Among the eight Republican candidates who gathered for a nationally-televised debate last night in Ames, the two Minnesotans who’re running for president stood beside one another, sparring intensely over their records.
Tim Pawlenty, the former two-term governor of Minnesota, repeated his criticism that rival Michele Bachmann has no record of accomplishment during her tenure in congress.
“She says that she’s fighting for these things. She fought for less government spending. We got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare. We got ObamaCare. She led the effort against TARP. We got TARP. She says she’s got a titanium spine. It’s not her spine we’re worried about, it’s her results,” Pawlenty said. “If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop because you’re killing us.”
Bachmann countered that some of the policies Pawlenty embraced during his time as Minnesota’s governor were akin to what President Obama has pursued.
“I was at the tip of the spear, fighting against the implementation of ObamaCare in the United States congress. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama ran congress, but I gave them a run for their money,” Bachmann said. “…When others ran, I fought and I led against increasing the debt ceiling.”
A bit later, Rick Santorum, rapped Bachmann for failing to influence the outcome of the debt debate.
“You need people who are good at leadership, not showmanship,” he said.
The two-hour-long debate was staged at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium in Ames and broadcast on the FOX News Channel. An invited crowd of Republicans cheered wildly as the debate began at 8 p.m.
Near the midway point in the event, Pawlenty was given the chance to correct a misstep in a previous debate when Pawlenty refused to restate the derogatory label he’d given the health care reform plan competitor Mitt Romney signed into law.
“I don’t want to miss that chance again,” Pawlenty said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “…ObamaCare was patterned after Mitt’s plan in Massachusetts and for Mitt or anyone else to say that there aren’t substantial similarities or they’re not essentially the same plan, it just isn’t credible, so that’s why I called it ObamneyCare and I think that’s a fair label and I’m happy to call it that tonight.”
Romney offered this quip in response: “I think I liked Tim’s answer at the last debate better.”
Romney defended the rights of states to craft such legislation, and then promised as president he would issue waivers to all 50 states so the states don’t have to implement the national health care reform plan the president signed into law last year.
The most jaw-dropping moment of the debate came when debate panelist Byron York of The Washington Examiner asked Michele Bachmann this: “In 2006, when you were running for congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea, and then you explained, ‘But The Lord said, “Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.” As president would you be submissive to your husband?”
As the crowd booed, Bachmann stood silent, but smiling before answering.
“Thank you for that question, Byron,” she began. “Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10. I’m in love with him. I’m so proud of him…What submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband and he respects me as his wife.”
That wasn’t the only time the media panel asking the questions was booed during the debate. Newt Gingrich accused the journalists of asking “gotcha” questions of the candidates and got both cheers and applause from the crowd.
“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, to more cheers.
Santorum complained repeatedly that he wasn’t getting enough attention from the media. And Romney, the perceived front-runner in the race, snapped at the FOX News reporter who pressed Romney to say whether he, as president, would have signed the debt deal congress passed earlier this month.
“Look, I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food, alright?” Romney replied. “What he served up is not what I would have done if I’d have been president of the United States.”
Ron Paul spent a great deal of his debate time denouncing what he termed rampant “militarism” in the GOP.
“We just plain don’t mind our own business. That’s our problem,” Paul said, adding later: “It’s time we quit this. It’s trillions of dollars we’re spending on these wars.”
Paul also dismissed Texas Governor Rick Perry as a “status quo” candidate for the party. Perry has indicated he’s ready to enter the race, but did not participate in last night’s debate.
Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, welcomed Perry to the contest, saying the addition of “one more politician” would make a “business problem-solver” like himself stand out more.
Last night’s debate marked the first visit former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has made to the state. “We all need prayers and I hope (Perry) offers a whole lot for everybody on this stage,” Huntsman quipped when asked about Perry’s candidacy. Perry held a day of prayer and fasting in Houston last Saturday.