PELLA, Iowa — The Republican candidates broke little ground in a forum on the economy Tuesday morning here, repeating familiar attacks on President Obama and calling for reduced taxes and regulation.
The event, sponsored by the Republican-leaning National Association of Manufacturing, was not a debate: the candidates each took questions separately for 15 minutes from a moderator and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is also a Republican. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) all participated. Herman Cain, currently battling controversy that he harassed two women in the 1990s, was not present.
“This President of the United States, he’s at war against the coal industry,” said Perry.
Several of the candidates specifically noted they would repeal both the health-care legislation Obama signed last year and the “Dodd-Frank” law that reforms the financial sector. Several mentioned their plans to alter the tax code, as Gingrich and Perry have both called for optional flat taxes and Santorum would eliminate corporate taxes for manufacturing companies that employ workers in the United States.
(Many of these ideas, as currently described by the candidates, would balloon the federal budget deficit.)
Perry and Bachmann said they would eliminate the national wind- energy production tax credit, even as Branstad mentioned he favors it, as Iowa’s wind power industry is rapidly growing. But Gingrich said he would support it.
“What I want to do is simplify the (tax) code in every way,” said Bachmann. Perry similar condemned the idea of having the federal government picking “winners and losers” in energy.
Paul called for the resignation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, arguing his policies have hurt the American economy.
The forum, held at the headquarters of a company called Vermeer that makes farm equipment, is likely to have little impact on the race, in part because of who did not attend. Neither Cain nor former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney , the two leading candidates in polls in Iowa, were at the event. Both men have made few appearances in the Hawkeye State over the last few months, even as the Jan.3 caucuses near.