Archive for January, 2012

Santorum dismisses talk of stepping aside waiting for others to implode

Santorum promises high road, 'We'll beat them straight up'

During a tele-town hall, presidential candidate Santorum billed the event as an address on America’s failing education system, but he used much of his speech to introduce himself to Missouri voters and position himself as the candidate best-suited to take on President Obama.

“We want someone who’s going to take the high road, who’s going to talk about the issues that are important to this country and quit getting down into the gutter and talking about things that have nothing to do with who should be the next President of the United States,” Santorum said, continuing on a theme he introduced at CNN’s debate in Jacksonville on Thursday. “I’m sick and tired of candidates who think they have to do anything that’s necessary – anything to win an election.”

Santorum implored Missouri voters, who vote in a non-binding primary on February 7, that this election was too important to be distracted by the “gutter politics that we’ve been seeing in this race.” The state also holds caucuses on March 17 to begin the process of allotting the state’s 52 delegates.

When asked after the rally if he had a response to recent calls from Newt Gingrich supporters for him to drop out of the race and work to unite conservatives behind one challenger to Mitt Romney, Santorum said that the mere suggestion shows Gingrich’s supporters are nervous.

“You know I think one opponent calling for the other opponent to get out just shows the weakness that opponent feels – obviously feels in their own campaign,” Santorum said emphatically. “I’m not calling for anybody to get out. We’ll beat them straight up.”

This event marked the beginning of Santorum’s push towards primaries and caucuses to be held next week in several western states – a strategy the underdog candidate announced after taking several days to care for his three-year-old daughter Bella who was hospitalized with pneumonia on Saturday. Born with the genetic disorder trisomy 18, Santorum told CNN prior to the rally that there was a time during the last several days where his family feared they might loser their youngest child, but she seems to have turned the corner.

Santorum traveled home initially to raise money and prepare his tax returns for public release, and during his remarks he jokingly thanked the media for hounding him about his financial records.

“If it wasn’t for the national media’s harassment to get my income taxes and turn them over to the public I would not have gone home on Saturday and I would not have been there at a crisis time for my family,” Santorum said. “God works in mysterious ways doesn’t He?”

But after the event he was more somber when asked if the time at home had caused him to rethink his commitment to the campaign.

“I’ve always felt like family comes first, and these things always have a way of working out,” Santorum told reporters. “Obviously if things had not gone well that’s a different story but thankfully they have and we feel very energized that she’s going to do well. We found out some things that I think will help her in the future so even though it was a bad thing, there’s some good I think will come out of this that I think will help her health wise going forward.”

Speaking through a bullhorn to a crowd gathered outside the event, Santorum thanked them for their prayers for his daughter.

During the parts of the speech that pertained to education, Santorum was particularly forceful in berating Washington for thinking small when it came to reform.

“No one in Washington is talking about fundamental reform of the education system. They’re talking about how we can improve schools. Stop it! Stop it,” he yelled. “It’s failed. It’s government-run, it’s top-down, it won’t work, it never works.”

Santorum praised the model set by SCCC and other colleges “built not by the government,” but rather by “people who had a vision for providing a service to their community or to their country,” a service the “market would pay for.”

But according to the St. Charles Community College web site, the school is a public institution created by voters in an April 1986 election. The college’s expansion has been subsidized by funding approved in several subsequent elections – including a $23 million bond issue approved by college district voters in 2004.

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Ron Paul looks ahead to building momentum and favourability

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Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said Sunday that he will remain in the race for the 2012 nomination until the Republican Party convention.

“We’re going to stay in and see what comes of it,” the Texas congressman said. Mr. Paul, who is widely seen as third wheel in the race for the Republican nomination, has hinted at launching a third-party bid. However, this latest statement is likely to end such speculation, leaving little chance that Mr. Paul will campaign beyond the 2012 convention if he fails to secure the Republican presidential nomination.

The Texas Republican has spent the past several days campaigning in Maine and Nevada, where he expects to have a far better showing than in Florida, where recent polls show him largely trailing his Republican counterparts.

Still, the Texas Republican is likely to remain a force within the Republican Party. Along with Mr. Romney, Mr. Paul is the only candidate who was able to get on the ballot in all fifty states, leaving to a possible surge of delegates that could make him an influential figure at the party’s convention in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Asked whether he thinks his campaign will do well in Florida on Tuesday, Mr. Paul said recent support may lead him to a third place finish.

“I really do believe we’re going to do quite well there and have a good chance of winning,” Paul told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley about his chances in Maine.

“We’re going to stay in and see what comes of it,” Mr. Paul said. “There have been a lot of ups and downs so maybe there will be some downs and we will be able to pick up the pieces.”

However, the Texas Republican said he expects to do fairly well in the states that follow, including Maine.

“I really do believe we’re going to do quite well there and have a good chance of winning,” Mr. Paul.

Colorado’s presidential precinct caucuses are next week. The caucuses are non-binding; Colorado’s 36 Republican National Convention delegates will be chosen at a state assembly held April. But the precinct caucuses can be evidence of a candidate’s support.

Paul has stops planned in Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs. Santorum planned a campaign event in Lone Tree, with further stops Wednesday and Saturday.

 

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Voting underway in Florida primary

Florida’s Republican voters go to the polls on Tuesday in a high-stakes presidential primary election, with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holding a commanding double-digit lead in polls over rival Newt Gingrich.

Florida is the largest state to hold a presidential primary so far this year and a Romney victory would give him a big boost in the state-by-state battle to decide who will face President Barack Obama in the November election.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. local time. Most of the state is on Eastern Time (plus 5 hours GMT), except the western Panhandle region, which is on Central Time and where polls will close an hour later.

Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was riding high just 10 days ago after an upset win in South Carolina’s January 21 primary and led in Florida polls as recently as early last week.

But the well-funded and well-organized Romney took back the lead after his two strong debate performances and a blizzard of television advertisements attacking Gingrich.

On the stump on Monday, Romney was breezy and Gingrich combative, reflecting the respective states of their campaigns. Romney cancelled a scheduled Tuesday morning campaign event; Gingrich scheduled four appearances in a final appeal for support on primary day.

Gingrich said Republicans needed to shun Romney and unite behind him if they wanted to defeat Democratic President Barack Obama in November’s general election.

“If you watch tonight, my prediction is that the conservative vote will be dramatically bigger than Governor Romney’s but it will be split, so we’ve got to find a way to consolidate conservatives and I am clearly the frontrunner among conservatives,” Gingrich said on Fox News.

Gingrich has derided Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate” who raised taxes and fees as governor, enforced a healthcare mandate, and will not provide a sharp enough contrast to Obama.

Romney’s attacks have focused on Gingrich’s work for troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac, an ethics probe and his resignation as speaker in early 1999. It has also mocked Gingrich’s attempt to ride the coattails of former president Ronald Reagan, a conservative hero.

The campaigns and allied Super PAC fundraising groups had until the end of Tuesday to report whose money they are spending, and how, in an increasingly expensive campaign. Campaign Finance filings to the Federal Election Commission will for the first time officially show who contributed money to the Super PACs and fueled their multimillion-dollar spending sprees.

Reuters/Ipsos poll data on Monday showed Romney’s support in Florida at 43 percent versus Gingrich at 28 percent.

When voters hear Gingrich in person they often come away impressed, praising his intellect and toughness.

“I was a little undecided between Newt and Mitt but I have decided for sure that Newt’s going to get my vote. He’s forthright. He says what he means and means what he says,” Gene Vandevander of Tampa said at a Gingrich rally.

A straw poll of conservative Tea Party sympathizers in the state released on Monday gave Gingrich 35 percent support against former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum at 31 percent, Romney at 18 percent and Texas congressman Ron Paul at 11 percent.

But other major voting blocs in Florida, including Hispanics, seem to be heavily favoring Romney.

Florida allows early voting at polling stations and by mail, and more than one-third, or 35 percent, of respondents in the Reuters/Ipsos poll said they had already voted. They favored Romney by a wide margin, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

As Gingrich vows to keep fighting until the nominating convention in August, some voters worried that a nasty, prolonged primary fight would hurt the eventual nominee.

“We don’t want to attack each other, but to focus on the issues,” said voter Jonathan Sanchez of Orlando. “We don’t want to seem divided.”

Florida’s 50 delegates are given on a winner-take-all basis. The two other Republicans on the ballot, Santorum and Paul, have moved on to other states.

After Florida’s primary, Nevada’s February 4 caucuses are the next contest in the process of choosing a Republican nominee.

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Gingrich falters under Romney “Carpet Bombing” of negative ads

Newt Gingrich has criticised Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney for “carpet-bombing” his record and derided him as a “liberal” ahead of Tuesday’s pivotal presidential primary in Florida.

On the defensive after a barrage of attacks from Mr Romney and a political committee that supports him, Mr Gingrich said his rival had lied and the Republican Party establishment had allowed it.

“I don’t know how you debate a person with civility if they’re prepared to say things that are just plain factually false,” Mr Gingrich said during appearances on Sunday TV talk shows.

“I think the Republican establishment believes it’s OK to say and do virtually anything to stop a genuine insurgency from winning because they are very afraid of losing control of the old order.”

The Florida contest has become decidedly bitter and personal with Mr Gingrich casting himself as the insurgent candidate against Mr Romney, the party establishment’s favourite.

Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich have tangled over policy and character since Mr Gingrich’s stunning victory in the South Carolina primary on January 21.

Mr Gingrich has been under heavy attack from Mr Romney and allies of the former Massachusetts governor. Mr Romney had spent the past several days, including during two Florida debates, sharply criticising Mr Gingrich’s discipline, temperament and ethics during and after his time as the speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1990s.

On Sunday, Mr Gingrich objected to a Romney campaign ad that includes a 1997 NBC News report on the House’s decision to discipline the then-House speaker for ethics charges. “It’s only when he can mass money to focus on carpet-bombing with negative ads that he gains any traction at all,” Mr Gingrich said.

He acknowledged the possibility that he could lose in Florida and pledged to compete with Mr Romney all the way to the party’s national convention in late August. An NBC/Marist poll showed Mr Romney with support from 42% of likely Florida Republican primary voters and Mr Gingrich slipping to 27%.

While Mr Romney had spent the past several days sharply attacking Mr Gingrich, he pivoted over the weekend to refocus his criticism toward President Barack Obama, calling the Democratic incumbent “detached from reality.” The former Massachusetts governor criticised Mr Obama’s plan to cut the size of the military and said the administration had a weak foreign policy.

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Herman Cain endorses Newt at a crucial time

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich tonight at a Lincoln Day dinner.

“Surprise, Surprise,” Cain said as he walked out on stage. “I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich for the president of the Unites States.”

Cain gave several reasons for why he reached this “public decision.”

“One of the biggest is the fact I know Speaker Gingrich is a patriot,” Cain said. “Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas and I also know Speaker Gingrich is running for president and going through this sausage grinder and I know what the sausage grinder is all about.

Cain said that America had a leadership crisis and Gingrich was the leader the country needed.

“It is time for conservatives and Republicans to refocus their attention on the ultimate mission of defeating President Obama,” Cain said. “I believe Speaker Gingrich is the bold leader we need to accomplish this mission.”

Quoting Edmund Burke, Cain said also said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and good women to do nothing.”

“We are going to do something,” Cain said.

Gingrich again articulated the reason for his candidacy. He said that he would present the clearest contrast to President Barack Obama in the general election, which makes him the most electable candidate left standing.

Gingrich and Cain kept a positive relationship throughout the campaign trail.

“We’re friends; let’s just lay it on the line. I like Herman. I’m proud of Herman’s career. I’m proud of the positive attitude he brings to life.”

Cain also expressed his admiration for Gingrich on the trail when they were still rivals for the nomination.

When Cain was the front-runner he often hinted at a Cain/Gingrich ticket.

The decision was not unexpected but the announcement comes at a make or break moment. .

“I had it in my heart and mind a long time ago,” Cain said.

The timing is similar to a Saturday night surprise four years ago, when then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed John McCain’s presidential bid.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry also endorsed Gingrich when he bowed out of the race in South Carolina.

Since exiting the race in December, Cain appeared at a rally in South Carolina with late-night comedian Stephen Colbert.

Cain, the charismatic former head of Godfather’s Pizza, briefly led in the polls in the fall. He became known for his signature 9-9-9 tax overhaul plan that would have scrapped the current tax code and replaced it with a 9 percent tax on individual income and corporate taxes as well as a new 9 percent national sales tax.

Gingrich and Cain also have a past that dates back 16 years in Washington. The two did welfare reform work together when Cain was president of the National Restaurant Association and Gingrich was speaker of the House.

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CNN GOP Florida debate

Presidential debate

The  second Republican debate in four days, hosted by CNN took place last night in Florida ahead of Next Tuesday’s crucial primary.

This debate was again poor, with yet again no questions on monetary policy of any real substance, Solyndra, the State of the Union Address or the Fast and the Furious scandal were all noticeably missing. It was a better debate on balance then the previous debate hosted by CNN the previous week.

Wolf Blitzer was the tactful moderator, and stood firm on a number of occasions when former Speaker Gingrich tried to turn the debate on its head again. Some although not all of the questions were worthless however, the overall standard again fell short of that expected for a national presidential debate.

Wolf understood that the focus is supposed to be on the candidates and not the moderator and gave a fair allocation of time for Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney to speak. All four men acquitted themselves well. There was no clear winner, but none of them embarrassed themselves.

The first question dealt with immigration, specifically with regards to the concept of self-deportation. Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney support the concept, while Mr. Gingrich believes grandmothers will not self-deport. Dr. Paul pointed out that the way we are handling our borders is bad for our economy.

Fireworks broke out when Mr. Gingrich reiterated that he thought Mr. Romney was anti-immigrant. Mr. Romney pointed out that his dad was born in Mexico and his wife’s dad in Wales. He called the accusation “repulsive,” and pointed out that Florida Senator Marco Rubio condemned such attacks. Mr. Romney evoked laughs when he pointed out that “our problem is not 11 million grandmothers.”

One of the biggest criticisms of most of these debates is the lack of questions about foreign policy. Murderous Islamic theocracies in Iran and Syria have been virtually ignored. Yet foreign policy is more than just the War on Terror. It is also about trade.  For the first time, a very intelligent and useful question about Latin America combined the various aspects of foreign policy. The questioner wanted to know if we should increase trade with Latin America and support democracies.

Ron Paul unequivocally stated that free trade is the answer. He also advocated that we should trade with Cuba.

Rick Santorum pointed out that the policy under President Obama has been abysmal. We had a terrible policy on Honduras. Obama sided with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. He was siding with leftists and Marxists, not standing up for our friends in Columbia. Santorum warned of the threat of Iranian ties with Venezuela.

Dr. Paul mentioned that standing up for nations means undermining nations and sending money. We should not use the bully attitude. “I know a better way than using force to get along with people.”

Senator Santorum was feisty throughout the night. “I don’t know what answer Ron Paul was listening to. He was not listening to mine.” Mr. Santorum mentioned that Obama delayed free trade agreements. He sided with organized labor and environmentalists, and left our friends out to dry.

The worst part of the debate came when somebody asked how to phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They wanted to know if more regulation is needed. Sadly this insightful question led to Romney and Gingrich hammering each other over who earned more money from the company. They both have mutual funds that include those stocks, which was not even worth mentioning or criticizing.

Ron Paul throughout the night was at his best. This was easily his finest debate performance. He and Rick Santorum both made it clear that they had no problem with Americans making money legally in the capitalist system. Dr. Paul was also very funny throughout the night. In past debates he has occasionally wasted time with tangents. On this night Gingrich and Romney were on a tangent, and Dr. Paul played one of the roles as “adult.” On the subject of his opponents’ investments, Dr. Paul elicited laughter by saying “That subject really doesn’t interest me a whole lot.” Dr. Paul then pivoted to his strength, which is talking about the economy at large. He accurately referred to the Community Reinvestment Act as affirmative action, resulting in regulators telling banks that they have to make certain loans. We should remove the line of credit to the treasury.

Mr. Santorum pointed out that in 2006 he asked for Fannie and Freddie reform. He then angrily defended his rivals. Newt used his knowledge to make money and Romney worked hard. “Leave it alone. Focus on the issues.” The crowd roared with approval.

When Mr. Blitzer tried to bring up Romney’s tax returns, Mr. Gingrich said “This is nonsense.”

Mr. Romney pointed out that it was wrong for Mr. Gingrich to make charges while campaigning that he would not make in the debate. “Don’t castigate individuals for being successful.” “I earned the money. I took the risks and created jobs.” “My taxes plus charitable contributions come to 40%.”

Wolf pointed out that under the Gingrich tax plan, Romney would pay zero. This is because Romney earns his money from interest, dividends and capital gains, not ordinary income taxed at a higher rate. The zero in this situation should be the controversy since anybody at H and R Block could easily explain this. Mr. Gingrich wants to reduce everyone’s taxes to 15%, not raise them to the Obama 35% level. We should shrink government to fit the revenue, not the converse.

Rick Santorum exposed the fallacy behind the class warfare notion of the “wealthy pay more.” We want the wealthy to deploy that wealth. Otherwise they invest in non-taxable income that does not hire people. Mr. Santorum wants a simplified tax system with five deductions, but not a flat tax. He does not believe in a 0% capital gains tax rate.

At the risk of harping on the past debate, Beth Reinhard was so busy hurling accusations that the candidates could not discuss their own plans. Wolf Blitzer allowed the candidates to discuss the issue, and Americans benefit from knowing the differences.

Ron Paul went big. “My goal is to get rid of the 16th Amendment.”

The candidates were asked about releasing their medical records. Dr. Paul is 76, and would be the oldest person ever elected. The question was fair, and Dr. Paul answered it with flair and humor. It may have been his best debate moment in a very good night for him. He said he obviously would, and that “it’s one page long.” He also cracked up the audience by saying “I’d challenge any of these guys to a 25 mile bike ride in Texas heat.” The laughter continued as he turned to Blitzer and said “I may have to sue you for age discrimination.” The candidates all agreed, and Mr. Gingrich stated that Dr. Paul is in great shape.

The levity subsided and the seriousness returned when the candidates were asked about the future of manned space and NASA. Theyw ere asked if we should put a permanent base on the moon.

Mr. Romney called this an “enormous expense.” He would bring in top experts in physics and military matters.. Corporate America and defense should form a partnership to keep the space program thriving and growing. He would say no to a colony on the moon, it would cost trillions.

Mr. Gingirch called NASA a “mismanaged bureaucracy.” He asked “What does NASA do?” “Do they think about space?” He favored the use of prizes and incentives to get people involved in space exploration.

Mr. Santorum called America a frontier nation, and that the next frontier is space. We need to inspire, and  young people now are not interested in math and science. Yet he pointed out that with a 1.2 trillion deficit, to promise new programs and big ideas is a good tactic to get votes, but is not responsible. We are going to cut programs.

Ron Paul again evoked laughter, and the audience was laughing with him and not at him. “I don’t think we should go to the Moon, maybe we should send some politicians there.” He feels that the only space expenditures should be for defense purposes. He does not like governmentt-business partnerships. A healthy economy would lead to more private investment. Healthcare deserves more priority than going to the Moon.

Newt Gingrich joked that he was meeting Rick Santorum’s threshold for the  “grandiose ideas” that the Speaker was accused of having in a recent debate. Gingrich cited JFK, and that the program would be 90% from the private sector. Improving from one launch occasionally to six or seven per day through private entities wanting to do it would be optimal. Giving up the space race to the Chinese would make us a “nation in decline.”

Mitt Romney pounced. If a corporate executive came to him and wanted to put a colony on the moon, he  would say “you’re fired.” He then stated that Newt goes state to state and promises people what they want to hear. “We’ve got to say no to this kind of spending.”

Gingrich fired back by noting that the purpose of campaigning is to go to states and listen to concerns of people in those states. During the balanced budgets of the 1990s, we doubled the size of the National Institute for Health. Everything comes down to priorities.

Ron Paul disputed those balanced budgets, pointing out that the national debt went up one trillion during that time, since the calculation does not count money taken out of Social Security. Newt Gingrich proposed back then that we take Social Security out of the budget so no president like Obama can threaten to withhold checks. Both men are actually right. Mr. Gingrich obeyed the rules and used the numbers he was given that everyone uses, while Dr. Paul questioned the honesty of the numbers and argues that nobody should use them.

Santorum noted that President Obama ignores our financial health. He ignores hard work and leveling with America. We’ve been downgraded. We need leaders who will be honest with bold solutions.

A woman who was unemployed and without healthcare spoke of her situation, but without attacking all conservatives as heartless, evil men.

Dr. Paul lamented the tragedy of government being involved in medicine since 1965. “When you pump money into something, the cost goes up.” This was a government created recession.

Mr. Gingrich noted that there were two different problems. We need to get the  economy growing. We must repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and Sarbox. As for the woman, she should be able to buy into a pool.

Mr. Romney would allow individuals to own their own insurance and get the same tax treatments companies do. “Obama’s speech was like Groundhog Day.” It was the same speech, and people are still not working. Mr. Obama says the right things but doesn’t do any of them.

Mr. Santorum pointed out that he introduced Health Savings Accounts with John Kasich. He also noted that Gingrich and Romney did not always say what they are saying now. He cited Romneycare and then got very emotional. “We cannot give the issue of healthcare away in this election. It is too foundational.” He claimed that free-riding has gone up five-fold in Massachusetts under Romneycare. People would rather pay the fine than purchase care.

Romney said “It’s not worth getting angry about.” He stated that 98% have insurance in his state, so the idea of more free-riding is impossible. “You don’t like my plan. I don’t like the Obama plan.” “Obama did not focus on the 8%. He focused on 100%.”

Ron Paul said “I think they are all wrong.” “When I started in medicine there was no Medicare and Medicaid and nobody was out in the street suffering.”

Sadly the debate then turned to pandering, as the candidates were asked which Hispanic leaders they would consider for their cabinet. Santorum went with the obvious choice in Marco Rubio. Gingrich mentioned Susanna Martinez, Ileana Ros-Leahtinin, and Rubio for a more dignified role than mere cabinet appointee. Romney picked Brian Sandoval, Susanna Martinez, Mel Martinez, Rubio, and Carlos Guitierrez. Dr. Paul refused to pander. He did not have one particular name. He wants people who understand monetary policy and non-intervention.

The candidates were then asked why their respective wives would make the best 1st lady. The initial reaction was to lambaste the question as feel-good nonsense, but the candidates gave answers that did give insight into them as people. This was better than “Coke vs Pepsi.”

Ron Paul joked that his wife was the author of a very famous cookbook, the Ron Paul cookbook. Romney poignantly spoke of his wife beating Multiple Sclerosis and breast cancer. Gingrich praised them and said that they are all great. His wife has a tremendous artistic focus. She is a pianist, is great with art and education, and is very patriotic. Santorum said his wife is a mom to their seven children. “She is my hero.” She was a neonatal nurse for nine years and has a law degree. She gave it up to be a mother. Her book “Letters to Gabriel” has saved hundreds of lives. “She wrote a book on manners. Kids are not born good.”

Another useless question came in the form of which candidate was the true heir to the Reagan mantle. Earlier in the debate Mr. Romney slightly erred when he continued an attack after Mr. Gingrich refused to fight. This time Mr. Romney was gracious, and Mr. Gingrich refused to accept that graciousness. It was a minor mistake. Romney pointed out that he was in business at the time. He then turned around the Olympics, then ran for Governor.  Gingrich said “Michael Reagan has endorsed me.” Nancy Reagan in the 1990s said that Barry Goldwater passed the torch to Reagan, and Reagan passed it to Newt.

A question about Cuban liberalization allowed for a sharp contrast.

Santorum said “I oppose it. I Stand on the side of the Cuban people” against despots reigning terror. They have a puppet in Chavez in Venezuela, like a cancer growing. Liberalization is the “exact wrong message at the exact wrong time.”

Ron Paul said  “I would ask Chavez if he called what he called about.” Most of Dr. Paul’s one-liners were successful, but this one did not go over well. He then got serious. “1962 was a different world, there were nuclear weapons in Cuba.” Dr.Paul correctly pointed out that “Sanctions are well intended but they inevitably backfire.” “The Cold war is over, they are not going to invade us. Americans don’t see a Jihadist under the bed every night.”

Sanctions are a complete waste, but the difference is Mr Santorum wants an even tougher line while Dr. Paul wants to go in the opposite direction. This is the heart of the disagreement between Neocons and non-interventionists. A whole debate on this topic would be worthwhile.

Romney said “I’m talking about Obama right now, we can talk about Ron Paul later.” “Our responsibility to help spread the gift of freedom.” Gingrich was delighted that Helms-Burton passed, and that Dan Burton was  campaigning with him. “Obama cannot imagine a Cuban spring.” Romney and Gingrich on this issue were overshadowed by Paul and Santorum in terms of stark contrasts.

An excellent question was asked, and it was most unfortunate that all of the candidates were not allowed to answer it. A self-described “Palestinian Republican” wanted to know how their can be peace between Palestine (which does not currently exist) and Israel when most people don’t recognize Palestine?

Romney and Gingirch both shined on this issue because it is one thing to offer a full-throttled defense of Israel in front of a Jewish audience. To deliberately, respectfully, and forcefully take on a Palestinian questioner by defending Israel is the opposite of pandering. Florida does have a large Jewish vote, but the questioner could have led to a weak moment. Instead it was a fine Sister Souljah moment.

Romney mentioned that the Palestinian leadership includes Hamas. Their schoolbooks teach kids how to kill Jews. Palestinians do not want a two state solution. They do not want Israel to exist. Obama threw Israel under the bus. He disrespected Bibi Netanyahu. There is a greater sense of aggression among Palestinians.

Gingrich said that Palestinians are technically an invention of the 1970s. Eleven rockets were fired into Israel in November. Imagine rockets into Duval County. This is war by another form. Palestinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist and give up the right to return. Their political leadership would never allow that. On day one, the U.S. Embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

These answers were as fantastic as they were 100% historically accurate. The problem was that the other two candidates did not get to answer the question. Everybody knows Rick Santorum is pro-Israel, but it was vitally necessary for Dr. Paul to answer this question. The question of “Is Ron Paul pro-Israel” has been debated fiercely on internet message boards. Yet the debate audience did not get to hear him answer. No matter where one is on the issue of Ron Paul or Israel, he deserved the chance to make his case. He was denied this opportunity, which was unfair for him, his supporters, and his critics.

Another pandering question about Puerto Rican statehood was asked. Rick Santorum said it was an issue of “self-determination.” None of the other candidates were asked about it, which was again unfortunate. Any of them answering “no” would have been courageous in that situation.

The candidates were then all asked how their religious beliefs affect their decisions.

Ron Paul said that it would not affect how he governs, but that it does affect how he lives and treats people. “The oath of office affects me.”

Mitt Romney would seek the guidance of providence, since we are a Judeo-Christian nation in terms of law and ethics. The Declaration of Independence describes the relationship between God and man. We share our values with other nations not by conquering them, but through trade and soft power.

Newt Gingrich said that some decisions are so enormous that leaders should go to God and seek guidance. Faith is not an hour on Sundays. It should siffuse your life, and is inextricably tied. There is a war against Christianity in this country largely by the secular elite.

Rick Santorum said that faith is an important part of his life and this country. The Constitution is the operator’s manual, who we are is the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution is there to protect God given rights, not government given rights. Faith has everything to do with it. If rights come from the state, everything given can be taken away. He believes in faith and reason.

The final question was an important one because it did not involve mere election strategy and process.  It was a chance for all four men to make their case as to why they were each the most likely to beat Obama.

Ron Paul said that in polls, “I do well against him.” A freedom and Constitutional message “protects free markets and civil liberties. It has broad appeal.” Lastly,  “peace and prosperity requires someone who understands money.”

Mitt Romney asked “Will we have another American century or become like Europe?”  We need change in Washington to have the private sector reemerge. “Such change requires an outsider. I know how the private sector works.”

Newt Gingrich mentioned the “two largest sweeps in modern times, 1980 and 1994.” Do we support Independence and a paycheck or dependence and food stamps? This is a choice between supporters of the Declaration of Independence over those supporting the tactics of Saul Alinsky.

Rick Santorum asked if we wanted a bottom up or a top down government. Santorum was “against the bailouts.” He was “against cap and trade.” He “did not buy into the global warming hoax.” He also pointed out that Reagan Democrats understand the importance of manufacturing, which is the centerpiece of his campaign. “I can win the industrial heartland.”

In all, the Republican National Committee need to review the amount of debates they are subjecting their candidates to or insist in a proper standard of national and international questions. Wolf did a good job moderating the debate against the back drop of a clearly Mitt Romney dominated audience which even saw former Speaker Gingrich booed when entering the stage.

The candidates need to simply stop the personal attacks. While many in the media may be supporting Governor Romney and believe he had a good performance, one must look to the entire campaign and ask the question, do you know what he stands for? I wouldn’t want someone getting into the Oval office who outspent their opposition and ran a campaign telling  the nation what their opponents were and were not for, I want to know what the eventual GOP nominee will stand for and promises to do on a whole range of issues.

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The Sunshine states showdown means the stakes couldn’t be higher ahead of CNN debate

Welcome To Florida Sign

The CNN GOP Florida Presidential debate between all four remaining GOP hopefuls takes place tonight, and the stakes couldn’t be higher between front runner Mitt Romney, and his close rival former speaker Newt Gingrich. Many believe a mistake by either man or a failure to perform tonight could decide the outcome of next Tuesday’s primary such has been the attention and importance of these debate in the campaign season.

The latest public opinion polls suggest that the battle for Florida’s 50 winner-take-all delegates — the largest catch so far this primary and caucus season — is turning into a two-man race between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. According to a CNN/Time/ORC International survey released Wednesday, 36% of people likely to vote in Tuesday’s Republican primary in Florida say they are backing Romney as the party’s nominee, with 34% supporting Gingrich. Romney’s 2-point margin over Gingrich is well within the survey’s sampling error.

The other two candidates are far behind, with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 11% and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas at 9%, with 7% unsure of who they’ll vote for.

Santorum is campaigning across the Sunshine State but Paul is showing up to attend just the two debates here this week. Both seem to be looking ahead to Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, which hold their contests early next month

All four candidates will share the stage Thursday night for the debate at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, which is being hosted by CNN, the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network, a center-right advocacy group.

Wolf Blitzer, anchor of CNN’s “The Situation Room,” will moderate the forum, which starts at 8 p.m. ET.

Gingrich came out of his double-digit victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary with momentum, but Wednesday’s CNN poll and another by the American Research Group indicate that the former House speaker’s momentum might be waning.

And Monday’s debate in Tampa might not have helped Gingrich, as he repeatedly came under attack by Romney, Santorum and Paul over his record as House speaker in the 1990s, characterizations of influence-peddling after getting out of government and his past stance on health care reform. Gingrich didn’t seem to mount an effective response to many of the attacks.

When it comes to debates, which have had an outsized effect on polls and on primary and election results, it was a role-reversal for Gingrich and Romney, and something that Gingrich needs to remedy Thursday night.

“Voters can smell fear and they can smell confidence. Newt has been displaying confidence, strength, even having fun in these debates. He needs to continue that. That’s the mark of a leader,” a GOP strategist said.

With five days to go until the primary, the CNN/Time/ORC poll indicates that a quarter of likely primary voters say they may change their mind on which candidate they are backing, which makes the debate a final chance for the candidates to reach a statewide audience, as well as viewers across the nation. The economy — and jobs in particular — the housing crisis, which is particularly acute in Florida, illegal immigration and health care reform are topics likely to be debated during the showdown.

But undecided voters might be tuned into more than just the issues.

“There is only a smidgeon of difference between Gingrich and Romney on issues. That means they are going to draw differences on personal qualities and character: Who is the stronger leader? Who is a flawed vessel for the nation’s hopes and fears?”  “Voters don’t know what tests a president will face, but they do know he’ll be tested. When picking a president, how a leader reacts under pressure is more important than issues. Romney should not appear stressed or uncertain on the attack. He needs to display confidence and be a joyous warrior, like Gingrich.”

Gingrich’s campaign was left for dead after early stumbles in May and June, but he came back and soared to front-runner status in polling in late November and early December. But he faltered again, with poor showings in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, before mounting a second comeback in South Carolina.

That made Romney’s path to the nomination a lot tougher now that it was a week ago.

“Romney must think these debates are ‘The Night of Living Dead,’ Newt Gingrich keeps rising from the grave every few weeks to challenge him. And every time he does, he’s a little harder to dispatch. Wooden stakes and silver bullets don’t seem to stop Gingrich. He keeps coming back.”

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