Perry Challenges Romney; Paul Stands by Policies

The 16th debate of the Republican presidential primary season ended Monday with front-runner Mitt Romney bruised but not beaten.

The 16th debate of the Republican presidential primary season ended Monday with front-runner Mitt Romney bruised but not beaten. Gov. Rick Perry delivered one of his stronger performances, while Congressman Ron Paul remained blunt and unwavering on his anti-war, noninterventionist foreign policies.

During a two-hour debate before a highly enthused and vocal audience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the moderators from Fox News and The Wall Street Journal mentioned the notable absence of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the race earlier in the day. That left the four underdogs scrambling for more airtime. They spent the first quarter of the debate criticizing Romney’s business record as the former head of Bain Capital, disputing his job-creation claims.

Perry topped his accusation that Romney is a “vulture capitalist” by challenging the multimillionaire businessman and former Massachusetts governor to release his tax records.

“Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money. I think that's a fair thing," Perry said. “We cannot fire our nominee in September. We need to know now."

Romney indicated he might do so by April, but he didn’t commit to revealing his returns any sooner.

Though the Texas governor appeared stronger and more confident in this latest matchup, the post-debate pundits said it may be “too little, too late.” Perry has failed to break into the top tier ahead of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, according to numerous polls.

Perry's South Carolina campaign chairman, Katon Dawson, said Perry “had a tremendous showing. They couldn't question his credentials tonight. They questioned Governor Romney's ... when you came down to the issues of gun ownership, social issues, economic ability and viability, Governor Perry made an A on all of the above. I think he connected well tonight with South Carolina voters."

A spirited exchange took place over Paul’s views that spending on overseas bases and “nation building” needs to end. The congressman, who polls show is in a fight for third place in South Carolina, drew both jeers and cheers for his previous claims that Americans trampled on Pakistan’s sovereignty when President Obama authorized the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Paul said he voted to allow the president to go after bin Laden, but he felt the U.S. had taken too long and gone too far by occupying countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If another country does to us what we do to others — we're not going to like it very much,” he said, before bringing up President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warnings about the military industrial complex. “We don't get strength by diluting ourselves in 900 bases in 130 countries. … I've never understood this. We're supposed to be conservative. Spend less money!"

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Romney called Paul’s foreign policy irrational and promised they would take enemies out before they could strike on U.S. soil.

Immediately after the testy back and forth, Paul's campaign sent out an email with the subject line, "Ron Paul's Plan DOES NOT Freeze Pentagon Budget." Instead, they argued, his plan would "end foreign wars, bring troops home, end foreign aid and welfare, and cap growth at 1 percent annually."

Perry drew strong applause from the audience for his lines about turning Congress into a part-time body. He also went after Obama for his “ongoing war against organized religion” and criticized the administration’s characterization of the video showing Marines urinating on Taliban corpses as “utterly despicable.” He also suggested zeroing out foreign aid to Turkey because it is perceived to be “ruled by Islamic terrorists.”

Some might consider Perry’s assessment to be brash and inaccurate, because Turkey is an important U.S. ally in that part of the world.

By the end of the event, which Fox News televised, Romney blasted the political action committees that have been spending big bucks on negative ads.

At the same time, Paul’s campaign released an email that links to its latest attack ad against Romney, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Gingrich. During the debate, the Texas congressman said negative spots based on voting records are “fair game.”

In a statement released with the online-only spot, the Paul campaign says it was going after the "serial hypocrisy, counterfeit conservatism, and flip-flopping of Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney, respectively." 

After the broadcast, Fox News correspondent John Roberts tracked some of the debate trends on Twitter. According to the initial social media reports, Romney spent the majority of the night in a “red” zone, meaning many people used the hashtag #dodge to describe his answers.

Meanwhile, Paul fared consistently in the “green” zone, meaning the audience felt he answered the moderators’ questions. Perry also tracked "above the line" in the “green” zone.

Read Root and Tan's liveblog below.

Liveblog

by Thanh Tan
Good evening! Tonight, I'll be liveblogging the Fox debate with Jay Root.
by Jay Root
They are walking on stage now
by Jay Root
Much smaller group. Where are you Herman Cain? Michele Bachmann? Jon Huntsman?
by Jay Root
Can see Griffin Perry, Anita Perry and Congressman Mick Mulvaney, R-SC (high profile Perry endorser) on front row
by Jay Root
Technical issues in filing room. Reporters hear nothing being piped in for a while as statue of MLK comes onto screen
by Thanh Tan
Opening minutes of the debate dominated by back-and-forth between Romney and Gingrich over negative ads and Romney's business record.
by Jay Root
Perry gets question about "vulture capitalism" attack
by Thanh Tan
Perry asked about calling Romney a "vulture capitalist," yet he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. What would he do to curb "vulture capitalism?" Perry says TX has created a million net new jobs. Bain "picked over" companies and a lot of people lost their job. He says his record in Texas is open, as well as his income taxes. Calls on Romney to release his income taxes so people find out how he makes his money. "Here's the real issue for us as Republicans. We cannot fire our nominee in September. We need to know now." Throws down and challenges Romney to do it before week's end. Otherwise, he says Dodd-Frank needs to go down and the country is "strangled by regulations."
by Thanh Tan
Romney responds to Perry by saying he has created new jobs and he agrees with the Texas governor about "halting" all regulations under the Obama Administration.
by Jay Root
Perry says "we're all about capitalism," cites his job record in Texas. Then he pivots to Mitt Romney's refusal to release tax returns: "Mitt we need for you to release your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money. I think that's a fair thing," Perry said. "We need to know now," governor adds, and says Romney shouldn't wait until September to release them. Says it would be too late then if GOP nominated a "flawed candidate."

by Thanh Tan
Paul asked whether he agrees with Huntsman that attacks should be abandoned."They should be abandoned if you're not telling the truth," Paul said. He thinks their voting records are fair game. The issue with attacking Santorum? One minute wasn't enough to attack him for voting against right to work laws, voting for Sarbanes Oxley, supporting the Dept. of Education, etc.

Santorum says some of the votes listed by Paul show he "isn't perfect." He voted for NCLB, but he'd repeal it now. All fed involvement in education and higher education should be repealed. Also says his home state of Pennsylvania is not a right to work state. He wasn't going to vote in Congress for a law that his state didn't want.
by Thanh Tan
It's obvious Santorum and Romney are more nippy toward each other tonight.
by Jay Root
Debate shaping up to be a Romney-Gingrich-Santorum smack down so far.
by Jay Root
Perry tries to distinguish himself from the "insiders," says issue of when felons should get back right to vote is for states. "Leave the states alone," he said.
by Jay Root
Perry campaign keeps pressing Romney on tax returns via email, notes that Romney called on Ted Kennedy to release his returns in 1994 Senate race but has never disclosed his
by Jay Root
Perry says "state of Texas is under assault" and that "South Carolina is at war with this federal government and with this administration." He says the states are "going to to have substantially more rights" in a Perry administration.
by Thanh Tan
Paul asked about his desire to cut defense spending, which would "inevitably cost South Carolina jobs" and raise concerns about security. Paul responds the moderator is confused by his position. "I want to cut overseas money. I don't want to cut defense spending." He wants to bring soldiers home and "have a stronger national defense.... to say we would be weaker is absolutely wrong." He says the military is behind him and he gets "twice as much money from the active military duty" than the others. They're "sick and tired of the wars... the national building, and the policing activity."

Pressed by the moderator, Paul goes on and says,"There's a difference between military spending and defense spending." Building bases is not "defense spending... I consider that waste." There is wild applause in the audience. He said he'd cut military spending as Eisenhower warned. "We don't get strength by diluting ourselves in 900 bases in 130 countries.... I've never understood this. We're supposed to be conservative. Spend less money!"
by Jay Root
Candidates preaching to the choir on taxes, getting big applause while advocating lower rates, flat structure
by Thanh Tan
On taxes, Paul says we should have the lowest taxes. Wants to go back to 1913 and zero percent tax. "Anytime you spend money, it's a tax... Devaluation of currency and standard of living is going down."
by Jay Root
Romney says on releasing tax returns, "if that's been the tradition, then I'm not opposed to doing that." He says, "I''ll keep that open," but he doesn't promise to.
by Thanh Tan
Paul asked about blacks being jailed "at four times the rate of whites in SC" over drug-related arrests and convictions. The congressman acknowledges disparity. "I don't think we can do a whole lot about it. There's discrimination in the system, but we have to address the drug war." He calls for tighter immigration policies, but we can't look at the border issue until we deal with the drug war. It "unfairly hits the minorities. This is one thing MLK would been in agreement with me." Says MLK would also agree with his anti-war views. For the second time— Paul is not asked a follow-up or attacked by other candidates.
by Jay Root
Newt, defending jobs for young folk, says "only the elites despise earning money"
by Thanh Tan
During debate, the Paul campaign has sent out a couple clarification e-mails on Santorum and Paul's stance on defense spending. Second note claims Paul would "NOT freeze Pentagon budget." Instead, they say his plan would:

"End foreign wars

Bring troops home

End foreign aid and welfare

Cap growth at 1 percent annually"
by Thanh Tan
During foreign policy section of the debate, Paul is asked first question. Moderator says Paul has stated he was against the killing of Osama bin Laden because it showed disregard for international law. Paul says he did NOT say that and he voted for the president to have authority to go after bin Laden. Paul says he should have been caught at Tora Bora rather than the nation-building effort that ensued. Paul suggests that if we have no respect for the sovereignty of Pakistan, it will cause problems. Pakistan is getting money from the U.S.. "Respect for other nation's sovereignty... I'm just suggesting that there are processes and you can follow them, you should do it— rather than digging bigger holes for ourselves... That's what we've been doing in the Middle East. We're still in Iraq and we're not in Afghanistan even though most Americans want us to get out."

Baier points out Paul would be far to the left of Obama on his policy that opposes killing terrorists who want to attack the U.S. Paul responds by saying the president has the authority, but they hadn't gone through the process enough to capture bin Laden in a different way. Cites Saddam Hussein's capture as an example. He was eventually hung by his own people. "What's wrong with capturing people?" Paul asks, as the crowd boos.

Gingrich calls Paul's reasoning "irrational" and says enemies must be taken out.

Paul's response: "If another country does to us what we do to others- we're not going to like it very much." Says the U.S. should follow the "Golden Rule"— and is immediately jeered by the audience. "Go home," someone in the audience yells. Paul continues to say, "This country doesn't need another war. We need to quit the ones we're in. We need to save the money and bring our troops home." (Other members of the audience applaud this.)
by Jay Root
Objecting to Paul's views on foreign policy and opposition to military involvement in Middle East, Romney says Osama Bin Laden deserved the "bullet in the head he received."
by Jay Root
Perry asked if Turkey still belonged in NATO. He says some people believe Turkey is ruled by "Islamic terrorists," suggests cutting foreign aid to zero and says it may be time to consider that.
by Jay Root
Perry says Marines who urinated on Taliban corpses "need to be punished," but rejects to Obama administration's characterization of act as "utterly despicable."
by Thanh Tan
Paul says he, too, served in the Air Force from 1962-1968. He was in the Afghanistan, Pakistan region. He says the Taliban used to be U.S. allies. Their main goal is to keep foreigners off their land while al Qaeda had a different purpose. Warns people to understand their purposes and getting American military involved. "We're gonna spend a lot of money and a lot of lives for a long time to come."
by Thanh Tan
Paul: "I think we're going in the wrong direction here at home" and taking liberty away from Americans. He's opposed to "pre-emptive" wars and the Patriot Act, because Americans can be taken and denied a lawyer "indefinitely." He begs Americans not to give up on its legal system so easily.
by Jay Root
Perry says tax cuts will help housing market, touts his flat tax proposal. Also touts balanced budget amendment, part-time Congress. Nothing really about housing, but not a bad delivery of his standard stump speech lines.
by Jay Root
Says the federal government needs to be "out of the housing market."
by Thanh Tan
With a few minutes left in the debate, Paul's presidential campaign has released a new ad attacking Romney, Santorum and Gingrich. Guess he doesn't view Perry as being a threat? View it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSVi45vfA6o
by Jay Root
Perry will likely generate controversy with his line about Turkey. He was asked if Turkey should exit NATO. He says that should be considered because the country is "being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists." Turkey still considered an important ally.
by Thanh Tan
Unlike Santorum, Paul says he would not support a national gun liability bill. He says tort laws should be up to the states.
by Thanh Tan
Romney says "wouldn't it be nice" if super PACs ended and people could just give money to campaigns so that campaigns "can take responsibility for their own words."
by Jay Root
Perry asked if why he is supporting big troop build-up on U.S.-Mexico border when border crossings are at 40-year low. Perry says the reason for that is because the U.S economy is "probably at a 40-year low" and says the solution is changing the president.
by Thanh Tan
And... the 16th debate of the GOP primary season is over. Next debate in South Carolina scheduled for Thursday night.

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