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. Bill Hulsey

    One great Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, saw the need for infrastructure, and built the Interstate Highway system. Today, many countries including China, France, and Japan have high-speed rail systems. Our passenger rail system is a shambles, but is essential to many Americans. What would you do to encourage high speed rail?

    February 22, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Joy

    This is directed for all of the candidates.
    With all the other important issues that will be discussed in this evening's debate, I am greatly concerned as all Americans should be, about the 30 Navy Seals that died for our country last August. Would you be willing to begin a Congressional hearing to find out who ordered 30 of our Navy Seals in 1 helicopter (which should not have been) These brave people died because someone along the way gave the order to do this.In my opinion, someone made a very bad decision to send that many of our soldiers up in that helicopter. Where was the back-up fire power that was needed? Thank You

    February 22, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. Toni

    Wouldn't it be nice to have them state their policies, but no, the moderator had to start if off immediately. Give me a break.

    February 22, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  4. Siddique Malik, Louisviile, KY.

    My question is for Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum: Both of you continue to disparage non-Christian religions. Mr. Gingrich, you once equated Islam with Nazism, and Mr. Santorum, only you know what phony theology means, and we don't want to know. How can each of you act like this, and aspire to be President of the United States, a country in which human dignity reigns supreme?

    February 22, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  5. Eric Donohoo

    Question for all candidates:
    If Christ where here right now, how would you explain your foreign policy to Him?

    February 22, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  6. Dixie Person

    For Speaker Newt Gingrich: I am from Washington State. We no longer have the priviledge of going to our local polling places to cast our vote. We have experienced very questionable outcomes in our state. I have become very concerned about Voter Fraud in this country. What would you do to insure that our votes are acurately obtained and acurately counted.

    February 22, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  7. Al Gude

    Senator Santorum, You founded a charity "Operation Good Neighbor Founation". It was disbanded in 2007. Didn't registered with the state of Pennsylvania under the law. Only 36% of the funds were distributed. Responsible charaties distribute 75% of its income as grants. Who we can trust you to manage/balance the budget?

    February 22, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  8. Traci Manning

    Question for Santorum – with your very public stance against gays and non-traditional families, how will you help to stop bullying in schools?

    February 22, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  9. LauraB

    Would John King please stop bating the candidates by telling one candidate what another said about them before asking a question!!!

    February 22, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  10. Farmer Tom ... Warrenton, VA

    I spent 21 years in the US Air Force and 4 years as a DoD contractor. I've seen more waste in the US government than I would have ever believed. What, SPECIFICALLY, are you going to do to increase efficiency and effectiveness across the federal government? Don't tell me what about deleting whole groups. I want changes across the govt to become more cost-effective.

    February 22, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  11. george P

    oli prices are set around the world. China and India are pushing demand. Speculators are manipulating prices. Texas, Alaska and all the other states are selling at world prices? How are the candidates going to reduce prices? Are they going to introduce price regulation for producers?

    February 22, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  12. Squigman

    Here's a suggestion, an idea if you will. Whenever a person who is considered mentally ill, or a threat to themselves in society comes up missing, maybe the first place authorities should look to, or consider looking at should be the republican party. There sure seems to be quite a few challenged individuals that are considered electable, so there must be many more lurking in the shadows that shun recognition. Why are they hiding? Come out in the open, and tell us how you really feel about things. Quit sugar coating everything, and sink to the depths we know you can plumb to. Be all you can be. (The speed bumps in the freeway of life).

    February 22, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  13. Scott Meaker

    Would you have the Federal Government force a rape/incest-impregnated woman or girl to carry the baby to term?  Even though most pro-life people wouldn't favor this?  As a victim of violent crime, wouldn't this be a clear violation of her inalienable rights?

    February 22, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  14. Jim

    When President Obama ran for President against Senator McCain the candidates were asked what would they ask the American People to do to help our country.
    I would like to ask all of the candidates the same question. What specifically would they ask the American people to do to help our country. By the way Governor Romney I am a federal employee and I pay taxes too.

    February 22, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  15. Terry Wirth

    to Mitt Romney
    What economic principles are established in the U.S. Constitution &
    how did these principles lead to our freedoms of contracts &
    obligations, Individual entrepreneurial spirit, and the American
    free enterprise system?

    February 22, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  16. Michael Sims

    As President, what type of funding would any of you provide for our education system (if any), and would you implement any education programs of your own? Also, would you put any emphasis on trying to provide more education opportunities for people in low-income areas, and if so, what would you propose that those opportunities be?

    February 22, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  17. Bill

    Is no one going to wish Arizona a happy birthday? Question: If the States are given more authority to make decisions on entitlements, what will happen to citizens subject to dysfunctional legislatures like Arizona's?

    February 22, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  18. Scott Johnson

    I would like an honest answer from each of you as to why if you can regulate energy (electricity), with so much of every one regardless of stature in societty of life dependet on fuel why can fuel(gas) be regulated as well

    February 22, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  19. Name Lucy

    If Rick Santorum is such a great Catholic, why did he wash off his ashes that he received today on Ash Wednesday?

    February 22, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  20. Charles Brown

    for Romney:you think the auto bailout was a failure and please tell why or why not.

    February 22, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  21. Bob Urban

    For Mitt Romney: I think Newt Gingrich's proposal to teach our children a strong work ethic is a great idea. Do you have a similar proposal or are you against instilling a strong work ethic in our children?

    February 22, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  22. Jim Vallandingham

    CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS
    With the approval rating of the US Congress at the lowest levels in history, why are we not hearing discussions about Congressional Term Limits? What are your thoughts?

    February 22, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  23. Stacy Harris

    For Mitt Romney: Am I correct in my understanding that you engaged in the posthumous baptisms of Jews? If so, do you now renounce this practice? If not, do you feel those who disagree with this practice should vote for you for other compelling reasons- and what these be?

    February 22, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  24. Churley

    hay santorum the devils in the details!!!!!

    February 22, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  25. george P

    70% of children attending Houston Schools qualify for free meals. How are the candidates going to stimulate the economy so that parents have jobs that allow them to feed their children?

    February 22, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46