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. J Claude. Dallas TX

    Should I really try to vote this time? Maybe, maybe not. If I see a Ron Paul vs. Edwards race I will.

    October 22, 2007 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. Trey Atlanta GA

    You people are are so misinformed it is amazing. Hillary for president? That would be a replay of one of the worst presidencies in American history as far as unethical, criminal, and outrageous fabrications of the Truth.

    If you people think that Hillary gives a rat's *** about the middle class then you are sadly mistaken. If she did she would not be trying to cut the tax breaks you recieve. She would also not be trying to institute this failed socialistic healthcare program. It hasn't worked for high end healthcare anywhere on the planet and it will not work here.

    She says 110 Billion a year? Anyone that believes that is kidding themselvers. We spend 2 Billion a year in Illegal Aliens we give care to in Southern California. Her 110 Billion is a pipe-dream it could easily cost 5 times that. That is the price of our 5 year war every year for the rest of this countries exhistence. Are you ready to had that burden on to your children and grand children?

    Here are so examples of Socialized medicine in practice. Please read and think about the government programs we currently have. Social Security, FEMA, and Medication assistance to name a few. All are unwieldy, bloated, and barely functioning examples of our government programs. Please be very aware of the danger of handing our healthcare over to the government.

    Read PLEASE on the real Socialised Healthcare:


    Also I want you to read the Legacy of the previous Clinton administration and you decide for yourself is this is what you want for our country again.

    – The only president ever impeached on grounds of personal malfeasance
    – Most number of convictions and guilty pleas by friends and associates*
    – Most number of cabinet officials to come under criminal investigation
    – Most number of witnesses to flee country or refuse to testify
    – Most number of witnesses to die suddenly
    – First president sued for sexual harassment.
    – First president accused of rape.
    – First first lady to come under criminal investigation
    – Largest criminal plea agreement in an illegal campaign contribution case
    – First president to establish a legal defense fund.
    – First president to be held in contempt of court
    – Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions
    – Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions from abroad
    – First president disbarred from the US Supreme Court and a state court

    Now do you think she is good for this country?


    October 22, 2007 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. Jeff - Jacksonville, FL

    As a registered Democrat, it doesn't really matter what my opinion is of the Republican field of candidates. I'll get my chance to decide if their choice is worthy of becoming President next November.

    I do find it interesting though that every last one of them seem to think that Hillary is the shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. If she doesn't get the nomination, how are they going to run a campaign? They'll have to do some serious backpedaling to start attacking the Democratic nominee.

    But I'm sure they'll find a way. That's the only way that Republicans know how to run a campaign. Because they know if they run on the issues, they'll lose royally.

    October 22, 2007 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. Doug - Austin TX

    To J. Claude :

    I know what you mean. We need to get rid of the Electoral college so that every person's vote will actually count for something.

    October 22, 2007 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  5. Mike Mundy, Tomball, TX

    I'm liking Thompson more and more. Keep up the fight, Fred!

    October 22, 2007 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  6. Ken, Memphis, TN

    The Christian voters have to take responsibility for the deaths they've caused, and smarten up this time around.

    Posted By Diane, Sheffield, MA : October 22, 2007 8:24 am

    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?

    October 22, 2007 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  7. twaska, Tulsa, OK

    I’ve found the new drinking game for the ‘08 debates! This time, we all take a shot every time the Republicans refer to Hillary! I think it will get us even more trashed than taking a shot every time Dubyuh said “It’s hard work” in the ‘04 debates.

    October 22, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. will gainesville, fl

    Whatever happened to good public speaking? These candidates are not able to discuss their ideas effectively, and the only one who did a decent job of speaking last night was Huckabee, but sadly I disagree with him on all of the issues.

    Hillary and Barack look like geniuses compared to these apes.

    Go Hillary!

    October 22, 2007 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  9. Karen,nj

    Did you hear what Heidi said on CNN. That psycho is asking Congress for another 42 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a few hours. Does this nonsense ever end. I am so disqusted!

    October 22, 2007 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  10. Kate, Aurora CO

    Isn't it ironic the "conservative" Republicans support someone like Giuliani but then attempt to demonize Hillary Clinton? He has been married three times, one of which was to his first cousin and the second time ended because of his adultery. Not to mention his own children don't support him or even talk to him. Meanwhile Hillary forgave her husband (isn't forgiveness a Christian thing?) and raised a bright daughter who remains close to both her mother & father. Despite very public marital issues the Clintons have stuck together and remain committed to their vows. How could the conservative Christian base demonize a woman who is practicing what they are preaching? Ironic.

    October 22, 2007 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. Jerry, Fremont, MI

    A dedicated group of individuals have made a pledge to save democracy by cutting through confusing rhetoric and 30 second sound bits. Project Vote Smart simply asks for unfettered information from the presidential candidates through the Political Courage Test, which is then posted on their website, votesmart.org. All the candidates are required to do is give their positions on the issues that affect the lives of the American public. We should write not only on this blog, but on all of the presidential candidates blogs encouraging them to share their vision of America in a simple, coherent way.

    October 22, 2007 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  12. Richard, St. Paul, MN

    The GOP candidates all seem to be nothing more than a 'Barrel of Monkeys' – each one is a carbon copy with nothing different other than color. Besides, I'm rather sick of seven years of lies, corruption, fake WMD's, bad economic policies and cronyism.

    October 22, 2007 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. Karen,nj

    If you are going to "try" and write, atleast get your facts straight. Bill Clinton was never impeached and as for the rest of that nonsense you are writing, put a sock in your mouth!

    October 22, 2007 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  14. Ken, Memphis, TN

    If you are going to "try" and write, atleast get your facts straight. Bill Clinton was never impeached and as for the rest of that nonsense you are writing, put a sock in your mouth!

    Posted By Karen,nj : October 22, 2007 11:20 am

    Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives.

    October 22, 2007 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. Henry Tucker, GA

    "Ron Paul won the text in poll with 38% of the vote"


    Hmmm – was this the same Ron Paul that was practically booed off stage after he went into his rant about the Iraq War?

    Ron Paul isn't a Republican and he has ZERO chance of winning the nomination. But y'all RP disciples keep holding your breath!

    October 22, 2007 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  16. Henry Tucker, Ga

    "I’ve found the new drinking game for the ‘08 debates! This time, we all take a shot every time the Republicans refer to Hillary! "

    Posted by twaska, Tulsa, OK


    I imagine getting smashed is about the only way most folks could get into the frame of mind to cast a vote for Hillary. Why don't you try this drinking game.... Every time Hillary or one of her Democratic compadres mention "Bush" – you take a shot. You'd empty 3 tequila bottles before the first commercial break! What is especially odd about Hillary and the Dems... they must be oblivious to the US Constitution which limits candidates to TWO terms as President. George Bush isn't a candidate, Helloooooo Democrats!?

    October 22, 2007 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. Moe, NY

    The only thing worse than a Good Old Boy Republican is a "conservative" Republican. Trying to decide which one is more hypocritical and corrupt...think the conservative side is ahead.

    October 22, 2007 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  18. Stephen, Naples, Florida

    Richard, I bet you were sick of the same things in 2000 as well, only then the WMD's were real in the case of India and Pakistan.

    October 22, 2007 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  19. James, Boston, MA

    gotta laugh at the Hillary fans posting on here like she is the answer. There looks to be NO ONE that can lead this country back that will not adhere to the Constitution. Hillary won't, nor Obama, nor Edwards, nor Rudy, nor Fred, nor Mitt, nor mcCain, etc. Doesn't look good folks. Just a lot of puppets to the interests of the international banks and corporations and the CFR, Bilderbergs, etc.

    October 22, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. Santosh Mukherjee

    Senator McCain and Mayor Giuliani have the same constituency. If McCain dropped out, Giuliani would lock it up and if Giuliani dropped out, McCain would shoot into either 1st place or a close 2nd. I would rather see McCain however because even though the evangelicals don't like him, he IS pro-life and pro-gun rights and eventually Giuliani who isn't, would suffer with all of the coverage around his social positions. Social conservatives would stay home and that could tip the election to Hillary. I think McCain can get them to take a 2nd look at him and besides, there is no one else in the field of candidates in either party who's led a more admirable life.

    October 22, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. A real Republican in more than name, Kansas

    You know,I really do not care who is more conservative than the next guy. I have absolutely no intention on voting for the most self proclaimed right wing extremist in America, nor do I intend to caste may ballot for the the most homophobic, anti-abortionist, isolationist, fisical conservative.

    My vote shall go to the person that best represents my views and is willing to maintain an open mind. Proclaimig yourself pro-defense, when the only thing that you have done for the military and veterans is insure an annual pay raise is not pro-defense. Proclaiming yourself a person driven by your faith is kind of like proclaiming yourself a compassionate conservative, the lies only go so far, if you were compassionate you would not be conservative and if faith really drove your life you would not be in politics at national level. I shall not be voting for individuals preaching from the stage what they think I want to hear, I will be voting for individuals thats have a past track record that represents my beliefs and priorities, so much for my party of choice. The last Republican I voted for was George HW Bush, he was not a great President but I thought he was competant and at least honest.

    Todays canidiates share only two things, they think that the nation desires to have religion thrown in to the forefront. So to each canidate that wears his religion on his sleeve, goodbye, you have lost my vote. And to each canidate that thinks premptive military action saves lives and is good policy, goodbye you chicken hawks, never did learn a thing from history did you. The use of military action is a result of a failed political policy, advocating the use of force is admitting you are a failure.

    To those extreme anti-abortionist, I do not beleive in abortion and have no intention of ever getting one, but in the same regard, I rember before legal abortions in this nation, so mind your own bees wax, and stop trying to force your morality on everyone else.

    At one time I was considered a right wing extremist by my friends, today I am considered a moderate by some and a liberal by other, but you know what, my views have not changed, but the definitions most definetly have and todays Republican canidates are attempting to place themselves so far to the right, that I am not sure they even qualify as Republicans anymore.

    Finally, I thought the debate was to expose the views of the canidates to the public so that a canidate in the Republican party could be choosen to run for President. I sure did not hear much in the line of views other than what appears to be an over occupation with one of the democratic canidates. It sure appears that the vast majority of Republican Canidates are afraid of Clinton, they sure spent alot of time talking about her.

    October 22, 2007 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. joseph, austin, tx

    Tom, NYC,
    Hillary doesnt need a huge vocab to state her platform. Raise taxes, shell make the rich and the middle class poor by jaking up their taxes. No one who is poor will benefit from her nanny state ideals. Willing to bet more people will sit at home and wait for the gubment to take care of them, because why work when the gubment will take everything and redistribute it to all the victims. Shes got great ideas, $5000 to anyone who can get knocked up, how we gonna pay for it. she isnt anything but a socialist who panders to the victims. Why cant the poor take the proper steps to get out of poverty? Im impoverished, I make less then 30K a year, Im sitting around blaming everyone else for my misfortunes and Im working on improving my situation. Am I the only one who isnt waiting for queen hillary or king obama to take care of me?

    October 22, 2007 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  23. Jessica T., Boulder City, NV

    It appears that these right wingers are so afraid of Hillary that they are using all the scary tactics (like Bush scared the hell out of WMDs to drag us into the Iraq mess) for republican voters to unite and fight to bring Guliani or Romney into the race. They talk about Hillary raising the taxes, or Hillary turning this country into socialism, and Hillary making this country bankrupt blah, blah, blah. These chickenhawks don't have to talk about themselves, and don't have their agenda, and their leader Bush has made this country so vulnerable that once the most powerful nation on earth (militarily and financially) has become a laughing stock and the most hated country because of the Republican policies. Whatever respect this country enjoyed with record surplus during Clinton administration we have achieved, has all but gone. If we turn this country again to Republicans who are following the same path as Bush's agenda (dragged war, record deficit, corrupt administration) then same old misery for another 4 or 8 years. Or, else go for Hillary, Obama, or Edwards. Wake up america and don't get fooled by Bush's cronies.

    October 22, 2007 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  24. Susan, Fort Pierce, Florida

    These conservative jokers realy amuse me! They all are saying they are more conservative than the other candidates.What idiots! Like children in a schoolyard arguing who is "bigger" or "stronger" I wouldn't vote for any of them! It seems to me being "conservative" has been proven to be bad for the vast majority of the citizens of this country! The moore "conservative" a candidate is, the worse it gets for the poor and middle class! What a bunch of clowns!

    October 22, 2007 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. Still Amazed

    If you are going to "try" and write, atleast get your facts straight. Bill Clinton was never impeached and as for the rest of that nonsense you are writing, put a sock in your mouth!

    Posted By Karen,nj : October 22, 2007 11:20 am

    Wow, how funny. I was for sure that Billy was infact impeached. Silly me! The idiocracy of that statement is scary, and this my friends is why Hillary will win the nomination, and the Presidency. The sheep simply cannot think for themselves, because when they do, they come up with things like that. But I sleep well at night knowing that Karen will not get a day pass from the looney bin to vote.

    October 22, 2007 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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