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Democrats Targeted In GOP Debate
The potential make-or-break aspect of the straw poll for some lesser-known candidates lent an intensity to their performances in the debate. Several made bold statements aimed at standing out among the crowd.
Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) defended his recent comments that he would deter terrorist attacks by threatening to bomb Mecca and Medina, two important holy cities in Islam.
"The State Department called that 'reprehensible' and 'absolutely crazy,' " Stephanopoulos said.
"Yes," Tancredo answered. "The State Department -- boy, when they start complaining about things I say, I feel a lot better about the things I say, I'll tell you right now."
Huckabee declared his intention to scrap the federal income tax in favor of a single, 23 percent sales tax, calling such a move "the single great thing" that will do the most to help the nation's economy.
Asked to respond, Romney quipped that "it's good, but it's not that good."
Tommy G. Thompson, former Wisconsin governor and secretary of health and human services in Bush's first term, stressed health care, saying the country has become a "sickness, illness and disease society."
Later, he noted that his mother, wife and daughter have been afflicted with breast cancer and vowed to "end breast cancer by the year 2015 for all the women in America."
A viewer-generated question about the biggest mistake the candidates had made in their lives led McCain to admit regret that he met with a federal regulator in connection with a savings and loan, a decision that led to his involvement in the "Keating Five." Romney cited his statements as a candidate for governor of Massachusetts that he supported abortion rights while he was actually "deeply opposed."
"That was just wrong," Romney said.
But it was Giuliani's response to that question that drew the biggest laugh of the morning.
"To have a description of my mistakes in 30 seconds?" he asked, and shook his head, smiling.
"Defining mistake, Mayor. Just one defining mistake," Stephanopoulos said.
"Your father is a priest," Giuliani said. "I'm going to explain it to your father, not to you, okay?"
"Okay," said Stephanopoulos, whose father is indeed a Greek Orthodox clergyman. "I guess that's a pass."