Live blog: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate
February 22nd, 2012
09:55 PM ET
3 years ago

Live blog: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate

(CNN) - The CNN Political Ticker is live blogging the CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate in Mesa. Check here for live updates throughout the event and be sure to follow @PoliticalTicker, @CNNPolitics and use #CNNDebate.

Participating in Wednesday's debate are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Read more here.

10:33 p.m. ET - Read a transcript from the fourth part of tonight's debate here. The full transcript is posted here.

10:18 p.m. ET - From @SarahPalinUSA: Newt's message on energy development was spot-on. Drill now and stop bowing to foreign regimes begging them to do it for us. Then we'll all be "cheerful."

10:13 p.m. ET - Read a transcript from part 3 of tonight's debate here.

10:11 p.m. ET - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer tells Borger the debate made it harder for her to choose a candidate to endorse. She said Gingrich's answer on immigration was strong, particularly his pledge to work with governors of border states.

10:09 p.m. ET - Watch CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta in the post-debate spin room here.

10:06 p.m. ET - Ron Paul told King his foreign policy was "definitely a different policy" from his competitors. "I'd say the young people who come to see me, that's their biggest issue, war and spending."


10:04 p.m. ET
- Ron Paul to John King: "When I'm polling against the Democrats and independents, I do better than the rest, and the Republican party claims they want somebody to win."

10:00 p.m. ET - Santorum to Borger: Questions from media on moral issues are distracting from issues voters care about. "We're just trying to stay on message."

9:58 p.m. ET - CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger asked Santorum about his attacks on Romney centering on earmarks: "I think the governor is just misinformed, and just making points that are falling flat."

9:57 p.m. ET@PiersMorgan: So @MittRomney clearly doesn't think there are any misconceptions about him. Interesting! #CNNdebate

9:56 p.m. ET - John King closed the debate and said goodnight.

9:51 p.m. ET
- Question to the candidates about the biggest misconception about them as candidates.

Paul said the biggest misconception was that he couldn't win a general election against President Obama.

Gingrich wanted people to know the work he put in on welfare reform and balanced budget as House speaker.

Romney said he had the background and skills to be president, but did not offer a misconception he thought voters held about him.

Santorum also did not offer a misconception but said he was the candidate best positioned to win against President Obama.

9:49 p.m. ET - Read a transcript from the first part of tonight's debate here.

9:44 p.m. ET - Romney cited the strong performance of schools in Massachusetts during his tenure as governor, and said teachers' unions had too much power over education policy. Said kids needed to be put ahead of unions.

Gingrich echoed Romney's criticism of teachers' unions, saying power needed to be invested back into local districts and parents. Said too much attention had been paid on teaching "self esteem."

9:42 p.m.@PeterHambyCNN: Santorum on national TV just now: I voted for something I didn't believe in for nakedly political purposes

9:42 p.m. ET - Question from the audience about the education law No Child Left Behind

9:39 p.m. ET
- Gingrich said he would create a new American energy policy that would reduce dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Romney said America needs to work with allies in the region to force Syrian President Assad to step down.

9:37 p.m. ET – Question about how candidates would deal with Syria.

Santorum said Syria was a puppet of Iran, and a destabilizing force in the region. Said Obama's dealing with Syria revealed a "timidness" that is also evident in his dealing on Iran.

9:34 p.m. ET - Paul took a markedly different stance on Iran, saying there was no proof yet they had nuclear weapons. Said he didn't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but that American involvement needed to be taken with care and under Constitutional guidelines.

9:33 p.m. ET – Santorum said he agreed with Romney, and reiterated the stand that Iran must not develop nuclear weapons. Noted a bill he sponsored in the Senate that would have imposed sanctions on Iran.

9:31 p.m. ET – Romney said President Obama's dealing of Iran was his "most serious failure." Said military options should not just be on the table, but should be in the hand.


9:30 p.m. ET
- Gingrich said he would be willing to use American military force to preempt a strike on Israel from Iran. He said, "You have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons."

9:26 p.m. ET – Question from the audience: How would you deal with the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon?

9:25 p.m. ET - Paul struck on his anti-war platform, saying the men didn't need to be serving in Afghanistan, much less women.

Santorum said we needed to reexamine the best roles for anyone serving in combat.

9:25 p.m. ET@JimAcostaCNN: Shameless plug: After tonight's #CNNDebate go behind-the-scenes with @JimAcostaCNN in the spin room at http://on.cnn.com/cnndcl2 #CNNPostgame

9:24 p.m. ET - Gingrich said the question was misleading, since combat roles have become less defined in modern warfare. Said anyone serving in the military could be in danger at any time.

9:21 p.m. ET - Candidates asked about a new proposal that would allow women in the military to serve in more combat roles.

Romney heralded women's role in the military, and cited the daughter of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has served in Afghanistan. McDonnell has endorsed Romney.

9:20 p.m. ET - Candidates asked to describe themselves in one word:

Paul: Consistent
Santorum: Courage
Romney: Resolute
Gingrich: Cheerful


9:19 p.m. ET
- Read a transcript from the first part of tonight's debate here.

9:12 p.m. ET - Candidates were asked about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's statement that some conservative rhetoric on immigration is "harsh" and "intolerable."

Gingrich said he couldn't be sure what comments Rubio were talking about but slammed President Obama for a speech he made in El Paso that Gingrich called "totally demagogic."

9:11 p.m. ET – Romney said he advocated an e-verify system and said he would complete a border fence. Romney said he would drop federal lawsuits against states with tough immigration laws.

9:09 p.m. ET
- Gingrich said he supported building a fence along America's southern border. Said he would move Department of Homeland Security personnel from Washington to border states like Arizona and Texas.

9:07 p.m. ET - Paul said more needed to be done to secure the border and enforce current immigration laws. Said President Obama had failed to enforce laws, leading to increased illegal immigration.

9:05 p.m. ET - Question from the audience on getting tougher on illegal immigration.

Latinos make up 29.6% of Arizona's population, and are an important - and growing - voting bloc in the state. In the 2008 general election, Latinos constituted 16% of the electorate, up from 12% in 2004.

In 2008, Latinos favored Barack Obama over John McCain by 15 points, 56% to 41%.

9:03 p.m. ET - Romney defended his tenure as governor, saying he balanced the budget even after his health care law went into effect. Santorum hit back, saying it was his job to balance the budget and it wasn't a legitimate achievement to campaign on.

9:01 p.m. ET@vplus: Mitt Romney now calling his own health care reform RomneyCare #CNNdebate

9:01 p.m. ET – Santorum went after Romney for his Massachusetts health care plan, saying it was a model for Obamacare.

8:59 p.m. ET
- Romney hit Santorum for voting for Title X, which included provisions for family planning. Santorum said he voted for it because it was a large appropriation bill but that he opposed the contraception measures.

8:57 p.m. ET - Gingrich said Romney refused to exempt religious institutions from a requirement to provide health insurance coverage for contraception during his time as Massachusetts governor, saying "When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move towards tyranny because the government has the power of force."

8:56 p.m. ET@jimacostacnn: Paul: The morning after pill is basically a birth control pill. Santorum scribbling response?

8:54 p.m. ET - Romney went over his record as governor of Massachusetts. He said he helped religious institutions promote adoption over abortion, and that he worked closely with the Catholic church.

8:52 p.m. ET – Paul said the government shouldn't get involved in Americans' health care. Cited his experience as a physician. Said pills don't create immorality.

8:50 p.m. ET - Santorum said he wasn't afraid to talk about "serious issues" like the increasing number of children born out of wedlock and sexually active teens.

8:49 p.m. ET - Romney said Obama overstepped by requiring religion institutions to provide health insurance coverage for contraception.

8:47 p.m. ET - Gingrich said Obama was the most extreme candidate in the race for his positions on abortion. Said as a state senator he voted to protect doctors who perform abortions.

8:46 p.m. ET – Question from CNNPolitics.com: Which candidates are for birth control and if not, why? Audience booed the question.

8:43 p.m. ET@PaulBegala: Mitt actually wrote in 08: "If GM, Ford & Chrysler get the bailout...kiss the American automotive industry goodbye." http://t.co/pBIC4nob

8:38 p.m. ET - Santorum said the government effectively shut down the airline industry after 9/11, but that the auto industry wasn't shut down by the government. Said the comparison was apples to oranges.

8:37 p.m. ET - Romney said he thought companies needed to enter a managed bankruptcy process in order to best recover. Said he supported the airline bailout after September 11, just like Santorum.

8:35 p.m. ET
– Santorum said he thought market forces should have been allowed to determine the fate of the auto industry. Slammed Romney for his position on government bailouts, saying "I beleive in markets, not just when they're convenient to me."

8:35 p.m. ET@David_Gergen: That earmark conversation went round and round, leading nowhere. Crowd seems very sympathetic toward Romney. #cnndebate

8:34 p.m. ET - Question from CNNPolitics.com: Why was former President George W. Bush wrong in his efforts to save the auto industry and why was Barack Obama wrong to continue the effort?

8:32 p.m. ET – Paul said Congress has become irresponsible in spending money by attaching funding measures to unrelated bills. Said it was the responsibility of members of Congress to vote against spending bills they don't support.

8:30 p.m. ET – Santorum and Romney engaged in heated discussion on how Congress should appropriate money. Santorum said Romney's plan was how the system used to work in the Senate.

8:30 p.m. ET@jimacostacnn: Romney turns to Gingrich but Santorum interjects dropping a Moynihan.

8:28 p.m. ET - Romney mocked Santorum, said he didn't follow his last answer. Said he would ban earmarks altogether and that Santorum voted for the 'bridge to nowhere.'

8:26 p.m. ET - Santorum asked if there were any earmarks he regrets making during his time in Congress. Said there were always votes former senators regret, but that some of the spending he secured was good for his state. Said the system was broken.

8:24 p.m. ET - Gingrich said Romney had taken the right step today in his tax reform plan.

8:23 p.m. ET@AriFleischer: The fact that Romney hasn't repeated his line about being a "severe" conservative tells u he shouldn't have said it the 1st time.

8:22 p.m. ET - Asked about his statement he was a "severely conservative" governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he was severe and strict. He noted his balanced budgets and tough immigration laws.

8:20 p.m. ET - Santorum defended his votes in Congress, saying he was voted the most fiscally conservative member of Congress and that his voted to reign in entitlements were risky politically.

8:19 p.m. ET - Paul continued to hit Santorum: "I find it really fascinating that when people are running for office they're really fiscally conservative. When they're in office, they do something different."

8:17 p.m. ET@EWErickson: Ron Paul sitting next to Santorum. A bit awkward. But Ron Paul does it with a humor Santorum has trouble mustering. #CNNDebate

8:17 p.m. ET – Asked about his criticism of Santorum as a "fake," Ron Paul says: "He is a fake!" Santorum, seated next to Paul, said "I'm real, I'm real!"

8:15 p.m. ET - Answering the question about the national debt, Gingrich pointed to his record of balanced budgets as House speaker. Said the debt would never go down if the unemployment rate doesn't improve.

8:13 p.m. ET@jimacostacnn: Santorum points out Romney was asked about raising debt ceiling earlier this summer and he said he would.


8:13 p.m. ET
- After criticism from Romney, Santorum defended his record on spending votes during his time in the Senate. Said he took on entitlements and never voted to raise taxes. Santorum hit back at Romney by saying he raised taxes as governor of Massachusetts.

8:12 p.m. ET - Romney said he would go through the federal budget and find programs that weren't worth borrowing money from China to fund.

8:09 p.m. ET – Santorum said we need to reduce spending on entitlements, and repeal Obamacare. He said, "If you think defense spending is the problem you need a remedial math class."

8:08 p.m. ET - Question from audience: What would you do to bring down the national debt?

8:08 p.m. ET@PrestonCNN: First shot fired in the #cnndebate. Rick Santorum in his opening remarks makes a veiled reference at Mitt Romney's "poor" comment.

8:06 p.m. ET@PaulBegala: No ashes on either Newt or Santorum's foreheads. Did Satan wash them off? #CNNdebate

8:06 p.m. ET - King explained the rules of the debate, and the candidates introduced themselves to the audience.

Paul: I am the defender of the Constitution, the defender of liberty.
Santorum: Here to talk about a positive solution to country's problems.
Romney: I want to restore America's promise.
Gingrich: I've developed a program for American energy.


8:05 p.m. ET
- Camera panned across candidates during the National Anthem. Romney and Santorum were voicing the words.

8:04 p.m. ET - The Arizona State University Symphonic Chorale sang the National Anthem.

8:03 p.m. ET - John King introduced the candidates onto the debate stage.

8:01 p.m. ET - Watch the video open to tonight's debate here:

8:00 p.m. ET - John King opened the CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate.

7:58 p.m. ET - Past debate moderator @WolfBlitzerCNN tells Erin Burnett: "You get nervous before the debate begins."

7:55 p.m. ET@MittRomney : For updates during the #CNNDebate follow @EricFehrn @AndreaMSaul @GGitcho @ZacMoffatt @LanheeChen @RyanGOP @TeamRomney #Mitt2012

7:51 p.m. ET - CNN Senior Correspondent Joe Johns looks at Mitt Romney's Michigan roots:

7:47 p.m. ET@bobkovachcnn : CNN GOP AZ Debate only minutes away #CNNElections

7:46 p.m. ET@PiersMorgan: My money's on @newtgingrich coming out of the traps like a ravenous hyena tonight. #CNNdebate

7:48 p.m. ET - Arizona fact: Arizona's primary is considered "semi-open," meaning registered Democrats and Republicans can only vote in their party's primary. Independents may vote in either.

7:45 p.m. ET@DonnaBrazile: Will eventual Republican nominee expect President Obama to do this many debates? He doesn’t have the time—President Obama has a job.

7:44 p.m. ET – From @PrestonCNN: Five things to watch for in tonight's debate

7:41 p.m. ET - @LisaDCNN: ROMNEY – CAREFUL GUY: he just went on stage, checked that his chair was sturdy (shook it), asked about sight line with CNN's John King.

7:36 p.m. ET@piersmorgan: if @RickSantorum beats @MittRomney in his own back yard of Michigan, does the "Surge" become a political "Tsunami"?

7:34 p.m. ET - Rick Santorum arrived at the debate hall with his wife Karen.

7:32 p.m. ET – Arizona fact: Arizona is a winner-take-all primary, meaning the candidate with the most votes on Tuesday will take all 29 of the state's delegates.

7:28 p.m. ET – CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger: Santorum walked over to debate tonight from the Marriott three blocks away

7:24 p.m. ET - CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, moderator of tonight's debate, explains what's at stake:


7:23 p.m. ET
@SteveBruskCNN: Day after debate, Romney holds Phoenix event, then heads to suburban Detroit. Gingrich to Washington State. Santorum, Paul: no public events

7:21 p.m. ET - @PeterHambyCNN: where to look for the Gingrich 30-minute energy ad: Washington state (Spokane), Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma

7:17 p.m. ET - @BryanMonroeCNN: An hour before the #CNNDebate, contribs @EWErickson, @DonnaBrazile & @JohnAvlon get ready to offer their wisdom. PHOTO

7:16 p.m. ET - Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain, told CNN's Erin Burnett: "Social issues aren't even on the radar here. People want jobs and the economy to get better."

7:12 p.m. ET – Arizona fact: In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain handily won the GOP primary in his home state. He took 47.2% of the vote. Romney came in second at 34.5%.

7:07 p.m. ET – Ron Paul arrived at the debate hall with wife Carol.

7:06 p.m. ET - @PDicarloCNN: Main Street watch party, Mesa AZ PHOTO

7:03 p.m. ET - Gingrich arrived at the debate hall with wife Callista.

7:01 p.m. ET - @ShepherdCNN: Enthusiastic Ron Paul supporters lining the streets in Mesa PHOTO

6:45 p.m. ET
– Want to see what it takes to host a U.S. Presidential debate? CNN Political Director Mark Preston (@PrestonCNN) shows you how, in Arizona.

6:30 p.m. ET – From @StreitfeldCNN: Mitt Romney relaxed by the pool at his Mesa hotel this afternoon, turning his face to the sun as he lay back on a pool chair. He was joined by his son Craig and his family, who went swimming. Romney wore a button-down shirt and slacks at the pool.

soundoff (1,144 Responses)
  1. Katahdin

    I find it funny that Republicans are now claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility. During the Bush years, Republicans went on what can only be categorized as a wild spending spree, while pushing through two huge tax cuts benefitting mostly the wealthy. They also started an unnecessary war that has cost over $1trillion. Among their many acts of irresponsiblility was shipping $12 billion cash money over to Iraq and handing it out like candy.
    It's almost like they wanted to bankrupt the country.

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  2. Jerome

    What are your thoughts about advances in biology allowing same-sex reproduction instead of gay adoption?

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. Sarah Fox

    How is Gingrich going to get gas prices down to $2.50? Is it going to create jobs? what promises can he give to the american people?

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  4. Toni

    The banking industry went under because of the acts of Congress. Sorry Santorum, the laws our representatives wrote put them in that position.

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  5. NameBryan

    Speaker Gingrich & Senator Santorum are both Catholic. It's Ash Wednesday today. I'm curious as to why neither of them are wearing their ashes.

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  6. Patrick G.

    The enlighted and elevated men of this debate fail to realize that every part of this debate is a test. The first is the actual answer to the question but the perhaps the most important part is how that question is answered. These men must maintain their composure. Do these men realize that when they speak ,as if in a playground brawl, they are weakening the image of our party?

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  7. Antonius

    For the candidates who support an attack on Iran: Are you willing to send your own son or daughter?

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  8. Name Bill

    Why do you continue to say Social Securiy
    Is an Entitlement -when is the government going to repay the fund?

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  9. Phil Conrad

    How will Newt reduce gasoline to $2.50 a gallon?? If we produce more gasoline we will export more than we do now which is part of the problem now. The oil companies will sell to the highest bidder as they are now and it won't be $2.50 a gallon!!

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. Rick Lake

    Does America, as a nation founded on Christian principles, have a moral obligation to protect Israel?

    February 22, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  11. Pam Smith

    Mr. Santorum:
    According to your speeches and pronouncements sex is only for purposes of procreation. As a 65 year old woman married for 44 years to a 70 year old man with 5 kids + 3 miscarriages, right now living alone, just the two of us, with no ability to procreate, the sex has never been better!! Are we going to hell?P.S. As a good Catholic – where are your ashes?

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. Marty

    Will any of you try to stop corporations and special interests bribing elected officials? The people we elect are supposed to put the people they represent first, not line their pocketbooks?

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  13. Jeff Grigsby

    If all the candidates support a smaller government that respects the privacy of the American people, then why do all the candidates feel it necessary that the government impose regulations on birth control and gay marriage?

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  14. Luis Colon

    All candidates. Do you think the NDAA violates the constitution? If you don't please explain.

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  15. Delsy R.

    What do you plan to do with the Imigrants that are illegal and What is going to happen with The Dream Act .

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  16. Dennis Worsham

    Which is a bigger threat to the United States? The possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon or the possibility of paramilitary drug gangs selling access to their border tunnels to Al-Quaeda. As a follow up could someone explain how Irans relatively small military be a danger to the US even with a nuclear weapon? How realistic would it be that they would hand a nuclear weapon that was so difficult for them to create to a third party or for that matter smuggle it into the US themselves?

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  17. Name Rick Meyer

    With news today that the obama administration is planning to give several resource rich Alaskan islands to russia and other nations drilling for oil in US waters, what will they do to protect american sovereignty and national resources.

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  18. Greg Bokota

    As a candidate, President Obama campaigned in part on the pledge that he would end the politics of division. Over the past four years, divisons in Congress and the Country have increased, growing as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon. What would you do as President to bridge the divide, and to promote a healthier, functional political process, and goverment?

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  19. Patricia Fisher

    Debate Question: Given the increase in oil profits and the resultant increase in windfall profits to the oil companies, how could you justify giving tax benefits to oil companies.

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  20. Amy Redfield

    What will you do to make the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge more open to oil drilling?

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  21. AUH2O

    Yes or no... President Obama SUPPOSEDLY backing off from requiring the Catholic Church to cover and pay for contraception under their employee benefit plans by saying: "I'll require the insurance companies to pay for it – not the Catholic church!" is a total exercise in semantics. Reason: Ultimately, ALL costs of insurance on a book of business is paid by the client! In the case - the Catholic Church. Is this a true or a false statement. And if false, why is it false?

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  22. Jarrod

    Question for Governor Mitt , Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich

    Question, as none of you are combat veterans but seem eager for conflict in Iran I would like to know how much time during your political careers have you spent with wounded veterans in Va hospitals and addressing the needs of military families affected by death and injury.

    February 22, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  23. John Bloom

    Can you ask the two Virginia residents Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich who are not on the ballot what should their supporters do, vote for Ron Paul or Mitt Romney? Their supporters need to know.

    February 22, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  24. David Cox

    Question: if the candidates are going to represent "all Americans" how are they going to represent the LGBT community and ensure they recive equal rights?

    February 22, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  25. Chris D

    For all of the candidates: How would you describe the role and responsibilities of the Presidency? And why do you WANT to be President? NOT why are you the best choice?

    February 22, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
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