Fox News Debate (New Hampshire) – blogging

First question to Romney about his attacks on taxes to McCain and Huckabee. Wallace asked about Romney raising fees in his first year as gov by over half-billion dollars.

MR: I raised fees that hadn’t been raised in decades, but let’s talk about lowering taxes and how important that is as Reagan taught us.

JM: Ronald Reagan insisted that we not just cut taxes, but that we also cut spending. I was for those proposals. We must cut spending … it is out of control and we have betrayed the principles of the republican party.

MR: That does not answer my concerns. Pres. Bush took a bold move and said he was going to cut taxes and that turned our economy around. This is not something I just talk about, I’ve done it. I cut taxes 19 times.

MH: The semantics about taxes and fees is the same thing to the person paying it. I signed the first broad-base tax cut in our state in over 100 years. I cut taxes 94 times. We took a deficit and turned it into $800 million surplus.

(MR is accusing Mike of making up facts … that’s interesting coming from MR)

Go Mike Go.

Chris Wallace interrupts the MH/MR exchange to ask RG a question about taxes.

RG reviewing his tax record in NYC.

(quick note here … Huckabee is right in the middle tonight. It is Giuliani, Thompson, Huckabee, Romney, McCain.)

Question to FT about social security.

FT: let me talk about my plan to save SS because i’m the only one at the table with a plan. currently SS is indexed to wages, it needs to be indexed to inflation. this would save $4.7 trillion.

(quick note … considering poll numbers, RP – who has been excluded from this debate – has more right to be there than FT)

CW: change is the watchword of this campaign. MH – you are pushing populism on the trail.

MH: there is an issue in this country that a lot of people don’t think the people in washington have a clue how they are doing financially. we don’t need a system that tries to make rich people poor, but we do need a system that helps build all people up and growing stronger financially. if that’s populism, than i’m guilty. we have got to empower people.

MR: it’s offensive when he attacks the people who make jobs in this country … when he attacks corporations. i know what it’s like to make tough decisions and to lay people off. we need a president to shrink the federal govt.

MH: i’m not going after corporations … i’m the only personal saying to get rid of the corporate tax. when we have a tax system that penalizes productivity we’re in trouble. the corporate leaders who dissolve companies, they take their money and shelter it off-shore at the cayman islands, while the workers who lost their jobs end up in trouble. the system that protects the wealthy and penalizes the working class is wrong.

FT: i like some aspects of the fairtax … i especially like that it is a plan for reform. i think that a flat tax might be a better idea, but at least MH is putting a plan for real reform on the table.

CW: JM, MR says you have been in washington too long and that he is the outsider to change washington.

JM: i have been the agent of change in washington … such as when i fought against rumsfield’s strategy in iraq, and i brought about change to that policy. also line item veto, getting rid of pork (and other plans listed by JM)

MR: washington is fundamentally broken. my years in the private sector is what will shake up washington … not anyone who has been there. sending the same people to washington just in different chairs is not going to bring change.

(quick note – this should not be considered a complete transcript in any way … i’m trying to keep up).

RG: Change is relative … there is good change and bad change. The dems want to raise taxes … if you call that good change, then fine. But the word “change” without definition is nothing more than a campaign slogan.

Commercial break.

CW: You (MR) said that we need a leader that has run businesses, but in this time of terror, don’t we need someone who has lived these things (referring to JM)?

MR: What the people are looking for is a president who has judgement and wisdom, the ability to make tough decisions under fire … this country needs a leader, not an expert in any particular area, but an overall leader.

JM: we haven’t always gotten the best results from those “governor” presidents … depending on which one. we need a leader that understands the complexities of the issues and challenges and dangers that face our country today … i am that person.

CW: MH, you have made some blunders recently. are you really ready to lead this country?

MH: I have visited countries around the world as governor of arkansas and worked out trade deals. My convictions and leadership are solid … we must have the strongest military on earth that would make no one else want to engage us. We must not have politicians who would interfere with the battlefield commanders and second-guess their judgment.

CW: to RG, JM says that you have done a great job leading NYC after 9/11, but that you have never visited Iraq or dealt with foreign policy.

RG: talks about his record prior to 9/11 and his time as a US attorney general and dealing with foreign govts.

FT: my friend mitt thinks that expertise is important in all areas except national security. this is a very different time we are in now. the president must understand these unique threats that face our nation. i disagree with my friend mike – not for missteps which anyone can make – but regarding his desire to close guantanamo.

CW: new topic – immigration.

JM: first, i do not support amnesty for all. 2 million have to be rounded up immediately for crimes in this country and sent home. the others would have to come forward, pay fines, learn english, etc before any chance at citizenship. the very first thing we have to do is close the border, then we have to deal with those who are here with humanity and compassion … we must be rational.

MR: we are a nation of compassion, but we are also a nation that believes in the rule of law. it’s not fair to say to those here illegally that they can stay if they pay a fine and learn english when there are millions of people waiting to immigrate here legally with skills to benefit our workforce, who already speak english … they should be moved to the front of the line.

JM: in 2005, MR looked at my plan and said “it is a reasonable plan and is not amnesty”. the most pressing issue is to close the borders.

CW to MH about children of illegals, and your new plan seems to punish the child

MH: the plan I have put forth is tough. if the families go back, they will take their children with them. the big issue is closing the border and then sitting down together and being reasonable in finding a solution. as governor of arkansas, i had to educate the children – as did RG in NYC – we couldn’t throw them out on the streets … those kids were here, they had been in our schools for years, and with no plan on the table to fix the big problem of illegal immigration, there was no point in punishing those children and denying them further education. but now, we must fix the big problem and seal that border.

RG talks about his plan.

(quick note – the candidates are all sitting at the same table tonight and closer to each other … i’m not sure if that is the difference, but something is making tonight’s debate seem more substantive and better moderated than last night’s. or maybe all of them just had a little more sleep)

Commercial break.

CW: Now, let’s talk about the way this campaign is being waged. Now is showing some of MR’s negative ads about MH and JM. to JM, is MR lying about your record.

JM: look, negative ads don’t work and we are running a positive campaign and focusing on why I am qualified to be president. it’s up to the people to decide.

MH: there are things in MR’s ads that are misleading, but i have made the decision not to counter attack with negativity and the people of iowa rewarded that. it was tempting to go negative, but if we can change the tone of the discourse in this country to be more civil would be most productive.

MR: my message has been overwhelmingly positive. we have checked our facts in the negative ads and people need to know the truth. (actually, several things MR has said in his ads have been shown by other sources to be untrue and/or misleading).

MH: the NY Times has taken MR’s ads apart and said what is not true in those ads and what is twisted. the people of AR kept re-electing me (amazing in a democratic state), and when i left office, it was some of the highest approval ratings of any elected official in our state.

CW to RG: you have been hurt by questions of ethics as mayor of nyc. do you have too much baggage to be president?

RG: both of those charges have been answered and addressed in the NY Times. I made a bad appt with kerrick, but i appointed thousands that were good appts. america is not looking for a perfect person, but for a good leader that can renew the spirit of america. if anyone on this stage has not made a mistake, then they haven’t done anything.

CW: JM, you will be 72 years old, on election day in november making you the oldest man to take office if you win. would you pledge to only run for one term?

JM: i’m not going to pledge to be a lame duck right off the start.

5 minutes left.

CW: why are you the best person to be president and beat the democratic nominee?

RG: because I have the strongest record in getting things done in difficult situations in NYC and we got things done. the city was hopeless when i took office and we left it a city of hope and strength. i’m good at tackling the big problems. i’ve been tested and i’m ready.

FT: politically, i’m the only one here that has never lost an election … i haven’t run that many, but i won twice. i fought for 8 years for tax cuts and strong national security and for judges to follow the law and not make it up as they go along. i’m interested in the kind of world my children and grandchildren are going to inherit.

MH: i’ve lived a life that is like most americans. AL said “God loves the common people – why else would He have made so many of them”. I was reelected repeatedly in AR and i solved problems … americans want a leader that’s going to make things better and get things done.

MR: I got into this race because my family wanted me to. i have the leadership to strengthen us against terror, energy problems, the economy, etc and make sure the america we live our children is greater than we received from the greatest generation.

JM: i bring the leadership necessary to face the terror challenges. my ambition is to make this country safe and secure for the future.

And it’s over …