Republicans warm up in Iowa debate

August 12, 2011

Things got a little heated between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty during the Republican debate in Ames, Iowa.

Early on in the two-hour debate, the former Minnesota governor tried to knock the Minnesota congresswoman down a peg, saying her record of accomplishment and results “is nonexistent.”

Bachmann took aim at his record as governor, blasting his support for a cap and trade environmental plan and individual mandates in healthcare. “That sounds more like Barack Obama if you ask me,” she said.

Pawlenty came back with: “She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare. She led the effort against TARP, we got TARP. She said she’s got a titanium spine. It’s not her spine we’re worried about, it’s her record of results.”

At one point during an exchange between the two Minnesota rivals  former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who spent a lot of time campaigning in Iowa ahead of the  debate, jokingly demanded some attention.

“I told you when I traveled around Iowa, you would see me in your city, in your hometown, but you probably wouldn’t see much of me on television. So it’s totally true tonight,” Santorum said when he finally got a chance to be heard.

Five other Republicans chasing the party’s 2012 presidential nomination were on stage Thursday night hoping to show they’re up to the challenge of battling Democrat Barack Obama in the general election.

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and Obama’s former ambassador to China, gave an impassioned response about service and country when a panelist said some people had suggested he was running for president in the wrong party.

“During a time of war, during a time of economic hardship, when asked to serve your country in a sensitive position where you can actually bring a background to help your nation, I’m the kind of person who’s going to stand up and do it, and I’ll take that philosophy to my grave,” Huntsman said, defending his decision to serve in the Obama administration.

There was also a little spark from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who complained about “gotcha questions” and challenged the panelists after being asked about a shakeup in his campaign staff.

“I’d love to see the rest of tonight’s debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead, instead of playing Mickey Mouse games,” Gingrich said.

Atlanta businessman Herman Cain let it be known that he’s brushed up on foreign policy, saying he knew more now about issues like Afghanistan than he did earlier in the campaign.

When asked whether he’d been serious with a recent suggestion to put a barbed wire electrified fence on the border to guard against illegal immigration Cain responded: “America has got to learn how to take a joke.”

Texas Representative Ron Paul didn’t appear to generate laughs but he did draw loud cheers and applause when he spoke against economic sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.

“They are a precursor to war and an embarrassment to a country that pays lip service to free trade. I say a policy of peace is free trade,” Paul said. “Stay out of their internal business. Don’t get involved in these wars. And just bring our troops home.”

Front-runner Mitt Romney held out his his record as former governor of Massachusetts and his business experience as what’s needed to defeat Obama.

“I understand how the economy works. Herman Cain and I are the two on the stage here who’ve actually worked in the real economy,” Romney said.

The best offer of the night came from Pawlenty when he challenged people to find Obama’s plans for handling some of the country’s most pressing economic issues.

“If you can find Barack Obama’s specific plan on any of those items, I will come to your house and cook you dinner.” Pawlenty said. “Or, if you prefer, I’ll come to your house and mow your land. But in case Mitt wins, I’m limited to one acre.”

Romney, a wealthy businessman, has homes in Massachusetts; New Hampshire and La Jolla, California.

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Charlie Neibergall/Poo (Bachmann, Pawlenty); (Paul, Romney) REUTERS/Jim Young (Candidates on stage before debate)

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@CCCHUCK3 — Can you name one issue — ONE — on which Ron Paul has done a Romney-flip? In the past thirty years? I’ll give you a hint: there’s only one. He used to favor the death penalty, but after learning that the rate of false convictions is about 90% (based on a study analyzing DNA evidence for long-convicted murderers) he now opposes it. This is called “integrity.” It’s rare in politicians, but to be treasured.

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