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. ARALE NORIMAKI

    Every American should know about the failures of the US Government. Many people are simply unaware of the fact that government law-enforcement agencies, like the FBI, aren't caught off-guard very often, especially when it comes to large-scale terrorist attacks. They
    are well aware of those groups who are plotting acts of terror–they monitor and infiltrate these groups in order to control them and to control the situation. Sadly, what many people fail to realize is that governments often have plans (or laws) that they wish to implement in
    order for them to be better able to control the general population, and that often they require an event–a crisis–to occur before these plans (laws) can be implemented.

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  2. HARSHAD

    Obama is bad, no good, etc. Where were you when conservative republican George Bush was in white hopuse ? Did you guys just landed from moon yesterday ?

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  3. David Jones

    I'm a Federal Government employee (Repubicans hate us) and also a member of the Air Force Reserves and also served 8 years Active Duty who happen to be African American (Republicans don't respect us). It's 2012 and why don't you candidates beleive in DIVERSITY? I'm not talking about Herman Cain, JC Watts , Clarence Thomas or Michael Steele, (everyone knows that during slavery that the slave master had other slaves to turn on other slaves and couldn't be trusted!) Also Santorum you mentioned having children out of wedlock, did you have a conversation with the extremely intelligent Sarah Palin? You're pathetic and a disgrace to this country along with Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh! None of you will never be president or Commander in Chief because you don't represent ALL of America like President Obama!

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  4. Dianna Sells Ph.D.

    How woukd you describe Barack Obama and his leadreship and administration In one word and one word only?

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  5. Inara Mitchell

    PLEASE say something about the war on the prohibition of marijuana !!

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  6. GOP_Hypocrites

    These chickenhawk retardicans are hilarious. I wonder how much money they're getting from the military industrial complex to spread doom and fear.

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  7. Adam Azzam

    Do you plan to continue the administrations consistent use of drones in Pakistan?

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  8. Aaron S.

    What would the GOP candidates do about the Federal Reserve printing trillions of dollars and congress not having any say in it?

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  9. Vinny

    Stop the lies, it is not President Obama's fault that Iran MIGHT the bomb. Tell the truth, Israel will NEVER ("Never Again") let that happen. So why are they spending a 1/2 hour blaming the president? Why? Because idiots believe that garbage...

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  10. Danielle

    @ all candidates
    If we don't interfere with other countries problems, if we just leave them alone, why would they use nuclear weapons against us?

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  11. Vandy Butler

    For those of us Independant Americans that currently support President Obama, do you honestly feel that continually making hateful remarks about him has any chance of swaying our votes? Stop the sophmoric attacks please or we will not listen.

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  12. T'sah from Virginia

    Oh my – we're going to war if one of these guys get into office!!!

    Obama 2012

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  13. Joshua Gammon

    Younger Americans are unsure if Social Security will be around for them in the future. Would you entertain an idea of allowing Americans to opt out of Social Security?

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  14. Erin H.

    Senator Santorum,
    You have been known for controversial statements regarding women. What are you proposing for women to help attract their vote?

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  15. curtis

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

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  16. Capt George Roux

    Slade..i
    Rmney and Santorum have, I believe, 13 children between the two of them. If every family in the US hade broods as large as these two candidates, the population of the US would be over 1/2 billion. Most credible scientists concur that the maximum sustainable population of the US is somewhere aroun 200 million

    February 22, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  17. Philip Grossenbacher

    I live in Michigan and have served as a union official for many years. The union committee that I have been a part of has strived to make the workplace safer, provide a better standard of living for our members and defend workers who have been unjustly treated. I have listened to all the candidates portray unions in a bad light. It is very clear that Republicans are no friend of labor. On the other hand President Obama and the Democrats have supported labor. Here is the dilemma, Republicans are in the back pocket of big business and the Democrats support immoral issues such as abortion and gay rights. Being a devout Christian, I feel as many other Christian workers do – there is no one to vote for. Here is my question, how can a Christian Union worker be comfortable voting for you.

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  18. Alan Pounders

    Speaker Gingrich, relative to foreign policy, what do we do with the trend of Russia and China siding with oppressive regimes and American enemies?

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  19. THOMAS CAPPIELLO

    Dear Candidates,
    What is the difference between Iran having a nuclear bomb and North Korea with their own nuclear weapons?

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  20. raymond moreno

    If Mitt Romney and Rick Santorm want war with Iran, let their sons and daugthers lead,like mine is doing

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. J

    Can you please pin down mitt Romney on what ethnic groups he was referring to in an earlier question. He seems to continue to separate the classes. Pin him down on this. I don't believe the other candidates are this strongly separated from main stream America. Romney is way out of touch and his comments continue to prove it. "ethnic groups"

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  22. citizen y

    can the moderater please ask mitt romney a question for me? as a african american person who is deeply spiritual.. he scares the living h.e. double hockey sticks out of me. the mormon dotrine litterally says that blacks/africans, have black sking because they are cursed due to a pre-earth war in heaven. in wich the blacks did not fight on the side of god. thus they were cursed with black skin and a lifetime of hardship and anguish, and whites on the contrary are born blessed, thus their pure white skin... and prviledge. my question is with a doctrine like that.... how could he or his party expect... any support from black america?

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  23. Jeff Grigsby

    Ronald Reagan and GHW Bush armed Osama Bin Ladin and his "Freedom Fighters," and they turned against the U. S. Don't you think the same thing is possible if we arm Syria?

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  24. Godfather

    To answer the ash wednesday question: as a Catholic i tell you that ash wednesday is not a holy day of obligation.

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  25. Adam Azzam

    Is it permissible for the president or congress to legislate the moral principles of one particular religion?

    February 22, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
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