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Liveblog: The CNN/Tea Party Express GOP Debate

We're liveblogging as Gov. Rick Perry faces off against seven other GOP presidential contenders tonight in Tampa, Fla., in a debate co-hosted by CNN and the Tea Party Express. It's Perry's second debate since he became a candidate.

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Gov. Rick Perry is facing off against seven other GOP presidential contenders tonight in Tampa, Fla., in a debate co-hosted by CNN and the Tea Party Express. It's Perry's second debate since he declared his candidacy. 

The stakes are high at tonight's forum, moderated by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney comes into tonight's debate trailing Perry by 12 percentage points in the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll. And lower-polling Tea Party favorites largely relegated to the sidelines in last week's debate — like U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul — are expected to come out swinging, an effort to maintain relevance in a narrowing field. 

We'll be liveblogging the debate here starting at 7 p.m. Stay with us for updates. 

 

Liveblog

by Emily Ramshaw
We're about 10 minutes from go-time here in Tampa. Stay tuned.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry's flanked by his competition — and likely those two who know him best: Romney on one side, Ron Paul on the other.
by Emily Ramshaw
Bachmann gets the first question — an apology for the fact that she got so little attention in the last debate?
by Jay Root
The CNN debate began on a highly contentious note, just like the MSNBC debate last week. Social Security, not surprisingly, was the first question — and Mitt Romney and Rick Perry clashed big time.

Perry started off by saying that senior citizens needed to know that the program would be in place for them "slam dunk guaranteed." He said he had the "courage" to highlight the financial problems that loom over the retirement program.

Romney said Perry's comments likening the program to a "Ponzi scheme" were "over the top" and had frightened seniors. He also pressed Perry about passages in his book, Fed Up!, questioning whether the program ever should have been created.

Perry said he wouldn't defend every program stared in the 1930s but assured that "we're not going to take that program away." The Texas governor also said Romney had compared Social Security to a "criminal" enterprise, and Romney said he had misinterpreted his book.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry's asked about prescription drug benefits for seniors — backed by Bush. Would he vote to repeal those benefits? He says no, but says the key is finding savings. He gives the example of Texas combining 10 health and human services agencies back in 2003 down to five. "We saved over $5.3 billion," he said. "Just by finding the waste and the fraud in Texas state government."

by Jay Root
Herman Cain, weighing in on whether "Ponzi scheme" is an appropriate tag for Social Security, has one of the best lines so far: "I don't care what you call it, it's broken."
by Jay Root
Perry sidesteps direct answer to question about whether he would require that any tax cuts or tax credits proposed by Obama be offset with spending reductions. He delivers this one-liner instead: "People are tired of spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t want."
by Jay Root
Romney says Perry doesn't deserve credit for all the Texas job creation: "if you're dealt four aces that doesn't necessarily make you a great poker player."
by Emily Ramshaw
Blitzer asks Romney directly: Does Perry deserve credit for Texas' job growth? Romney has one of the best lines of the night, saying "If you're dealt four aces, it doesn't mean you're a great poker player." For Romney, those aces include no state income tax, a right-to-work state, Republican Supreme Court and a Republican Legislature. Perry says to Romney, "You were doing all right until you started talking poker."
by Jay Root
Romney is re-airing his jab at Perry about the jobs created under his predecessors. Romney says job growth was 2.5 percent under Ann Richards and 3 percent under George W. Bush. Perry answered, "Texas has during my period as governor created over a million jobs and we did that during some pretty tough economic periods."
by Jay Root
Romney campaign issuing press releases attacking Perry, saying he's backing away from attacks on two key federal programs.

First one is entitled "RIck's retreat on Social Security." Second one says Perry also retreating from attack on the prescription drug program, Medicare Part D.
by Emily Ramshaw
Bachmann is asked about Perry's comments on the Federal Reserve: "That's for Gov. Perry to make that decision," she said.
Perry stands by his Bernanke and "treason" statement, saying: "If you are allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes, it would be almost treasonous."
"It is a travesty that young people in America are seeing their dollars devalued," he said.
by Jay Root
Perry press release, entitled "Setting the Record Straight on Social Security," says the Texas governor is "having an honest conversation" about the retirement program while Romney is "running from his past positions."
by Emily Ramshaw
Ron Paul asked about when a president should sign an executive order. Possible this could edge into a conversation about Perry's executive order mandating adolescent girls take the HPV vaccine.
by Jay Root
It's a good night for one-liners. On the issue of the proper amount of taxation, Huntsman said debt is the big problem, calling it a "cancer that is eating away at the core of this country." Gingrich said he was against all tax increases, quipping: "We have a problem of underspending, we don't have a problem of under-taxing."
by Emily Ramshaw
Rick Perry is asked, as expected, about the HPV vaccine and his executive order, and again, acknowledges that "if I had it to do over again I would’ve done it differently." Then Blitzer gives a freebie to Bachmann, effectively asking her what she thinking about Perry's move. "I’m a mom of three children. To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat-out wrong."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry's firing back against Bachmann — who is getting her best airtime of the night talking about how Merck made money off of the HPV vaccine, because Merck's lobbyist was the governor's former chief of staff. "At the end of the day," Perry says, "I'm always going to err on the side of life." Perry's clarifying, saying it was a $5,000 contribution. "If you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended," he said. Bachmann: "I'm offended for all the parents and little girls who didn't have a choice."
by Jay Root
Bachmann takes off the gloves, rips Perry on HPV, says he was "flat out wrong." Santorum calls it "big government run amok."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry: "I've been the most pro-life governor in the state of Texas."
by Jay Root
Perry criticizing Romney for insurance mandate in Massachusetts, saying it was the "model for Obamacare." Romney said he stands by the reform, rejecting comparison to federal health care makeover.
by Jay Root
Michele Bachmann doubling down with slam press release on Perry over HPV. Calls it "Rick Perry's Crony Capitalism: The 2007 Vaccination Executive Order Fiasco." Bachmann making big stink about Perry friend and former chief of staff Mike Toomey, who was a lobbyist for Merck, maker of HPV vaccine Gardasil. Perry says in his own press release that he was trying to prevent cancer but admits mistake: "I don't always get it right, but I darn sure listen."
by Emily Ramshaw
On to illegal immigration. Santorum starts, saying that, unlike Perry, he wants to build a border fence.
by Emily Ramshaw
On to illegal immigration. Santorum starts, saying that, unlike Perry, he wants to build a border fence.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry talks with ease on border security, where he's got his message down: "Our federal government has been an abject failure at securing our border... What you have to have is boots on the ground. 4,500 border patrol agents. 1,500 national guard troops."

by Emily Ramshaw
Perry gets some boos — the first of the night — on his decision to offer in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. Bachmann and Santorum, Tea Party favorites, beat up on him for it. Santorum, joking about a viewer's question, says Perry's decision may have been "a way to attract the Latino vote."
by Emily Ramshaw
Huntsman says Rick Perry's opposition to a border fence is effectively a "treasonous comment."

by Emily Ramshaw
Romney jumps on the bandwagon: "Of course we do not give in-state tuition to people who have come here illegally."
by Jay Root
Blitzer tells Perry: "You heard some boos there," after Perry defended support of in-state tuition to illegal immigrants
by Jay Root
They're on energy independence now. Cain saying he would start with "an EPA that's gone wild."
by Jay Root
Paul going against overseas military adventures, says: "I'm tired of all the militarism we're involved in ... you can slash the military spending." Says there is "no authority in the Constitution to be the policemen of the world."
by Jay Root
Lateral attack: Santorum pops Paul, says the Texas congressman "irresponsible" for blaming the U.S. for 9/11 attacks in a website posting. Paul, eliciting boos, says Al Qaeda is targeting U.S. because Americans on their soil.
by Jay Root
Debate on foreign affairs continues. Huntsman says it's time to get out of Afghanistan.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry asked about the war in Afghanistan, and says it's time to bring the troops home. "The entire conversation about how do we deliver our aid to those countries, and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have a target on their back? I don't think so at this point and time. The best way for us... is to make a transition to where that country's military is taking care of their people."
by Jay Root
Perry agrees troops in Afghanistan should come home "as soon and as safely as we can" but says US still needs to have a "presence" there.
by Jay Root
Candidates were asked what they would add to the White House. Paul says he would bring a "bushel basket full of common sense." Perry says he would bring "the most beautiful, most thoughtful, incredible first lady that this country has ever seen: Anita." Cain, in perhaps the best line on the campaign trial in weeks, promises to introduce a "sense of humor to the White House because America is too uptight."
by Emily Ramshaw
John King again asking Bachmann, in the post debate, about HPV. Giving her another option to blast him.
by Jay Root
Michele Bachmann continuing anti-HPV vaccine slam on Perry in post-debate interview with CNN's John King.

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