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. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Paul claims the just war idea comes from Christianity which isn't true. It comes from Judaism and the Torah will note that.

    February 22, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  2. Jennifer Dooley

    What do You think about limiting campaign funds strictly to citizen donations not to exceed One Thousand Dollars. No SElf Funding or any other type. No Super Pacs, along with NO TV Ads, just Debates?

    February 22, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  3. Slade

    Why did Rick Santorum's wife file a medial malpractice lawsuit against her doctor for $500,000.00 when Rick preaches that medical malpractice lawsuits should and would be limited to $250,000.00 under his administration. Why is Rick's wife immune from what Rick preaches.

    February 22, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  4. goobered up

    I thought Romney could pull it off–nope 1%. Then I thought Santorum–nope to weak. Gingrich doesn't stand a chance–too dodgy. None of them can beat Obama. The GOP needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

    February 22, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  5. Alex Chute

    I currently work 2 part time jobs and my wife does as well, together we barely make ends meet. What would you do to help the struggling lower class at home?

    February 22, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  6. Abdi from Phoenix, AZ

    I am from Somalia, I wanna know if you are elected how can you help without military support Somalian Government to eliminate the threat we Face In Somalia, Middle East and United States of America? I never heard any candidatetalking about Africa.

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  7. Dave

    Sopa? Pipa? Partriot Act? Proctection of civil liberties, privacy, censorship? Patent and intellectual property protection?

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  8. Sarah F

    For all the candidates: You all say Obama Care is a bad idea but what are your ideas on making health care affordable for all Americans. Especially Arizonans since we are not able to buy health care from companies outside of Arizona

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  9. Katie Heckler

    Really sucks that we can't even hear a third of this on CNN. It keeps cutting out so who was in charge of this one???? What a waste at least in Ohio. This stinks guys. Thought you had better tech than this. Cannot believe you allowed this to go on tonite. Even you dumb commercials we can't hear.

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  10. curtis

    My question is for all candidates" What will you do to fix inflation of the weakening U.S. dollar?"

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  11. Cheryl

    John King, please (without personally attacking any of the candidates) hold the candidates to actually answering the questions! Not one of them answered the contraceptive question!

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  12. Name Glenn

    Please!!! Stop debating President Obama when he's not there to debate you! Debate each other to see how you 4 differ. I look at you 4 and see a cakewalk for President Obama. Ron Paul is the only one who makes sense, is genuine and has a clue. Unfortunately, the country and the world would not accept him as being "Presidential".

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  13. Sharon Ross

    Why are we giving illegals school, medical amminities, for free, when our own children struggle to pay for this themselves?
    Why does our gov't. pay for this???

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  14. Sarah

    To: Mit Romney, there are 906 pages in the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. Also, to Mr. Santorum: You acknowledged that you shouldn't have voted for 'no child left behind'. Fair enough. But then you say that in order to cut spending, essentially we are dumping public school systems entirely and leaving it up to the local systems and community to support and fund. Could you please explain to me how lower-class community's are going to be able to afford an Increase in their Local Taxes? Thank you

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  15. The General

    The ex-head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, recently appeared on several news stations. He is in agreement with Dr. Paul's assessment of the middle east conflict and how to resolve it. When a superior voice who has spent years on the front line be listened to, and how can we justify our continuation of a clearly failed policy?

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    I am considering voting Republican for the first time in my life. To each of the four–How do you convince me to follow through?

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  17. Barbara in Texas

    What's with this tacky and apparently stacked audience and their "booing"? This is getting extremely distracting from the candidates responses.

    February 22, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  18. Beverly - NYC

    Mexico is a threat, really Mittens, you're reaching boo. What's the threat some American falling off a bar stool at Senior Frogs? President Obama dangerous all right if you're a Somali pirate, or a member of al quaeda. Face it Repububs you can lay claim to "keeping us safe" anymore, bascially you got nothing but look at me I'm not Obama.

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  19. Citizen Jackson

    Rick always stumble when he has to answer a criticism of his policy or ideas.

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  20. Nothing new here

    Ron Paul is correct – these birth control pills are not the government's business.
    We have bigger issues to deal with than contraception.
    Good grief – why, oh why can't the GOP get it's act together and promote Ron Paul?

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  21. Adan Ochoa

    I live in deep south Texas about 2 miles from the border on clear nights I can hear the gunfire. How will you stop spill over violence and how will you stop Mexico from becoming a full Narco-State. Please be very specific.

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  22. Bill McInnis

    John King asks too many softball questions. In SC he asked the weak question to Gingrich. Tonight he asks who believes in birth control. The real question should have been about the candidates' position on the 10th amendment and whether a state could outlaw birth control as we used to have. This is what Santorum had suggested. Also since all 4 say they will repeal Health Care Reform, what about the 3 who seved in Congress and used taxpayer funded Congressional health care? Would the candidates push to repeal Congressional health care?

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  23. Katie W

    Many Republican voters that I know have cut their support from some of the current Republican candidates because they support HR 1540. Do you (all of the candidates please answer) support HR 1540 and why?

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  24. Apostolos Anagnostopoulos

    My question is when will the jobs come back to this country? How can a government health care plan take effect if people do NOT have jobs to pay the taxes that will pay for the Health care. Has any of you (Rep.Candidates ) thought of a Equal Work Act? For every person a company has employed in the States; that is the limit of how many they can have over seas.

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  25. Will

    In recent history, all modern, traditional wars involving the United States have been fought on foreign land. How would you respond to a traditional war waged and fought on United States soil?

    February 22, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
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