Live blog: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate
February 22nd, 2012
09:55 PM ET
2 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. Bon and Lu

    Question to ALL Candidates: Given the ridicules size of some bills, those so large they couldn't possibly be read in their entirety for proper congressional voting, WILL you mandate a limit on their size, AND require LINE ITEM VETO'S?

    February 22, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  2. concerned non-religios woman

    To all: Your christian values don't allow to terminate the unwanted pregnancy, but have any of you thought what happnes to the baby after (often teen) the mother gives it up for adaption? Reseach shows that the number of adaptions compared to the number of children, especially kids who end up and then age out of foster care, end up alone and poverty levels! Conterception is in fact safer alternitive to abortion?

    February 22, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  3. Tom Stanley

    How is the government requiring everyone (including churches) to provide contraceptives as part of medical insurance ANY DIFFERENT from the government prohibiting polygamy (and applying it to everyone, irrespective of religious belief)?

    February 22, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  4. shirlene denny

    Once again at eachother I am turning it off!!!

    February 22, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  5. Darwyn

    Mitt, why would you want to be President? you are making so much more money than the normal American household. Why do you want this job?
    Rick, why do you have to slam your fellow republcans on stage? Each of you should talk about your successes not each others weaknesses.
    Newt, you are smart, why don't you four guys team up and work together as the American second half team?
    Ron, Can you work in a cabinet position for the new team?

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  6. David snelson

    Counter act is that another word for flip flop or appeasing the American people ten deceiving them later on?

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  7. Guillermo

    Dear Candidates,
    In one minute or less, how you will plan to control Illegal Immigration in this Country, and actually protect our borders ?

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  8. THOMAS CAPPIELLO

    I am 13 years old. I would like to know how each of you will protect our environment and animals.

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  9. Dale

    Has anyone ask the question to the canidates will they put PRAY back in our schools? I don't thing so and way not?

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  10. Vicki

    So on one hand they all say "government needs to stay out of our lives", but then they want the government to limit access to medical care, such as abortions and birth control.

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  11. Stan

    So Romney says that if becomes president he would go through all the departments and cut things that are not absolutely necessary. Here's a partial list... street cleaning, not absolutely necessary... fully staffed fire departments, not absolutely necessary... tree trimming, not absolutely necessary... weekly trash pickup, not absolutely necessary.... police, teachers, road maintenance, etc. So then, what is absolutely necessary? The answer is to look at third world countries that live just above the poverty level. Obama on the other hand, would fund these things by using some of the rich's tax money. Our choice fellow Americans.

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  12. PTC Bernie

    To all candidates;

    Like it or not, Roe v Wade is US law. How can you justify supporting only certain laws based upon your own religious feelings?

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  13. Ginny

    Should government STOP all funding/grants/contributions to religious organizations? Literally leave separate Church and State.

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  14. us1776

    What issues?

    Oh, oh, you mean earmarks, restore America (next time GOP don't break it), bashing obamacare while ignoring dead-weight defense and war spending (how much money did you make off those wars? – me neither), and the need to out-religion each other.

    Jeesh....

    February 22, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  15. Gail

    Please...let's move ON from this rehash of past votes and behaviors. I want to hear about our FUTURE. What do I have to HOPE for?

    February 22, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  16. Mike Margolis

    Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich tend to emphasize their religious piety. I am not Catholic, but today is Ash Wednesday. Could someone please enlighten me (and perhaps other non-Catholics) as to why neither the Senator nor the Speaker have ashes on their foreheads?

    February 22, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  17. paul

    Power of the state
    If I understand their position correctly we shouldn’t trust the state to provide services because of the fear of tyranny. Instead we should trust private enterprise because the power of the market will ensure our needs are met. However, we have control of the members of congress and president and others in control of government through the ballot box not so with private corporations. Unless we are privileged enough to have a position of influence on the board of directors how do we respond to a tyranny of the market?

    February 22, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  18. DR. Ervin Belcher

    The USA is giving billions of dollars to Afghanistan and Pakistan and lives of our solders. I worked in this general area for 11 years of my professional life, and the governments of these two countries have duped the USA in taking our money and help, but they would love to see the USA go under. Will any of the Republican candidates realize this fact and act on this situation? Congressman Paul has accurately said the USA has more soldiers gaurding the Afghani-Pakistani border than the USA/Mexico border. Will any of you correct this??

    February 22, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  19. Sheila Walters

    Why doesn't the moderator stop Santorum from rambling?!

    February 22, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  20. Tiffany

    Question for Ron Paul :
    We know that you are against many things that government currently does. What do you believe are the correct roles of government?

    February 22, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  21. Harrington Household

    What population was Romney referring to when he stated a certain "ethnic group" have a higher rate of unmarried parents?

    February 22, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  22. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Santorum noted the requirement to have a balanced budget in MA. He noted that the money to fund Romney care was based on federal dollars.

    February 22, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  23. Brandon Yoakum

    To All Candidates:

    What are your views on the problem in Iran and how would your administration take action if we gained intelligence they had nuclear weapons of destruction.

    February 22, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  24. Amanda

    Do you(Romney/Santorum) support the bill in Virginia that states that even if a woman is RAPED that she will be FORCED to see an ultrasound of her child before giving the baby up? If you get rid of contraception you will definitely have this PROBLEM to deal with.

    February 22, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  25. Orwell reborn

    Conservatives pleasure themselves calling themselves right wing, self affirmation they are righteous.

    But they fail to understand they haved evolved to become tails.

    February 22, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
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