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.”

Click here to see CNN's new political portal: CNNPolitics.com

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. Daniel

    Did you notice how many times the GOP candidates accused each other of being Hillary Clinton?!

    October 22, 2007 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  2. Greg, NYC

    Ellis, I went to an Ivy League law school, so naturally, I was exposed to extreme verbosity, but you sir take the cake. Completely unnecessary.

    October 22, 2007 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  3. Mark, London, Ontario

    Wow, excellent article, Steve Brusk! You managed to mention a whole five of the eight candidates that were present at the debate!
    I really wonder what criteria you use when you choose who to write about and who not to.

    October 22, 2007 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  4. Karen,nj

    HEY CNN, I THINK I FIGURED THIS WHOLE THING OUT. PEI...I googled strategist and I think that this is Erica Payne a democratic strategist from Manhattan. Am I right this time? Is that possible considering that this is such a wierd place.

    October 22, 2007 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  5. Eric Minneapolis, MN

    Vote for King Paul

    October 22, 2007 04:13 am at 4:13 am |
  6. AnaHadWolves, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    So...each GOP candidate tried to escape his past? Rudy Giuliani, who wears dresses more often than Cher, tried to prove that he is a man by dropping his pants!

    Those in the front row, however, reported that he came up short.

    October 22, 2007 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  7. Rocco, Wellington, FL

    John McCain's point about being able to fool the American people is not a good illistration, We elected Bush! Twice?

    October 22, 2007 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  8. mark, wilkes barre pa

    hey TOM from nyc,,, you mentioned "US WOMEN " in your comments,,?????????

    October 22, 2007 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  9. alan St Louis MO

    Got to be smarter then the sheep.

    In a barrage of lively attacks on one another, the Republican presidential hopefuls on Sunday night couldn't agree on who is the most conservative candidate in the White House race, but they could agree on the most liberal: Hillary Clinton.

    There not afaid of CLINTON.

    1) Republicans know there at a huge disadvatage in next election for president.
    2) Republicans know CLINTON will drive a lot of swing voter to vote republican. Becuse of her past and as a flip flooper. IE Obama Naive for talking with Iran!!!!!!

    3) All those republicans know if any of em want a good chance to win the general election they better run against CLINTON. Because any other canidate like Obama or Biden Will crush any republican runner in General Election.

    with that whats would be the best strategy for the rupublican will use to win the whitehouse. hmmm I wonder I know lets all team up on CLINTON so we will upset the democrat sheep so they will put CLINTON in the general election so we will have the best chance of winning the WHITE HOUSE.
    kind of sounds like star wars with Palptine takeing over the senate to start his facist government.

    IF you are a sheep CLINTON for 08 Congrats you just fell pray to republican manipulation

    Want to fix the country Biden or Obama for 08 Congrats you can think for your self without republicans telling you how to think.

    Use your HEADS republican are the master of manipulation!!!!! Why are the republicans tring to pick the Democrat that will run in the general election???IE CLINTON

    October 22, 2007 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  10. Mark Lodes, Missouri

    Very nearly every nauseating line in this debate was scripted. Disgusting how such a show has been made of our political theater. What about the issues? What about Iraq? What about the President's approval rating? What about the Senate's approval rating? Oh dear, lets not talk about those things! We might not get a Republican elected.

    October 22, 2007 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  11. Larry Tolland CT

    Go Fred! The field killed the communist Hillary calling her out for who she is. CNN why did you forget to report what Clinton said????? " I have many ideas for america, you just can't afford them all". Go

    October 22, 2007 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  12. Stephen, Naples, Florida

    Karen, I think if you listen really hard you will hear one of your animals calling for you. Maybe it's the hamster that was victimized while in hamster boot camp that Barack would do nothing about and only Hillary could help.

    October 22, 2007 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  13. Karen,nj

    I know that there are registered Republicans who are actually Democrats at heart, but for "social" reasons they stay in the closet.

    October 22, 2007 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  14. Jerry Gertiser, Johannesburg, Mi

    Under Bush and his congress the National debt increased by 3.1 trillion dollars. Up 54%. Can our country afford 4 or ever 8 more years of Republican Conservatives in control of our money.

    October 22, 2007 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  15. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    The Republican candidates' pandering to the far right is the main reason I, a registered Republican, will probably vote for Democrats and/or moderates in the 2008 election.

    Currently elected conservative Republicans have transformed a budget surplus into an obscene deficit; damaged this country's security by encouraging vital jobs to be outsourced overseas; broken any spirit of bi-partisanship; failed to discipline wrong doers in their own ranks; and assaulted our civil liberties with their rubber-stamp approach to dealing with the current White House occupant.

    We, as a country, can ill-afford to reward such extremisim by voting for more mindless conservatives.

    October 22, 2007 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  16. Robert, Shelton CT

    There is no substance to Giuliani's campaign and all he could do is attack Clinton, but if you look at his policies and past work in office, he was very autocratic and is not presidential material.

    And Giuliani said it was a bad thing Thompson sided with Democrats. To me, we want a President not afriad to be independent thinkers and seperate from the base of the party.

    I can't see eve one of this men as our next President, and I can't wait till Giuliani crashes in about every early primary.

    October 22, 2007 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  17. Terry, El Paso, TX

    Paranoia grips the right...

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

    John, could it be possible that the same crowd of socialists who framed OJ is now trying to bring down Ron Paul?

    "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." – By Ellis Wyatt, Los Angeles, CA USA : October 22, 2007 1:58 am

    The conspiracy is even sicker than I previously realized. It now turns out that Ron Paul's supporters are really pacifist-socialists who support Paul because he is a weakling and a pacifist. What twisted, sick socialist mind invented this conspiracy in the first place, I wonder? Could it be Al Gore...?

    "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." – Anonymous : October 22, 2007 2:10 am

    Dear God in Heaven! How twisted the plots are becoming! Now Fox News is plotting against Ron Paul becuase he is a "true" Conservative. They only support "false" Conservatives. They've been lying all this time (well, we all knew that anyway).

    The problem with Democracy is that half the voters have a below-average IQ.

    October 22, 2007 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  18. Robert Cadalso NYC, NY

    Like kids fighting with each other. What a bunch hypocrite men!

    October 22, 2007 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  19. Stephen, Naples, Florida

    Terry, you are wrong, my friend. About 90% of voters have a below average IQ. Mathematically impossible I know, but the evidence on this website is incontrovertible.

    October 22, 2007 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  20. LaAngeloMysterioso - NYC

    Guiliani has the numbers but will not get the nod. Romney is too plastic and is not trusted. Huckabee, Thompson, Paul and Hunter don't have enough traction. That leaves McCain by default, regardless of his vote against Somalia, his cave in during judicial confirmations, his horrible immigration bill and lack of new direction (all the
    Republicans except Paul) that this country needs.

    October 22, 2007 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  21. Jennifer Chenault, East Lansing, Michigan

    These debates seriously make me laugh. I really don't care who is the most conservative, I want to know who has what it takes to run this country. The ONLY candidate that I can see who has what it takes is Rudy Giuliani. I don't want a right-wing conservative to be my president, I want a candidate who can work with everyone in the congress and senate (and country) to make the United States a better place.

    If you look at the other options (Clinton or Obama) are they better? Are the fundamentalists going to vote for them? I think not. So, I urge the republican candidates to talk about their records honestly, stop putting each other down all the time and stop vying for one segment of the population.

    Many would say, "well, the right-wing Christian conservatives are the ones that come out to vote" and for the most part, they'd be right. But, do you honestly believe that the right-wing is going to vote for Hillary Clinton? I think not.

    Again, Giuliani is right. Why does someone have to pass a 100% litmus test of conservative values to be the GOP candidate? I want a conservative on fiscal issues and I want government to stay out of my wallet and bedroom.
    My vote will ALWAYS go to Rudy Giuliani, the only "sane" voice that is running right now.

    October 22, 2007 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  22. Skeve, NYC,NY

    You know, I am beginning to enjoy it. I hope people who want to vote republican realize this but at the moment this whole spectacle reminds me of male apes. The jump around each other hoot loudly "ME, I AM THE TRUE AND ONLY CONSERVATIVE!", "No, No, YOU SUCK, I AM More conservative then YOU"... kids on the playground...

    October 22, 2007 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  23. Diane, Sheffield, MA

    They seem to have learned nothing from the huge mistakes of pandering to the Christian right in the last election. They elected a "pro-lifer" that condoned torture and killed more people than anyone thought possible. I'm sure there were even a few fetus' killed in Iraq. The Christian voters have to take responsibility for the deaths they've caused, and smarten up this time around.

    October 22, 2007 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  24. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    Greg from NY

    No one cares that you went to an Ivy League Law School. Who are you trying to impress?
    Why dont you focus on the message that is being presented? If you want to be a critic, go someplace else to do it. People here are presenting their opinions, and whether we agree with them or not, it is the proper forum.

    October 22, 2007 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  25. Karen,nj

    Anyone that believes anything that Fox news says is a Republican. I can't stand that channel. Hannity is an obnoxious little twirp. Alot of other people think that too. Someone told me that O'Rielly has to have body guards because everyone hates him.

    October 22, 2007 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6