Romney's Credentials Targeted in Debate

Saturday, 07 January 2012 10:40 PM

Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential rivals sought to stake their own claims to the nomination in a televised debate tonight in New Hampshire, criticizing the business-executive background he cites as his central White House qualification as they seek to stifle his momentum three days before the Jan. 10 primary.

“Business experience doesn’t necessary match up with being the commander in chief of this country,” said former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who rode a late swell of support to finish a close second to Romney in Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses. “Managing this country isn’t being a CEO. It’s someone who has to lead.”

As Romney, heavily favored to win New Hampshire’s primary according to the latest public opinion polls, defended his record, the race to become the alternative also emerged as a main element in the start of the debate held on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester.

Santorum, Texas Representative Ron Paul and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- all vying to emerge as the principal rival to the former Massachusetts governor -- engaged in sharp exchanges over their records and qualifications.

Paul hit Santorum as “a big-government, big-spending individual.”

Santorum called that comment “a ridiculous charge.”

Service Issue

Gingrich sparred with Paul over the Texas congressman’s branding the former speaker a “chicken hawk,” for backing wars while not having served in the military.

“I’m trying to stop the wars but at least I went when they called me up,” Paul said.

Gingrich, 68, responded that Paul “has a long history of saying things that are inaccurate or false,” adding that he never had to ask for a draft deferment because he was married and had a child and so wasn’t called up. He also noted that his father served for many years in the military.

“I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like as family to worry about your father being killed, and I personally resent the kinds of comments and dispersions he routinely makes without accurate information,” Gingrich said.

Paul shot back: “When I was drafted, I was married and had two kids, and I went.”


Paul, 76, questioned Santorum’s anti-spending record, pointing out his history of supporting earmarks in Congress -- the funneling of federal money to local projects by lawmakers.

“To say you are a conservative, I mean, is a stretch, but you’ve convinced a lot of people of it,” he said.

Santorum, 51, pushed back, citing his support for a balanced budget constitutional amendment and the line item veto.

“I’ve convinced a lot of people of it because my record is pretty darn good,” he said.

Romney, 64, was pushing to maintain his frontrunner status and establish a winning streak after his eight-vote victory in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses that could boost his chances in South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary and Florida’s Jan. 31 contest. Wins in those votes could allow him to quickly claim his party’s mantle.

He defended his business record, responding to Santorum’s criticisms by suggesting that a congressional record wasn’t appropriate preparation for the Oval Office.

“I wish people in Washington had the experience of going out and working the real economy first before they went there.”

‘Wall Street Model’

Gingrich, stung by a fourth-place finish in Iowa and lagging in polls and campaign funds, said while he was for “free enterprise,” and growing jobs, “I’m not nearly as enamored of a Wall Street model where you can flip companies, you can go in and have leveraged buyouts.”

The Republican presidential contest has been influenced heavily by televised debates -- tonight’s in Manchester is the 14th -- which have fueled surges by an ever-changing cast of candidates seeking to establish themselves as the main alternative to Romney.

Santorum, who rode a late swell of support to closely behind Romney in Iowa, was pressing to capitalize on newfound attention and support and bracing for sharper scrutiny of his background and record.

Paul, his libertarian message popular with voters in the state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” was shooting for a strong New Hampshire showing to follow his third-place finish in Iowa and establish himself as a lasting presence in the presidential contest.

Huntsman, Perry

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., 51, who has focused his campaign exclusively on New Hampshire and staked his fortunes on a strong showing here, worked for a late surge in popularity to keep him in the race.

Also participating in the debate is Texas Governor Rick Perry, 61, who is focusing on South Carolina after finishing fifth in Iowa.

Tonight’s debate is the first time the candidates have shared a stage since the results of the Iowa caucuses reshaped the Republican field, prompting Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann to drop her bid. The last debate was Dec. 15 in Iowa.

Heading into the gathering, Romney was maintaining a 2-1 lead over his nearest rival in a poll of likely voters in New Hampshire’s primary. Romney had 39 percent support compared with 17 percent for Paul in a Suffolk University/7News tracking poll conducted Jan. 5-6.

Gingrich came in third, with 10 percent support, followed by Santorum and Huntsman, who tied at 9 percent.

The debate in Manchester is sponsored by ABC News, Yahoo! News and WMUR-TV. Candidates are to meet tomorrow morning in Concord for another debate airing on NBC News and sponsored by Facebook and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

© Copyright 2019 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

1Like our page
Saturday, 07 January 2012 10:40 PM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved