CNN and Wolf Blitzer hosted the 2nd and final Florida Republican debate. It took place on January 26, 2012. The audience was allowed to applaud, but there were no standing ovations.
My notes on the debate follow, with my evaluation at the end. I’ll abbreviate by using the first letter of the candidate’s last name. I’ll also use O for Obama.
? Illegal immigration. Is self-deportation, as advocated by R, possible? S – yes; they broke the law when they entered; should not be able to stay; need strong employer sanctions. G – it’s possible; make legal immigration easier, deportation easier; those here a very long time should have a legal way to stay; R – he favors the people who are waiting in line to immigrate legally. P – not practical to deport; closing the border hurts the economy. R – 11 million grandmothers is not the problem.
? Why do you describe R as anti-immigration? G – need some level of humanity. R – I’m not anti-immigrant; his rhetoric is inexcusable; Newt should apologize to me.
? In your recent ad, you say Newt describe Spanish as the language of the ghetto. Do you believe that? R – haven’t seen the ad. G – I didn’t say that, I didn’t single out Spanish; there are 94 languages spoken at Miami Dade College; English should be the official language.
? About Iran and China courting of Latin America (Venezuela, Cuba). How to do better in Latin America? P – Free trade; include Cuba; we should stop interfering. S – Obama’s policy horrible, sides with leftists (Castro, Chavez) over Honduras; Radical Islam a threat. P – Santorum always wants to use force. S – Paul wasn’t listening to what I said; O left Columbia to hang out to dry for 3 years.
? Housing slump and foreclosures. What to do? G – Florida one of the 2 or 3 worst hard-hit states; R owns Fannie Mae & Freddy Mac & Goldman Sachs stocks; He’s made millions from them; He should say how much he owns. R – my investments are in a blind trust; Any ownership of those firms in mutual funds, not company stocks; G also has investments in those firms; G made 1.6 million on Freddy Mac as an influence peddler. G – the only time I ever tried to influence anyone about FM was in a speech before Congress in 2008, when I urged Congress not to give them money. P – we should have auctioned Fanny & Freddy off long ago; the Commercial Reinvestment Act of Congress was why we had the housing bubble. S – I tried to stop the coming real estate collapse, but the Democrats blocked us; G & R should stop the petty stuff and focus on the issues!
? G, now that R has released his tax records, are you satisfied with his transparency? G – that’s a nonsense question. (Here, Wolf Blitz insisted on an answer) An exchange took place between G & R.
? G, under your tax plan, R would have paid no taxes. Is that all right with you? G – I want to reduce taxes for everyone; I’m not interested in raising taxes, rather shrink government spending to match the revenue. S – My tax plan is 2 tier, has 28% top rate, 10% bottom rate. I don’t support a zero capital gains tax as G does. P – unsound money, inflation steals from everyone, is a de facto tax raise.
? P, you are 76. Are you prepared to release your medical records? P – sure, but it’s only about 1 page. I challenge the others on this stage to get on a bike and try to stay with me for 25 miles; Wolf, you should remember there are laws against age discrimination. (Paul got a laugh for this.)
? G has advocated building a moon base. How would you handle NASA and manned space flight? S – G’s plan for station on the moon enormously expensive, we can’t afford it; debt and deficit out of control, we have to cut, not spend; G’s not lacking for zany ideas, but this is irresponsible. G – NASA has built up a big bureaucracy and has become ineffective; currently, no launch vehicle; I wouldn’t spend a lot of money for space station, I’d offer prizes and incentives to private industry; Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic to win the Orteig prize; the Atlas 5 would make a good launch vehicle; I wouldn’t want to be the president who shuts down our space program and lets China become dominant. S – I’d only spend money for space defense; I’ll cut other programs; Newt is not responsible. P – I go along with privatizing. G – I’d do it program is 90% private sector. R – G goes from state to state, telling each what they want to hear. G – a presidential candidate should know the state’s problems; priorities make it possible to spend amply in some areas while cutting others. P – G has said he balanced the budget 4 straight years as Speaker, but they didn’t count entitlements, actually debt went up 1 trillion $ during that time. G – that’s the way the budget was reported then; I’ve advocated taking Social Security off budget, to keep presidents honest.
? (audience member asked) I’m unemployed and can’t afford health care insurance, what will you do as prez? P – must reduce health care costs; medical insurance mostly provided by employers, should go with you when you leave a job. G – repeal O-care, fix the economy so she’ll have a job. R – people should own their insurance. S – R is the author of Obamacare; G advocated the individual mandate for 20 years; Massachusetts is the model for O-care. G – I advocated state mandates, never a federal mandate. R – Massachusetts folks like it by 3 – 1; it was only for 8%; not really a mandate, there’s a fine for not having insurance. S – More and more Mass. people are opting to pay the fine because insurance has gone up. R – this isn’t worth getting angry about. S – your mandate same as O’s.
? Name Hispanics you would like to include in your cabinet. S – Rubio. R – (named several). G – (named several); I might use Rubio for more important position. (implying vice president)
? Why would your wife be a great first lady? P – (can’t remember what he said); R – my wife has had multiple sclerosis & breast cancer; would be an advocate for women’s health; has a passion for young people. G – she has an artistic focus, plays piano, produced TV videos, written a best selling children’s book. S – she’s a great mother to our 7 children; a nurse, has a law degree, gave it all up to be a wife and mother; wrote a children’s book on manners.
? R, you said G not as close to Ronald Reagan as he claims. Were you closer to Reagan than G? R – no, I became politically invoved when I ran for governor. G – Michael Reagan has endorsed me, Nancy Reagan said Reagan passed the torch to me. (My Note – yesterday, both Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly said it was ridiculous and castigated R for the assertion.)
? How would you handle Cuba? S – Cuba is the heart of the leftist cancer spreading through Latin America; keep sanctions going; O rewards thuggery and Marxism. P – Sanctions backfire; Cuba won’t invade us; I’d trade with them. R – O has ignored Latin America; I’d continue sanctions. G – after Fidel Castro passes away, I’d try to improve relations with Cuba; O is obsessed with the “Arab Spring”; I’d try to foster a “Cuban Spring”.
? (asked by a Palestinian audience member) How to bring peace to Israel and Palestine? R – Can’t as long as Hamas wants to destroy Israel; Palestinian leadership doesn’t want a 2-state solution; O has thrown Israel under the bus.
? G, you said the “Palestinians are an invented people.” What do you mean by that? G – technically, that’s true; Palestine is making war against Israel, 11 rockets fired into Israel last month; no Palestinian state possible until they give up on destroying Israel; On becoming prez, I’d instruct the State Dept. to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jersualem, which would send a message to Palestinians.
? (audience member from PR) There are 4 million Puerto Ricans in the US and 3.5 million there. Would you support statehood for PR? S – no position on that, let them decide.
? How would your religion impact your presidency? R – I’d pray over complex issues; G – I’d pray too; it should be a part of my total life, not just on Sunday; one of the reasons I’m running is because of the secular war against religion.
? Why are you the candidate most likely to beat O? P – I poll well against him. R – we need extraordinary change; you can’t change things with an insider; I’ve been in business. G – I’d pose a very simple choice – big government and continuation of what we have now, or more jobs and less food stamps. S – I’m better, but S & G aren’t.
The debate lasted about 1:50.
I see the final score as Romney won, but was very vicious in attacking Gingrich. Gingrich needed a home run, didn’t get it, although he generally spoke well. Santorum was strong. I’d say Romney and Santorum gained voters, Gingrich lost.
In my opinion, Newt is likely to be badly defeated next Tuesday. The latest polls show Romney up by 7 to 10 points in Florida. I’ll predict at least a 10 point win by Romney, and I expect Santorum to come up a bit from his current 10 – 12 per cent – at Newt’s expense.
It would be ironic, but if Newt is trounced as badly as I expect, I think he might drop out in February and endorse Santorum. Would Santorum give Romney a run for his money after that? I don’t know.
I don’t think Romney has a vision for the presidency – he just wants to come in and manage. Does he really believe what he’s saying, or will he revert to moderate, almost liberal, policies after his election? Again, I don’t know. I’m sure, however, that Gingrich if elected would come in and reform the government extensively. America would be much better off, I believe. That possibility is looking more and more remote.