Arizona Republican Debate live blog

at 10:00 PM ET, 02/22/2012

Our campaign team live-blogged the CNN Republican debate Tuesday. Scroll for updates, fact-checked rhetoric from the candidates, tweets, video and photos.

Santorum put on defensive over earmarks, contraception at debate
The candidates in just one word
Romney defends ‘severely conservative’


10 p.m. |Closing misconceptions

All the candidates were asked to clear up a misconception about themselves for undecided voters. Only Ron Paul really answered that question. (As Romney said, “You get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answers I want.”)

Paul argued against the “misconception that I cannot win,” saying a recent poll showed him performing best against President Obama in Iowa.

Gingrich said that Americans are looking for someone with the boldest ideas, “somebody who can actually get it done.”

Romney said that he has “the passion, the commitment and the skill to turn America around.”

Santorum said Americans are “looking for someone who can do a lot with a little,” rather than winning by outspending his rivals — someone who can “be outspent and yet cut through, because you have a vision, you have principles and conviction.”

And that’s a wrap! Thanks for sticking with us. We’ll have some analysis of what it all means very soon.

Rachel Weiner


9:50 p.m. | Santorum on NCLB: “I took one for the team”

“I took one for the team leader,” Santorum said in explaining his vote for No Child Left Behind in 2001.”Politics is a team sport, folks.”

He added that he now opposes President Bush’s education reform. “I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in.”

He said he had made a mistake, and “I will not make that mistake again.”

Ron Paul responded that politicians should be loyal to the country, not to their party: “That’s the problem we have in D.C.”

Rachel Weiner


9:40 p.m. | Santorum dodges on Syria

Asked whether he would intervene in the conflict in Syria, Santorum dodged by attacking President Obama.

“Syria and Iran is an Axis,” he said, and “President Obama has a very big problem standing up to the Iranians in any form.” He noted that the U.S. Embassy in Syria stayed open until it had to be closed for security reasons.

More dubiously, he claimed that Obama had never pushed for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama has repeatedly demanded that Assad step down.

Gingrich suggested that we should “clearly have our allies overtly” working to take down the Assad regime.

Rachel Weiner


9:36 p.m. | Fact Checker Flashback: Iran

Did Iran’s Ahmadinejad actually say he wanted to wipe Israel off the map, as Newt Gingrich said? No, not really. Check out our detailed look at this oft-made claim.

Glenn Kessler


9:36 p.m. | Santorum hedges on women in combat

Asked about his concerns about women serving in combat, Santorum backed away from his comment a bit.

“There are different roles of women in combat, they are on the front line,” he said. “The concern that I expressed was about certain roles particularly in infantry... but I would defer to the recommendations of those involved,” adding that “we have civilian control of the military, the decision should not be entirely up to the generals.”

He got a boost from Gingrich who pointed out that women are already in danger overseas because “you live in a world of total warfare,” while suggesting that “you ought to ask the combat leaders what they think is an appropriate step instead of the social engineers of the Obama administration.” (A military advisory panel endorsed letting women fight in combat units.)


9:28 p.m. | Rick Perry is in the audience

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.), who dropped his presidential bid last month and endorsed Newt Gingrich, is in the debate audience tonight. Cue the sarcastic responses:


9:20 p.m. | The candidates, in just one word

A question by a commenter on CNNPolitics.com was posed to the candidates. How would you describe yourself in one word?

Paul said “Consistent.”

Santorum: “Courageous.”

Romney: “Resolute.”

Gingrich: "Cheerful.”


9:18 p.m. | Romney goes after Santorum’s Specter endorsement

Rick Santorum’s endorsement of moderate GOP Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Pennsylvania Senate race continues to haunt him.

Romney made an issue of the endorsement Wednesday, noting Specter faced a primary with the more conservative Pat Toomey at the time. Romney went so far as pointing out that President Obama’s health care bill wouldn’t have passed without Specter’s support.

“If you had said no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obamacare,” Romney said.

Santorum said he endorsed Specter because he was the best person to shepherd through Republican-appointed Supreme Court nominees, of which there were likely to be at least a couple in the ensuing years.

Specter was “able to give moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats the leeway to support those nominees,” Santorum said, calling the conservatives’ advantage on the Supreme Court the “guardian of liberty.”

“I did the right thing for our country,” Santorum said.

Specter became a Democrat in the face of a rematch with Toomey in the 2010 election, but he lost the Democratic nomination to Rep. Joe Sestak, who later was beaten by Toomey in the general election.


9:10 p.m. | Fact Checker flashback: Two Romney fouls

Mitt Romney: “That was my view, go through bankruptcy.”

We looked at the fine line he plays on the car industry bailouts. The problem is that the process he recommended likely would not have been possible in the midet of the economic crisis.

Verdict for a similar statement in November: Two Pinocchios.

In another instance tonight, Romney’s strange counting of pages to compare his health care plan to Obamacare--that his bill had 70 pages versus 2,000 for “Obamacare” — we’ve checked this tale before and gave it one Pinocchio.

— Glenn Kessler


9:05 p.m. | Paul says Santorum voted for abortion


U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) makes a point as former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum looks on during th debate, (Justin Sullivan - GETTY IMAGES)
Ron Paul went after Santorum – again – on Planned Parenthood.

“If you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control. … and you voted for abortion,” Paul said.

Santorum responded that he supported Planned Parenthood as a part of a larger bill – a response that drew some groans in the audience.

“There were things in there I didn’t like and things I did,” Santorum said, noting that as president he would oppose any bill with Planned Parenthood funding.

“This goes to the problem I’m talking about: There’s always an excuse,” Paul said.

When Santorum said again that he voted for the funding as part of a larger bill, he again drew groans


9 p.m. | Santorum defends contraception talk

Predictably, a question about birth control policy was booed, with moderator John King saying defensively, “We’re not going to spend a ton of time on this.”

Newt Gingrich, also predictably, attacked the media -- adding an allegation that the “elite media” ignored the fact that President Obama “voted in favor of legalizing infanticide” as a state senator. (In fact, here is a 2008 New York Times article on the Born Alive Infants Protection Act Obama opposed.)

Santorum, asked specifically about his comments on “the dangers of contraception” last fall, had a good response: “Just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it,” but that “everything is not going to be fine, there are bigger problems at stake in America and someone is going to go out there, I will, and talk about these things.”

Paul chimed in with a funny comparison of birth control pills to gun rights, saying just as guns don’t kill people, “The pills can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society.”

Rachel Weiner


8:57 p.m. | Fact Checker flashback: Speaker Gingrich’s balanced budget?

Newt Gingrich: “When I was Speaker we balanced the budget four consecutive years.”

Our Fact Checker has repeatedly called out Gingrich on this claim in past debates. He doesn’t hand out Pinocchios for debate statements, but this would be worthy of a few off the debate stage.


8:50 p.m. | The Fix goes on

Chris Cillizza isn’t live blogging with his Fix colleagues tonight. He’s on book leave this month, but he is still tweeting away about the big moments — and the finer points — of the debate.


8:45 p.m. | Santorum attacks Romney on bailouts; Paul backs him up


Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (L) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney debate in Arizona on Feb. 22. (Justin Sullivan - GETTY IMAGES)

Santorum said he opposes all bailouts on principle and that Romney was inconsistent by supporting the Wall Street bailout, but opposing the auto bailout.

“That would be damaging to what I believe is the best way to resolve these problems, which is let the market work,” Santorum said. “I held the same consistent position when it comes to the auto bailouts. I can say that, with regards to Gov. Romney, that was not the case.”

Romney then described his case for a “managed bankruptcy” and got some applause.

“No way would we allow the auto industry in America to totally implode and disappear,” Romney said, adding that he supported the Wall Street bailout because of the concern over the country’s overall financial system potentially collapsing.

Paul did Romney a favor by targeting Santorum earlier on his fiscal conservatism, but now he took on Romney.

After Santorum criticized Romney for supporting the Wall Street bailout but opposing the auto bailout, Paul seemed to take Santorum’s position.

“If bailouts are bad, they’re bad, and we shouldn’t be doing them,” Paul said.

Aaron Blake


8:37 p.m. | Santorum to Romney: ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’

The attacks are going two ways between Romney and Santorum, with Santorum now targeting Romney for criticizing his earmarks despite seeking them himself as governor of Massachusetts and as head of the Salt Lake City Olympics.

“Gov. Romney asked for the earmark – that’s the point here,” Santorum said.

Santorum pointed to military programs like the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and noted that opponents of earmarks, like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), used to be earmarkers just like he was.

“As president, I would oppose earmarks,” Santorum said.

“I didn’t follow all of that,” Romney said dismissively. “While I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the Bridge to Nowhere.”

Romney pledged that when he became president there would be a transparent up-or-down vote on all spending.

Santorum responded that that was how the system already worked: “So I suspect that you would have supported earmarks had you served in the Senate ... You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The audience responded with boos.

-- Aaron Blake and Rachel Weiner


8:35 p.m. | Romney defends ‘severely conservative’

Romney defended a line from his speech at CPAC earlier this month, when he called himself “severely conservative.”

“Severe, strict, I was without question a conservative when I was governor in my state,” Romney said, detailing his policies on taxes, immigration, and abortion in Massachusetts.

When campaigning for governor in 2002, Romney positioned himself as a moderate.

Rachel Weiner


8:30 p.m. | Fact Checker flashback: Ron Paul’s errant earmark statements

Ron Paul complained about spending but the Fact Checker once gave him Three Pinocchios for his claims about earmarks. He would push for them--and then vote against the bill anyway. Having his cake and eating it too.

If you hear flawed or untrue statements during the debate, tweet them using #FactCheckThis so our Fact Checker team can investigate.

Glenn Kessler


8:15 p.m. | Paul: Santorum’s “a fake”

Ron Paul, questioned about a new ad in which he labels Santorum as “fake,” stood by the commercial when pressed by moderater John King.

King asked Paul why he used that word.

“Because he’s a fake,” Paul said matter-of-factly.

Santorum responded: “Unreal.”

“I find it fascinating that when people are running for office, they’re fiscal conservatives,” Paul said in a bit of a rambling answer. “Credibility is what our problem is.”

Santorum said he had a strong, principled voting record and noted that he comes from a nominally blue state. He noted that the American Conservative Union has given him a 90 percent rating.

“That’s always a cop-out when you compare yourself to other members of Congress,” Paul retorted, pointing to Congress’s record-low approval ratings.

Aaron Blake


8:15 p.m. | Fact Checker flashback: Bowing to dictators?

Rick Santorum said that he would ensure a president will no longer have to bow to a Saudi king. Did Obama really do that? The Fact Checker found that to be a tough call, and gave Mitt Romney three Pinocchios for an earlier statement to that effect.


8:15 p.m. | Gingrich promises $2.50 gasoline in opening statement

Newt Gingrich, going straight for America’s pocketbooks at the start of the debate, said that as president, he will pave the way for $2.50 per-gallon gasoline.

Gingrich has been saying this for a couple days now. He seems to have taken a page from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who earlier in the campaign promised $2 per gallon gas.

Aaron Blake


7:55 p.m. | Santorum up with new Michigan ad

A harsh new Rick Santorum ad airing in Michigan paints Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper -- without making a sound

As of last week Santorum has only spent $480,000 in Michigan, while Romney has spent over a million


7:55 p.m. | Meanwhile, at the White House


7:35 p.m. | Cindy McCain: ‘This is Mitt’s state’

The wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was on CNN before the debate to defend Mitt Romney’s chances.

“Obviously, we are a very dynamic state, we have a lot of diverse people, but i think this is Mitt’s state,” Cindy McCain said. “We’re in a situation, our economy’s bad, the people of Arizona are looking for someone who has business experience and an understanding of what it’s going to take to pull us out of this.”

A poll this morning showed Romney with a sizable Arizona lead, but other surveys suggest Rick Santorum is nipping at his heels.

Rachel Weiner


7:15 p.m. | Arizona, Unfiltered

Our campaign team has been snapping photos along the campaign trail using the iPhone app Instagram and the hashtage #2012Unfiltered. Arizona has already provided some memorable shots , like this photo of the spat last month between Arizona governor Jan Brewer and President Obama..

Are you participating in or covering the primary in your state?We want our readers’ pictures. Here’s how you can participate in #2012Unfiltered.

— Natalie Jennings


7 p.m. | Welcome!

We’re doing things a bit differently than we normally do on The Fix. Instead of a Cover it Live chat, we’ll be giving readers longer updates on what’s happening in real time. We’ll miss all your clever comments, but we hope you like it.

 
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