one, we don't want new or continued radical regimes anywhere in the world. So I would absolutely consider and likely deploy a no-fly zone over Libya for those reasons.”
Van Susteren asked Pawlenty his stand on the tea party, and the fact that on some issues it puts pressure on the GOP establishment.
“ I think that's a good thing. We want people in elected office, particularly the ones who campaign one way and govern another to be accountable for their words and deeds,” Pawlenty said. “I think it is a helpful thing to have Republicans to feel a tap on their shoulder saying we are going to hold you accountable. That's a good thing in a democracy.”
Pawlenty also addressed job creation.
“If we are going to grow the economy we should grow the private sector not the government sector," he said. “If you talk to people who provide jobs, they say: Get the government off my back, make the load lighter. President Obama doesn't understand this. He has never had any significant affiliations or experience in the private sector.”
Roemer, who also started a presidential exploratory committee last week, said although he will only take $100 contributions – and campaigns are expensive – he and other candidates who agree to limit their funds can win.
“You can win. And be free to lead. That's what America needs, free to lead. That's what I want my president to be,” Roemer said. “I don't want him to be owned by special interests, big banks, Wall Street banks, tort lawyers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, or PACs. That's who gives all this money.
“Washington, D.C. is a boomtown and the rest of America is hurting. I wonder why? We are going to lower the money level,” he said. “Invite anybody to give us $100 or $10, $50, they can be a lobbyist, special interest, farmer, they can be plain people. That's who needs to run this country. I'm going to prove it can be done.”
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