CNN sponsored the 2nd debate in Charleston, SC on Thursday, January 19. John King was the moderator. The four candidates looked almost lonely on the stage, since Perry had dropped out that morning. The crowd was very large.
Note – anything below in parentheses is my opinion.
King began with Newt, asking him about his 2nd wife Marianne, who interviewed with ABC last Friday night. The report was somehow made available to CNN. ABC will run it tonight for the first time on Nightline. Marianne accused him of asking her for an “open marriage” at the time he was having an affair with Callista. Newt immediately reacted in anger, saying he was appalled that CNN would open a presidential debate with such trash; saying he had gone through pain, and called it “despicable” that CNN made the decision to run it. He said he was tired of the elite media attacking Republicans.
((My note: This was a huge moment. Newt may have won the debate, even the nomination, on his opening response to the question about his previous marriage. No one else on the stage is capable of such a powerful response. I don’t think anyone else would have dared to say it, or could have said it so eloquently. He might have won — or lost, the nomination based on his scolding of ABC, CNN, and John King. CNN, ABC, and King deserved it. I think it was the most memorable moment of the debates this far. Most such moments have come from Newt. I’m not sure how to evaluate the effect on the national audience. I know some of the Charleston audience stood and clapped. ))
Santorum was asked to comment, said people should make their own judgments; I am essentially perfect. Paul wondered about the big corporations that own the media; Romney said it is not a real issue.
? Paul was asked for 3 things he would do as president to get people back to work; get government out of the way; sound currency; fewer regulations. Gingrich said he’d repeal Dodd-Frank; take advantage of the natural gas off the coast of SC, and use some of the money to modernize the Port of Charleston; and overhaul the Corps of Engineers.
? Gingrich – what did Romney do wrong at Bain? Georgetown (SC) Steel was a firm he closed down; Romney ought to explain his record at Bain. Romney – capitalism works; he’d stimulate energy production in the US; would get rid of Obama’s crony capitalism, such as at GM and Solyndra.
? Santorum – on what he’d do for jobs – support capitalism; Obama wants to make everyone dependent; I’d cut taxes to zero for manufacturing firms.
? Paul – should federal govt. give special help to returning veterans? – Some. Santorum – help veterans; he’s appalled that Obama is cutting veteran benefits while refusing to do anything with entitlements. Romney – it should be done at the state level. Gingrich – GI Bill after WWII and tax cuts made the economy take off.
? Romney – can Obamacare actually be reversed? I will sign executive order on the first day granting waivers to every state; complete repeal will require friendly congress; after he eliminates Obamacare, he will replace it with market-oriented solutions. Gingrich – should repeal all of it; as for the provision that extends insurance for children at home up to 26 years old, elect us and your kids will have jobs and can go out and buy their own. Santorum – trivial attack on Romney, accusing Romneycare being just like Obamacare; trivial attack on Newt saying he supported individual mandates up to 2008. Here Santorum argued back and forth over the allegation. Gingrich and Santorum then went back and forth over the mandate. (This was largely wasted debate time.) Paul – it’s likely we can’t fully defeat Obamacare; by the way, Santorum voted for Bush’s drug plan.
? Santorum – Gingrich recently suggested that it would be better if Santorum and Perry would drop out of the race. Santorum – Being grandiose has never been a problem for Newt; he’s full of ideas, but we always have to worry about what he will say; I beat him 2-0 in Iowa and NH; he can’t manage anything; I’m steady. Gingrich – The next president will have grandiose problems and will need to be able to handle them. I can do that; I engineered the first Republican majority in the House since 1928. I did this and that. Santorum – (becoming really vicious) Newt has an idea a minute but doesn’t have major management skills; was evicted from the speakership by Republicans after 3 years; knew about the check kiting in the House by members for years but didn’t dare to do anything about it. G – (defended himself.) Romney – you’ve just heard why an outsider (like me) is needed; it’s amazing how much credit candidates take for things they play only a small part in; Newt was only mentioned in Reagan’s diary once.
? (for all) When will you release your taxes? Gingrich – I released mine an hour ago, it’s on my website at www.newt.org; Romney – I’ll release mine when they’re done; I pay a lot of taxes. Santorum – I do my own taxes; my taxes are on my home computer; when I get home, I’ll release them. Romney – I don’t apologize for my success.
? Santorum – Apple Computer employs 500,000 in China, only about 40,000 in the US. What would you do to bring those jobs back to the US? I have a made in the USA policy; I advocate zero taxes on manufacturing firms.
? Paul – How would you revive “Made in America”? When we send money to China, they just use it to buy our debt, so it’s OK; We see less cost to consumers because of overseas manufacturing; We have more manufacturing in Right to Work states; I’m big on RTW.
? Gingrich – What’s your take on SOFA? (The internet restriction bill now in Congress). I favor internet freedom; any company whose rights are compromised has the right to sue; SOFA the wrong thing to do. Romney – Newt had it right; I favor a narrow restriction on the violators. Paul – I opposed the law. Santorum – I opposed the law, but internet can’t be totally free; piracy from overseas must be stopped.
? (for all) – If you could go back to the beginning of your campaign and do one thing differently, what would it be? Gingrich – I’d skip the first 3 months, when I tried to be a traditional candidate; since then, I’ve run an idea-based, internet-oriented campaign. Romney – spent less time talking about other candidates and more time on President Obama. Santorum – wouldn’t change a thing; it’s awesome to be one of the 4 remaining candidates. Paul – trying to better express myself; speak more slowly.
? Gingrich – You’ve mentioned a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. How would you handle the problem? Close the border; make English the only official language; modernize the visa system; make it easier to deport illegals – 2 weeks instead of months (lots of luck on this one); guest worker verification system (essentially an on-line registry) outsourced to a credit card company like VISA or MasterCard, who are expert at catching fraud; For people already here, if they’ve been here 25 years, have paid their bills, committed no crimes, and have an American family sponsoring them, I’d allow them to stay. (I doubt if many could jump all those hurdles.) Romney – not a tough problem; I’d set up a register of residents (probably my phrase); I wouldn’t round them all up and ship them out. (Other countries, such as Sweden and Mexico, have an online list – a registry – of all citizens. I support the idea, but there are privacy buffs who would be horrified.) Santorum – Newt’s idea bad; anyone here illegally 25 years probably stole their ID; Romney – we’re a nation of legal immigrants. Paul – about 25% of illegals work for private individuals, would you punish them? Gingrich – as president I would immediately instruct my Attorney General to drop all immigration lawsuits against states such as Arizona and South Carolina.
(Here some discussion of abortion, sniping back and forth between Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum.)
? (for all) One minute summary of why you should be the nominee. Paul – SC known for respect of Liberty. Gingrich – If a Saul Alinski radical and incompetent Obama is reelected, it’s all over; we must have a team victory, so we control House and Senate, to be most effective. Romney – Pursuit of Happiness makes our country powerful; I like capitalism. Santorum – I agree with Romney; I’m the best man to take on Obama; (Here, he actually bashed Romney and Gingrich) Vote for me.
++++++++++ debate ended. It lasted about 2 hours.
The three remaining candidates are remorselessly determined to be president, and will do anything, say anything to win. None will give in as long as there is any reasonable chance. The remainder of the campaign will be bitterly fought. Of course I exempt Paul, who is really a protest candidate and has no chance whatever to be the nominee.
I may regret my words later, but here I’ll give my assessment of each candidate at this point, just before the SC election:
Romney – no longer regarded by everyone as the inevitable candidate. Has been very smooth for almost all his debate exposure up to now. He’s made very few gaffes. He sounds like a conservative, says all the correct things, but I fear he might turn left after his election.
Santorum – I still regard him as not ready, too inexperienced to be president. His sniping at the other candidates, often repeating the same things, is often juvenile and petty; his bragging over his accomplishments as a Senator are not always convincing. Still, he is conservative and bright. He might not be a total disaster as president. He is the dark horse, and Gingrich and Romney may destroy each other.
Gingrich – I see him as a brilliant, powerful man, the right person to lead at this critical time, although he made many enemies as Speaker – among establishment conservatives, who are barely center right, and of course he was terrifically attacked by Democrats, because he was effective against them. Like Winston Churchill, his personality is complex, his flaws are many, but I believe he will be by far the most effective president in reversing the trend to the left.
Paul – his simplistic ideas and his unwavering support of the unmodified constitution resonate with many, and he should be given a chance to speak at the convention.