Conducted by Fox News on January 16, Martin Luther King Day. Moderator, Bret Baier. Questioners, Juan Williams, Jerry Seib, Kelly Evans. Attendees, Perry, Santorum, Romney, Gingrich, Paul. John Huntsman announced earlier in the day that he was suspending his campaign, then endorsed Romney. A huge crowd attended in a very large auditorium.
In my opinion, Gingrich was the clear winner, getting very large crowd response; Perry, Romney, and Santorum tied for 2nd. Paul was glib and tried to look more moderate, except for foreign policy. Romney stuttered a few times, was not quite as smooth or confident as in previous debates, but probably didn’t hurt himself very much. Perry may have had his best debate. Santorum scored some points, was not at all deferential to Gingrich as he had been in past debates.
There was sharp questioning, my notes are very approximate, as I didn’t have time to jot down the questions. I’ll try to show highlights only:
? Gingrich. Last September, you vowed to be non-critical of the other candidates. Why aren’t you now? G – After the barrage leveled against me, I had to change my approach; Romney’s business record should be explored.
? Romney. Your record at Bain? R – 4 of the businesses I created were extremely successful; handled over 100 businesses.
? Perry. You accused Romney of vulture capitalism. P – in Georgetown SC Bain picked the company clean; Romney should release his income tax records; Dodd-Frank needs to be repealed, is choking banks.
Romney – the firm in question was a steel mill, hurt by foreign dumping; dumping broke about 40 steel producers about that time; I founded a new steel mill using modern technology that succeeded.
? Paul – your scathingly critical ads on other candidates. Pl – it’s OK if it reflects truth; Santorum voted against right to work.
Santorum – Paul has been quoting left-wing outfits like CREW; I did vote against right to work because my state (PA) was not a right to work state.
? Santorum – you accused Romney’s Super PAC of distorting your record. R – his PAC accused me of advocating the vote for convicted felons; after a felon has served his time, been released, he deserves to regain his vote.
Romney – a convicted felon remains that all his life, should never be allowed the vote. (Romney stuttered here.)
Perry – this is a state issue.
? Romney – in New Hampshire, Huntsman called you a “perfectly lubricated weather vane”. Will you change again?. R – No. (in so many words)
? Perry – in South Carolina, the federal government is suing to stop voter ID. Does the fed have a right to do that? P – Federal govt. has declared war on my home state of Texas and against SC; NLRB ruled against SC and Boeing because it’s a right to work state; As prez, I’ll boost state’s rights; Fed is also at war against organized religion; Obama’s administration is out of control.
? Santorum – would you support extending the jobless benefit by 20 more weeks? S – not unless they receive training while receiving benefits.
? Gingrich – How many weeks of jobless benefits would you support? G – All should be tied to training; 99 weeks of school would get you an associate degree.
— Skipping questions and trite responses from Romney and Paul;
? Romney – will you release your tax records? R – I will, around April.
? Romney – you have a hard policy against illegal immigration. Are you alienating Latino voters? R – No; I would veto the Dream Act.
? Santorum – there are currently very high levels of unemployment and poverty in black population. What would you do about that? S – studies show if you work before marriage, graduate from high school, and refrain from having children out of wedlock, chances are only 2% you’ll be poor.
Paul – skip
? Gingrich – aren’t your remarks about blacks working derogatory? G – No; Black Americans should prefer jobs over food stamps; my daughter’s first job at 13 was as a church janitor, she loved having money; I’ve been publishing a newsletter on the subject; New York City pays ridiculous wages to their janitors because of unions; kids could also work in the cafeteria, library, and office, it would teach them responsibility and give them money which poor families especially need; only the elites despise money.
? Gingrich – didn’t you imply that Blacks are lazy and irresponsible? (The crowd booed this question by Juan Williams) G – Obama has put more people on food stamps than any other president in history; I will find a ways to help poor Blacks get a job and own it. (Standing applause)
Paul – skip his remarks about foreign policy.
? Gingrich – Would you go into a country such as Pakistan and kill someone (such as Bin Laden) without declaring war? G – Pakistan had to know Obama was living a mile from a huge military base; Andrew Jackson was sabered in the face as a young boy by a British officer, and his idea about dealing with enemies was – kill them!
Paul – we should have a golden rule in dealing with other countries – do with them as we would want them to deal with us; We wouldn’t like it if China came into our country and killed someone.
Romney – Gingrich was right; Barack Obama should not have announced the date of our withdrawal in Iraq; we are under attack, need a strong military.
? Romney – would you negotiate with the Taliban? No, Biden said we would, and he was wrong to want to do that.
Skip dialogues with Santorum, Paul, Perry.
? Perry – Now that Islamist regime has taken over Turkey, should they be kicked out of NATO? P – cut their foreign aid to zero; Turkey no longer works with us; There should be no space between US and Israel; I served in the Air Force.
Paul – I too served in the Air Force – 5 years; Taliban just wants us out of Afghanistan, Al Quaeda wants to come here and kill us.
? Romney – would you have signed National Defense Act, which allows us to retain Guantanamo prisoners forever? R – foreign terrorists have no rights.
Santorum – American citizens caught as terrorists should have right of Habeas Corpus.
? Romney – what are your plans for entitlement reform? R – Medicare, premium support like Ryan plan.
Gingrich – Social Security voluntary choice between old plan and new plan; personal savings accounts like Chile, (wildly successful there); 95% would take advantage of PSA’s; every American becomes an investor.
? Santorum – Isn’t your plan to cut taxes for manufacturers to zero actually having govt. pick winners and losers? S – I’d cut business taxes to a flat 17.5%, but manufacturing is where we’re losing jobs, which is why I’d cut taxes for them to zero; Newt’s Social Security plan is fiscally irresponsible because he’d have to borrow money to put in the personal savings accounts.
Gingrich – I’d finance it by cutting out 185 bureaucracies. (My note – actually, in Chile a portion of payroll tax is paid into the personal account)
Romney – Rick is right; we can’t borrow more money at this time; Newt’s plan is fiscal insanity! (I thought this was a mean choice of words)
Skip conversation on gun control
? Gingrich – You voted for a bill supporting one child per family in China. G – wrong. On Super PAC – I’ve called on mine to edit out that isn’t true.
Romney – we’d all like to see Super PAC’s ended.
? Perry – Now that illegal immigrant rate of border crossing is at a 40 year low, shouldn’t we stop spending money on it? P – immigration is low because the economy is at a 40 year low. If I’m president, border will be closed within one year.
? Gingrich – Has the No Child Left Behind Act been a failure? G – yes; teachers tend to teach the tests; I would eliminate the Department of Education; return control to states; and they should eliminate their departments of education, return control to local school boards.
(end at about 1:50)
Note – there was a running twitter for the TV audience where the audience could indicate whether the candidate answered the question (above the line) or didn’t (below). Newt and Paul were consistently above the line, Romney was the least here.
There was a very good Fox News post-debate show with interviews of Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum.