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. Chip Celina OH

    f 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

    Actually Karen, he was impeached and then found not guilty by the Senate. Impeachment is the bringin of charges which happened in December of 1998. Would you like to super-size that sock?

    Just keepin' it real

    October 22, 2007 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  2. Bea, Hoboken, NJ

    Once again, the winner of a GOP debate is.........Hillary Clinton!!!!

    Frankly, as a woman it was a complete turn-off to see a bunch of middle aged men ganging up on the one woman running for president. I tend to take offense when I perceive men making denigrating comments at women, regardless of their political ideology. They better tread carefully with all the Hillary bashing lest they offend many women, we are the majority and we do vote.

    The candidates would serve their party and their electorate better if they concentrated on their proposals and left Hillary Clinton out of their rhetoric. Also, why do they keep calling her "Hillary" or "Mrs. Clinton"? Its' senator Clinton, boys!!

    October 22, 2007 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. caven, los angeles, ca


    half of them look like they are about to fall over and die.

    October 22, 2007 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. Karen Duncan, Columbus, OH

    Why are you afraid to include Alan Keyes?

    October 22, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Jessica T., Boulder City, NV

    To those who are trying to bring impeachment charges of Bill Clinton, get the facts straight. Bill was brought the impeachment charges by right wingers of personal vengence who want to destroy Bill and Hillary the day he assumed presidency. It was unfortunate that he had to lie to save embarassment for the family. His lie did not hurt national interest or drag this country into a disaster. But, look at your leaders who lied to this country about WMDs which cost us trillios (and counting....), 4000 military lives, 60,000 Iraqis. Also, look at the constitution laws which are trashed, government waste, and on and on. Go and step outside from your right wing shell and ask opinion to anyone about Bush and his administration. Over 90% of the people will undoubtedly will tell you that Clinton was the smartest president US ever had. You right wingers, all you talk about Clinton and Monica, but ignore the bigger mess that Bush has created. Just listen outside of Rush and watch beyond FOX, and you will see where the world is heading? You guys are like forgs trapped in 200 feet well, who know only that well, and nothing beyond that. Hypocrites!

    October 22, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. Stephen, Naples, Florida

    To "A Republican yada yada", Kansas.

    Actually the process by which states interact with other states is called diplomacy, not politics. And war has conventionally been called "diplomacy by other means" and there are a number of instances where wars have been highly successful in the pursuit of foreign policy objectives. Having said that, maybe you can provide the historical references which deal with situations where the adversary is not a nation state but an organisation or other structureand from which the candidates have not learnt. As for preemptive strikes would you ignore any risk of an attack until it became, post -facto, a one hundred per cent certainty, thereby causing significant loss of life to the people who as Commander-in-Chief you were duty bound to protect?

    October 22, 2007 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. Pete, T.S. Florida

    Funny how we argue about conservatism or liberalism, what does it really matter?

    Here is what matters:

    National Debt
    Lack of government oversight for virtually every program, housing, commerce, health, education, port and border security…………………………………………
    Our dead and wounded from to the Iraq war
    The infringement to our liberties as Americans
    The lack of care or respect for our veterans
    The established laws of our country being ignored for political gain

    The people who have run this country, republicans and democrats alike for the last 6+ years have failed our nation. Some of them criminally…………..

    It is time to hold them all accountable! It is time to get rid of the enemy from within and it is time to select the best qualified to lead our nation.

    I did not see one during that debate!

    October 22, 2007 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. Stephen, Naples, Florida

    JessicaT, thanks for explaining that Bill Clinton lied to save his family from embarrassment. There was I thinking he lied because he was sufficiently arrogant to believe he could get away with it to save his rotten hide.

    October 22, 2007 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. jay, Snellville, GA

    Pete from Florida,

    This was your list:

    National Debt
    Lack of government oversight for virtually every program, housing, commerce, health, education, port and border security…………………………………………
    Our dead and wounded from to the Iraq war
    The infringement to our liberties as Americans
    The lack of care or respect for our veterans
    The established laws of our country being ignored for political gain

    1. National Debt. Ron Paul has never voted for an UNbalanced budget. He was labeled "The Taxpayers best friend" by an independant group.

    2. Lack of Government oversight. Ron Paul wants to end the huge gov. agencies that lack this oversight.

    3. Our dead or wounded in Iraq. Ron Paul was one of the first to point out the problems with our Veteran Hospitals.

    4. Infringement to our Liberties. Ron Paul is a strict Constitutionalist. Look up the Bill he introduced OCT. 15th to restore the Constitution.

    5. Lack of respect for laws for politcal gain. Ron Paul is labeled Dr. No for voting against his party, against pork for his own area, and for fighting anything that seems to go against the intent of the Constitution.


    With three questions thrown his way, you couldn't see all that. Go back through the last 20 years and read his CONSISTANT defense of the Consitution...most of which you can find at his website.

    October 22, 2007 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  10. Rodney Dallas TX

    Why would anyone want to win the title of "Bigget Hypocrit in the US"?

    October 22, 2007 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. Joe Shepherd, Rock Island IL

    Ron Paul is the only candidate with something new and different to say but the above article makes no mention of him. Why is this?

    October 22, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  12. Henry Tucker, Ga

    "Why would anyone want to win the title of "Bigget Hypocrit in the US"?"


    Because, Rodney, the individual that wins the Republican nomination will become the next President of the United States. The democrat party has already decided Hillary will be their nominee. Karl Rove, the RNC, and political insiders know the unacceptable flaws Hillary brings (Hsu, China-town, socialist agenda, etc) and will drive Hillary's already historically high negative ratings through the roof.

    The only contest we're watching on the Republican side – who wants to be the next President?

    October 22, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  13. Chris Orange,CA

    What a bunch of losers.

    October 22, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. Dan ~ Longview, WA.

    The audience was also "fixed"...When asked "how do explain the boos you got", Ron Paul mentioned in the post debate interview that he was only given 200 tickets. He said he could have had 2,000 supporters in there if they would have given him that many tickets.


    October 22, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. A real Republican in more than name, Kansas

    To Stephen, Naples, Florida

    A definition of war that has been taught in military course for years states that ,"War is an extension of diplomacy, when diplomacy has failed". War hence is based upon political/diplomatic failure, end of statement. It is the members of our military that must must pay the price when politians fail.

    With an administration that refuses to talk with any nation it disagrees with, I would call this politcal not diplomatic.

    When the adversary is not a nation state, the action is called a crimmianl matter. On the subject of mass murder ther have been several instances in history where nations have held individuals accountable for mass murder.

    As to who as Commander in Chief he is duty bound to Protect, he is duty bound to protect just what is stated in his oath of office, "....to protect and defend the Constiitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic...."

    Through out its history the United States has gone out of its way to avoid the initation of hostile actions against an enemy, why, because once you instute first strike you lose what moral high ground you had to begin with.

    As far as preemptive strikes go, there is nothing preemptive about them,nor is there a 100 percent certainty on any military action, it becomes a question of who fires the first shot. No soldier fires the first shot, he fires the last shot. The first shot is fired by the attacker who loses standing by attacking first and status is gained by the nation that suffered the attack.

    As to learning from history had this administration been around at the time of the Cuban Missle Crisis we would not be having this debate today, we would not be here. Learn from past historical events, the entire course of recorded history going back to the middle ages, you do not make it a matter that might seem religious in nature, in other words you do not have a urban cowboy stand before the media and proclaim a "crusade against terror", you do not interact with a arab nation as you would interact with a western nation, you look back at the history of the region and examine the problems that the Britsh had during their rule and the errors they made to include in the drawing of national boundaries. You look back at the Soviet activitities within Afganistan and what errors they made as we were pumping money and guns in to the hands of our allies the Taliban. At the completion of the Vietnam era we stated that never again would be get involved in nation building, nation building by any other name is still nation building. What we are doing in our unfinshed wars is nation building.

    A General by the name of Powell created a doctrine at while serving our nation called the Powell Doctrine which outlined the criteria for placing our military forces in harms way, to paraphase, the mission must be defined and acheivable, adequate forces must be employed to acheive the military objectives that have been defined and upon the completion of these objective the forces come home. Talk about a doctrine that was not followed.

    Finally, terrorist activity is something that has been around for years. In the 70-80-90s they were targeting US military personnel overseas, of course this did not gain much uproar from the population, after all we were expendable. The problem was not confined to the mideast, but included Europe, they did not go off the deep end, the individuals invovled were terrorist, they were crimminals, we did not let them rule our lives, we were aware and we did not give they special status, they were crimminal. You will never defeat terrorist, because when you kill one another one comes forward, but you can catch and jail crimminals, crimminals are not self generating. Thank our government for giving crimminals a standing that they never had in the past.

    So have a very nice day Stephen.

    A Officer, a Repblican and Yada, Yada Yada

    October 22, 2007 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  16. Stephen, Naples, Florida

    You should have paid more attention in military school repblican. Firstly you may have learnt the English skills necessary to express yourself properly. Secondly, you may have learnt that in October 1962, the US military imposed a naval blockade on Cuba – a preemptive strike.
    I wish I could go on, but frankly your text was so disordered that it is beyond my powers of attention to sort out what it is you are trying to say.

    October 22, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. Henry Tucker, Ga

    Joe Shepherd – Rock Island

    You wrote, "Ron Paul is the only candidate with something new and different to say but the above article makes no mention of him. Why is this?


    Ron Paul was heavily booed after his little rant about the Iraq war (even his 200 minions couldn't cheer/scream loud enough). Ron Paul has no chance of being the Republican Nominee. He has as much chance as Dennis Kucinich for the Democrats.

    Most media aren't going to waste their time with fringe candidates.

    October 22, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  18. Jessica T., Boulder City, NV

    To Stephan of Florida: Can you explain....
    Yes! Bill lied but no one died.
    And yes! Bush and his team lied, but 3,800 americans and more than 60,000 Iraqis died for what? OIL, Democracy, WMDs, Saddam's ouster for 9/11, big contracts to Private contractors (RNC donors), Al Quida (never existed in Iraq before), Peace in middle east, personal revenge, permanent american bases in Iraq, or to show american people that we are tough??????? Tell me!
    To: Big republican from Kansas:
    I don't understand your point as I am not that History smart as you. But, what are you implying? All I know is Collin Powell was pressured to tell a fabricated lie in the UN about biological labs and mushroom cloud so that we could attack a sovereign nation. The congress were tricked and media was silenced. And look at the mess we are in. My point is if your republican hopefuls are still following Bush's policies, we don't need anyone from that breed to lead this country. Hillary is not perfect and brings lots of hatred from you guys, but any of the democrats including Ron Paul is the only sensible choice.

    October 22, 2007 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. Scott,Tupelo,MS

    Please support Ron Paul the only candidate who can straighten out the mess our country is in.

    October 22, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. Pete, T.S. FL

    jay, Snellville, GA

    Good points, I did not mention him because he won’t get the nomination. The top tier candidates have too much money, he unfortunately can never compete. He would make a great Secretary of State……………………………………………………

    October 22, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. Jessica T., Boulder City, NV

    To Tucker of Georgia:
    Yes, according to your theory, Hillary carries some negatives. But, all of the republican hopefuls carry much more negatives than her. The biggest negative being "Bush's failed policy". And, mind well even if you don't admit (as all other right wingers) she will have the smartest brain in the white house as her spouse who will straighten all the foreign policy mess this president has created. And, yes you guys will bring up Monica, impeachment and other irrelevant issues. Because, it requires some broad perspective to understand that.

    October 22, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. Karen,nj

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

    October 22, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  23. Ron Elkhart, IN

    Just look at that picture....I see the Dwarfs, but where is Snow White?!!

    October 22, 2007 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. RB, from the bay state

    Eight very expensive suits on that stage last night – too bad they're all empty.

    October 22, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  25. Kevin-NY NY

    I can't figure out why these guys are falling over each other to show their conservative credentials. If they were alive during the American Revolution they would have sided with the King of England and gone to Europe and Canada.
    Perhaps we should ship them all out now. They are nuts. Being conservative is not what America is all about.

    October 22, 2007 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6