October 22nd, 2007
08:35 AM ET
13 years ago

GOP rivals defend their conservative credentials at debate

The GOP candidates on stage in Orlando.

ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) - The leading Republican presidential candidates intensified their fight over who has the true conservative credentials in sometimes contentious debate Sunday night.

A more aggressive Fred Thompson compared Rudy Giuliani’s social positions with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and implied Mitt Romney once held more liberal stands than Senator Ted Kennedy.

Asked if Romney and Giuliani has convinced him they were consistent conservatives, the former Tennessee Senator said, “Well, we've got an hour and a half. Maybe they can work on it.”

Giuliani tried to turn the tables on Thompson, saying, “you know, Fred has his problems, too. I mean, Fred was the single biggest obstacle to tort reform in the United States Senate. He stood with Democrats over and over again. …Fred Thompson, along with very few Republicans, blocked tort reform over and over and over again. That is not a conservative position.”

Defending his own record a day after finishing near the bottom of a conservative voters straw poll, the former New York City mayor, said, “I think it was good conservative record. I think, in every case, you can always find one exception or two to someone being absolutely conservative or absolutely this or absolutely that, but I think I had a heck of a lot of conservative results.”

In another skirmish, Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, blasted Romney for claiming to be the only real Republican in the field. He said, “Governor Romney, you've been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don't want you to start fooling them about mine. I stand on my record. I stand on my record of a conservative, and I don't think you can fool the American people. I think the first thing you'd need is their respect.”

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Romney continued his criticism of Giuliani over spending and taxes, saying, “we're not going to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House by acting like Hillary Clinton. Now, I'm proud of my record. Not just of the words, but of the record of the governor of Massachusetts. Like Mayor Giuliani I had a tough state to be running in. I was a conservative Republican in a very Democrat state. My legislature, 85 percent Democrat. We face a $3 billion budget gap. We solved it without raising taxes, without adding debt.”

Thompson joined the direct attack on Giuliani, criticizing his stand as mayor on immigration, abortion and gun control. He said Giuliani “sides with Hillary Clinton on each of those issues I just mentioned.”

Asked his concern over Romney’s record, Thompson said. “You've just got a minute?”

Meanwhile, after watching the top candidates in the Republican presidential field attack each other in the opening minutes of Sunday night’s debate, Mike Huckabee played above the fray.

Huckabee, left out of the early skirmishes between candidates running ahead of him in the polls, said as he was called on. “ Let me begin by saying, for the first time in about nine debates, I'm kind of glad I wasn't in on the first few minutes because it was all about these guys fighting each other.”

To laughter, the former Arkansas governor said, “I am more than content to let you let them fight all they want tonight, shed each other's blood and then I'll be ready to run for president because I'm not interested in fighting these guys.”

- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk

Filed under: Florida • GOP debate
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Steve Peoria, IL

    can someone say how libs are so interested in Ron Paul? He wants to do away with big government and end the IRS> Is is just that libs want to undermine the real frontrunners, or do they really wish for the same conservativism that Ron Paul is proposing?

    October 22, 2007 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  2. D. Endo, Honolulu HI

    I just love watching Republicans throw each other under the bus and eat their young...

    October 22, 2007 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  3. Val Davydov, Agawam, MA

    What's that nonsense I hear that Republican candidates are afraid of Hillary Clinton, Q. Christian Atlanta GA and SD, NY, NY?

    In fact, and contrary to both of your comments and speculations of some on this board, GOPers are using an excellent strategy by identifying strengths and weaknesses within their party lines (who is most capable) and opportunities and threats on the outside (that of an opponent). Planning of a good strategy always results in arguments, squabbles, disagreements, and quarrels (this is nothing unusual).

    This being said, Hillary is more of an opportunity to the GOP field than the threat. This woman has got too much baggage on her to even be considered a serious threat (a fool can realize that). Hillary, no doubt, will get Dems nomination, and she will, no doubt, lose general election. Simple as that – it'll be fun to watch though.

    Romney 08!

    October 23, 2007 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  4. Anti-sheeple, Richmond, Va

    Ellis Wyatt, Los Angeles, CA

    Have you ever stopped to think why people hate the U.S in the first place? I don't see Al Qaeda attacking Norway. Maybe because they do not try to strong arm the rest of the world. Your socialist theory is absurd and your criticism of Paul shows you are scared that your Neo-Con or Marxist candidate will lose. I choose to elect you as village idiot in '08. Congrats.

    October 23, 2007 04:11 am at 4:11 am |
  5. Diane Sheffield, MA

    Diane do you realize that we were attacked on 9/11 because we ARE a Christian nation? When we have fanatics out to kill us because of our Christian beliefs, we have to defend ourselves. By the way, if you look at the numbers, the number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as compared to the number of homicides in America for the same time frame is less than 10%. Maybe we should pull out of America?
    Posted By Ken, Memphis, TN : October 22, 2007 10:37 am

    Ken, Pleeeze, you think we were attacked because we are a Christian nation? That's called propaganda. I think it's far more likely that they hate us because we're constantly meddling in their countries, throwing our American presence around and disrespecting their culture. Why are we always doing this? Because we want to have control over the region, because we need oil. period. Why do you think we have the largest embassy in the world in Iraq, because we were going to bring them Democracy and leave? Why didn't we take the billions spent in Iraq and develop alternatives to oil? Because people in power are making lots and lots of money on that oil. But if we'd develop alternatives, we wouldn't be sending all our oil money to the middle east and they'd be back in the stone age again because they have few other natural resources, and they wouldn't have the power or incentives to bother with us.

    October 23, 2007 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  6. Mike, Dover, DE

    Bill Clinton was never impeached, did anyone ever take his place? NO !! Don't make false accusations.

    Posted By Karen,nj : October 22, 2007 4:50 pm

    Bill Clinton was impeached by the house on Dec 19, 1998. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment_of_Bill_Clinton . Stating otherwise is an outright Lie.

    October 23, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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