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. Q. Christian Atlanta GA

    I have never seen so many men be so afraid of one little bitty woman. If the Republicans really didn't believe Hillary could become President they wouldn't be villifying her as the wicked witch who wants to destroy America. I think it's absolutely disgusting that the Republican candidates and the Republican party are trying to use the tactics of fear and misinformation to try once again sell the American people on their failed policies.

    I think Republicans should offer their agenda for America and let that speak for them instead of relentlessly attacking Hillary Clinton and denigrating a great woman. Love her or hate her she is a respected figure in American politics and a sitting US Senator. I think it's absolutely disgraceful and disingenuos of the Republicans to characterize Hillary as someone who would not protect America and someone who would not work to make sure America stays the worlds sole super power.

    If we as Democrats fail to see through this veiled attempt to scare us into not supporting a Democratic administration we will lose more than just the Presidency. This election is one of ENORMOUS importance. Regardless of who the Democratic nominee turns out to be, we need to support them. If we get one more Republican President they can tip the balance of the Supreme Court. This would be a disaster for ALL AMERICANS if this happens. I urge all Democrats to put aside their petty differences and wake up and see what this election is really about.

    HILLARY 2008

    October 21, 2007 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  2. SD, NY, NY

    They are all so afraid of Hillary...

    October 21, 2007 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  3. Daniel

    Given all these candidates' respective showings at the conservative straw poll yesterday, it does not seem in doubt who is winning this argument! The only question is whether Giuliani can do enough damage control.

    October 21, 2007 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  4. John, NJ

    Again, Ron Paul comes out as the winner. However, no one wil believes this because of fox news' unscientific polling and absurdly biased commentary.

    October 21, 2007 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  5. Garrett Babb Indianapolis, IN

    Moral of the story: There's only 4 candidates that the media has chosen for you to pick from. They're all the same and will do the same amount of harm to our country. Either you rely on the media to make your decisions or you think for yourself. Ron Paul is the man to blow this wide open. 2008 will be known as the year the American people took back America. God Bless.

    October 21, 2007 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  6. Andrew, NJ

    Ron Paul won the text in poll with 38% of the vote. Then slowly slid to a win of 34%.

    But thats not really important...whats important is that the 3rd place Giulliani got a pathetic 12%

    October 21, 2007 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  7. Jesse, Burnsville, MN

    I cannot honestly say that I see any of the Republican candidates, or Republican Light candidates (specifically Hillary) creating any positive change for our country. Just more of the same.

    October 21, 2007 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  8. bprossersme

    Approval meters soared off the charts with the mention of defeating Hillary Clinton. These people are replused by Clinton and consider her a threat to U.S. Security worldwide.

    October 22, 2007 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  9. bprossersme

    Hey, Q.Christian Atlanta GA, This forum is for "comments" not book reports. Get with the program. I'm surprised CNN Watchdogs let that one through. Oh, that's right, it was by a Democrat. LOL

    October 22, 2007 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  10. Jane Collins, Texas City, Texas

    Rudy Giuliani, has proved to all that he is fickle. He is a man with two past wives,... and is now with a third he gained by cheating on his second wife. He went after his happiness without considering his former mates or his offspring(s) feelings. How am I to trust him to be fully faithful to this country,.. when he couldn't be faithful to two prior wives of his? His love last as long as a strainer can hold water. It just so happened that he was the mayor at the time of 9/11/2001. The police and fireman and medic's were the hero's...Not Giuliani.
    As for H.R. Clinton,..she is someone I wouldn't trust to expect the truth to ever come out of her mouth.

    October 22, 2007 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  11. ronnie knoxville, tn

    those are some expensive suits, right there

    October 22, 2007 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  12. PollM, Dallas Tx

    With the exception of Ron Paul most GOP Rivals Argue Who's Most Conservative, Ron Paul As he has before, Paul spoke passionately against the war in Iraq. But he also accused his Republican rivals of being for big government. "Our big-government conservatives, they're part of the neo-conservative movement.

    Who won the Orlando, Florida Republican debate?
    -> http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=765

    October 22, 2007 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  13. Lorenz, Queens, New York

    Ron Paul once again proved he is the strongest conservative. He is a constitutionalist – how much more conservative can you get?

    Oh and to further add to the fire, he got first place again in the poll.

    October 22, 2007 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  14. Larry, Washington, D.C.

    This one goes out to bprossersme.

    It is a sad day in this country when a person is denegrated for contributing intelligently to public discourse.

    October 22, 2007 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  15. Kelly Pittsburgh PA

    Let me be honest, I missed the debate ( I am a Pittsburgher, thus, I watching the Steeler game), but after being frustrated with the loss and catching up on the events of the debate, I realize I missed NOTHING. Fox News will not cover what needs to be covered, Romney and Rudy still continue to be afraid of Hillary, and Huckabee shined. I am a Hillary supporter and believe in her. But, I hope the GOP voters will at least make a "right" decision. Nominate Huckabee. I do NOT agree with on 99.9% of anything, but I respect him. Unlike the demagogue of Rudy or the "flip-flopping" and pandering of Romney. Does anyone feel else besides me feel like moving to Canada if Rudy and his "fear-mongering" ways are President?

    October 22, 2007 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  16. TOM NYC

    OMG they all have no idea on America,the wanna make the poor poorer and did ya notice never mentioned at all the middle class. yes there is lotts of republicans that are going democrat,the middle class went poor and the upper middle class went below.Hillary is going to win they are scared ,and now Cheny coming out with his statments that Iran will not have a Nucleur Weapon.Same ole thing blasting Hillary and Pelosi,I'll tell ya right now women wont stand for any of these men.Its time for a women to Take Charge.They are disrespectfull To A Senator who has Expierence and knows the issues what we are facing.Her campaign is the strongest of any I have seen since Jack Kennedy.there on this kick with ronald regan thats 30 some years ago.hes gone ..As A Nation we need to run on whats happening right now,not the clinton years not the regan years not the kennedy's year.I will vote for Hillary to this day,she is Intelligent ,has a vocabulary,and explains what we are facing,into todays world I will not support Obama,he is Preaching gospel,his rallys are geared for Gospel church type,instead of issues,and his attacks on Mrs. Clinton Us women will prevail and show these men we do not need them,and there false accusations of her.It gets petty tiresome,they have no real solutions,nothing viable,I dont believe any of the men.And one thing about taxes you get them back,even if they are raised.we did with Bill and with her she will do the same.Her ideas are logic Rudi G..is a liar he fixed potholes for NYC,Hillary fixes problems.her spending spree is not factual look what we spend with republicans,300 trillion dollars into war so far.this will be for by great granchildren if we dont stop it right now the war.I believe in 8 years Hillary will have us back to NORMAL.

    October 22, 2007 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  17. Ethan, Brooklyn, NY

    Hillary won the debate hands down.

    These GOP candidates are beyond pathetic.

    October 22, 2007 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  18. Joe, Seattle, WA

    By the way everyone here who supports Hillary:
    She recently said he wants to keep the troops in Iraq AT LEAST until the end of her first term as president. That is 2013!
    I'm not a republican I'm just warning you that the last thing we need is another member of the same family that has been president since the 80's. Bush Clinton Bush Bush Clinton? Not to mention Bush Sr. being VP under Regan for 8 years!
    That isn't America! Wake up, people!!!

    October 22, 2007 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  19. Matt, Denver Colorado


    October 22, 2007 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  20. Coach Haughton NH

    rudy's lisp is really annoying.

    October 22, 2007 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  21. Stu, Crooked River Ranch, Oregon

    It is quite interesting that most of the candidates, Democrat and Republican, seem to think that the important issues are those that do not amount to doodly squat. Abortion, family values, religious beliefs, creationism. What do any of these have to do with what is important today? These issues seek one thing and one thing only and that is to pander to ignorant Americans who somehow think that if these matters were resolved in favor of the right wing view, everything else in the world will be alright. I have yet to hear a single candidate say anything of substance in terms of precisely how they will attempt to resolve any of this country's serious problems–poverty, medical care, the environmment, immigration, crime, the loss of civil right, the war in Iraq. Who cares if Fred Thompson was against tort reform? How will changing the way tort cases are handled make life better for the average working American? When someone explains how they will end the grip that multi-national corporations and lobbysists have on everything that happens in this country, then I'll start paying attention. Until then, stop boring me. At no point in tonight's so-called debate–which it certainly wasn't–did any mention of Bush's recent comment about World War III get discussed. And I'm sick and tired of these guys, and the Democrats, bragging about which one of them is the most religious. If the Republicans expect to win next year, they had better start focusing on issues and not on the Democrats. If the Democrats expect to win, they need to stop sounding like Republicans. We are all sick of it and at this point there seems to be little difference among any of the candidates of either party. From talking with many of my friends, the thing that both parties need to be worried about is whether more than than just value voters are going to sit out the next election because, at this point, we see no difference. Finally, as a disabled combat veteran, my veteran friends and I, and our families, are still waiting to hear a single candidate discuss what they intend to do about adequate funding for the VA and the lack of meaningful treatment and benefits for the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Not one single word has been uttered about this despicable situation.

    October 22, 2007 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  22. Ellis Wyatt, Los Angeles, CA USA

    As for Ron Paul, the only reason he's been consistently winning online and on-air polls is because a dedicated clutch of Demo-Socialist seminar activists have been vigorously promoting him for antiwar propaganda value.

    The reason the also-rans are not being considered viable, as contrasted with the three leading candidates, is because...they're simply not as popular, ergo viable, as the frontrunners. Sorry to rain on the Paul parade, but there it is. I suspect that when Paul's write-in percentages from The Disgruntled come back a year from now, they'll amount to a fraction of 1%. The man is nearly perfect on domestic issues, but his Kantian categorical-imperative attitude on national defense – a kind of masterpiece of context-dropping – is an instant disqualifier for the Presidency. A government restored to the strict limits of the Constitution is of little value when the newly-unshackled people of America have been reduced to smoking lumps of polycarboniferous sludge, baked to the pavement by al-Qaida and/or Chinese and/or Russian nukes. In Paul's eyes, military action isn't justified unless an American citizen has an AK-47 shoved into his face and the bullet is actually en route to its destination. That kind of militant irrationality is just a slick repackaging of the threadbare "Ban the Bomb" attitude of the '60s, and an instant No-Go on Presidential eligibility. The man is of vastly more benefit to the cause of individual rights and liberty as a member of Congress.

    October 22, 2007 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  23. Dan ~ Longview, WA.

    Sean Hannity is saying his own stations poll is invalid! He would not be saying that if FreMitRuJohn showed up in first place. He did not mock Mike Huckabee's 2nd place numbers at all, so what's up Sean?

    Why not talk about Ron Paul's message with a serious thought? What are you worried about?


    Google Ron Paul

    Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    October 22, 2007 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  24. ronnie - knoxville, tn

    WOW ! Mitt Romney looks the most confident, the most comfortable the best up there. Fred Thompson looks a bit snobby, as if he is just tolerating being up there. McCain looks as if he's just enjoying himself. Guiliani looks a bit fake, almost as if he wishes he were elsewhere.
    Just callin' it as I see it

    October 22, 2007 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  25. Anonymous

    So fox news doesn't think that the text vote was accurate because Ron Paul won. How do you mess up that vote? I mean seriously, do they think I'm sitting on 3500 cell phones in my apartment texting one at a time? How can they say on Hannity and Colmes that "they stacked the deck" on Ron Paul. Did we "cheat" by not voting for the right guy? Is it impossible that maybe Americans want change?

    October 22, 2007 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
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