GOP Presidential Hopefuls Debate Which One Can Beat Obama

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Likening himself to Ronald Reagan, Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich insisted in campaign debate Thursday night he can defeat President Barack Obama in 2012, adding it was laughable for his rivals to challenge his conservative credentials.

But challenge him they did, within seconds, when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum recalled that as House speaker Gingrich had to contend with a "conservative revolution" from the ranks of Republican lawmakers.

Gingrich, Santorum and five other White House hopefuls met on a debate stage for the last time before Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses kick off the selection of delegates to next summer's Republican National Convention.

That made the stakes high, and Gingrich and Santorum were not the only ones eager to impress the television audience with their grit and conservative beliefs.

"I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, referring to the Denver Broncos quarterback whose passing ability draws ridicule but who has led his team to a remarkable seven wins in eight weeks.

"We're getting screwed as Americans," said former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, insisting that he, in fact, was a steadier conservative than any of the others on stage.

"Anybody up here could beat Obama," said Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, whose views verge on libertarianism and who has struggled to expand his appeal.

Indeed, the big question in the opening moments of a fast-paced two-hour debate went to the heart of a dilemma that could eventually settle the race - do conservative Republican caucus and primary voters pick a candidate with their hearts, or do they look elsewhere if they judge their favored candidate might not be able to defeat the president.

Those voters begin making that choice on Jan. 3, and if experience is any guide, one or more of the presidential hopefuls on the debate stage will not make it out of the state to compete in the New Hampshire primary a week later.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who runs second to Gingrich in the polls in Iowa, said his experience in private business made him the man to confront Obama in debates in the fall of 2012. "And I'll have credibility on the economy when he doesn't," he said.

Gingrich, who seemed an also-ran in the earliest stages of the race, has emerged as a leader heading into the final stretch of the pre-primary campaign. His decades in Washington and his post-congressional career as a consultant have been the subjects of tough critiques from Romney's campaign in the past week.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican who has said he probably will not endorse a candidate before the caucuses, said Thursday that Gingrich needs to show he has discipline in the debate and in the next few weeks to convince GOP voters he has what it takes to be president.

"I don't know. I don't know," Branstad said in an Associated Press interview when asked specifically if he thought Gingrich had the discipline to be president. "I think he's a great idea person; I have a lot of respect for him. But whether he has the discipline and the focus, I don't know."

Branstad described the debate as critical for Gingrich to show poise, but he said the final days leading up to the Jan. 3 caucuses would be a bigger test.

"I think it's volatile, that you could see big numbers switch," he said. "External factors can have an impact, and how well the candidates handle them will matter."

Romney has not begun running ads assailing Gingrich. But he has characterized the former speaker as "zany" for having endorsed mining the moon and lighting highways with mirrors in space.

Romney has increasingly looked to slow Gingrich in Iowa. Romney has campaigned lightly in the state, and some influential social conservatives there have doubts about his Mormon faith and changed positions on social issues.

In a new ad in Iowa, Romney is describing the need to reduce the federal deficit as a "moral responsibility."

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  • by troy on Dec 23, 2011 at 06:17 AM
    please Please,to witn ty 7 Let me start by saying I started watching witn about 20 years ago.After switching from wnct ty 9. In 2008 I was very disappointed in what seemed to be media bias in the coverage of Dr.Ron Paul. Here we are again but this time, to say he is not as news worthy as the others in this race is unforgivable. I truly believe this comes from way over your head on the corporate ladder.Big wigs pulling their strings. Bias can not be denied.To do so only undermines 20 years of credibility once garnished to witn. I'm not mad or being ugly.I am sad,Integrity within news reporters have been diminished. Trust and respect are the most critical relationships between reporters and their audience. After 20 years it almost feels as if your news family becomes apart of my family.Even though Allot do come and go.It's hard to let family go.It is very disturbing to watch all the creditably these people have spent their entire careers trying to build diminish at no fault of their own.They are not choosing to not report Ron Paul's surge in Iowa.It's coming from the top.There is no mention of this huge ground breaking story on your website.It's sad, this movement is real.When it happens there will be no reporters left with any integrity to even document it!Our history will be lost. Nobody seems to get it in this context as I share with you. However real people see the media bias against Ron Paul.That"s all their talking about.The worst of is not even the bias. It is just it is so blatant,in your face.It is a insult. Feels like a insult. Like we are to stupid to see. It is sad in a great many ways! Thank you for your time, Sad in Winterville, Troy Hardee
  • by Petey Pirate on Dec 23, 2011 at 05:25 AM
    There is nothing to debate. You all are losers. Hillary is the only person who would win this election, & shes not running. In fact shes working for Obama. smart move by him to hire his biggest competition and help pay off her political debt. Lamest bunch of republicans ever assembled. Just the way it is.
  • by Petey Pirate on Dec 23, 2011 at 05:25 AM
    There is nothing to debate. You all are losers. Hillary is the only person who would win this election, & shes not running. In fact shes working for Obama. smart move by him to hire his biggest competition and help pay off her political debt. Lamest bunch of republicans ever assembled. Just the way it is.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 21, 2011 at 04:41 PM
    GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the Debt ceiling debate and payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.
  • by Jules Manson, Failed Tea Party Candidate, Calls For Assassination Of Obama, First Daughters Location: So the Tea Party are not racist??? on Dec 21, 2011 at 04:29 PM
    Jules Manson, a failed Tea Party candidate for local office in California, recently called for the assassination of President Obama and his daughters in a racial epithet-ridden Facebook screed. The post, originally about his opposition to the recent passage of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a measure allowing the indefinite detention of suspected foreign terrorists, referred to the president as a "monkey." Then it got much worse. "Assassinate the f----- n----- and his monkey children," Manson commented on his own post, according to a screen shot uploaded by Facebook group "Americans Against the Tea Party" and relayed by Your Black Politics blog.
  • by Occupy Drives GOP Gingrich Out Of Building on Dec 21, 2011 at 04:22 PM
    Newt Gingrich's Wednesday visit to the Iowa Capitol building appears to have been far from welcoming. The Des Moines Register reports that local Occupy Wall Street movement protesters drove the GOP presidential hopeful out of the facility. Chants ranged from "mic check" to "put people first" to "speaker Gingrich, you can run but you can't hide." This was not the first instance of Occupy protesters disrupting a Gingrich Iowa appearance. Last week, the 99 percent dropped in on Newt's University of Iowa event, charging that he has a "callous attitude toward poor people."'
  • by troy on Dec 21, 2011 at 03:18 AM
    Paul’s late surge this year may help nudge Iowa back toward political obscurity. Giving the nod to a novelty candidate like Paul would further undermine Iowa’s already shaky claim to first-in-the-nation status.Paul has many fine qualities as a candidate, which his furious supporters are quick to point out whenever the news media treats his campaign as a sideshow. In a year when voters crave authenticity, Paul exudes it. He eschewed earmarks before it was cool and, according to the Associated Press, as a practicing physician he rejected Medicaid payments, instead taking whatever a patient could afford, including a batch of fresh shrimp once in return for delivering a baby.Notice how after Bachman and Cain and Newt's rise in Iowa was well considered groundbreaking!!!!!!Now it is not or ever was that important.Let them shape the race and control your vote all they want.The Bible says at the end of time information will come as a flood!In this the Information era they can no longer hold back the deception they have portrayed for way to long!
  • by troy on Dec 21, 2011 at 12:25 AM
    hum... Paul makes the Republican establishment nervous because his coalition is his alone, said Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican and Paul supporter. "He's doing this on his own and is not getting any help from the party," Jones said. "He doesn't need them. They need him."
  • by TROY on Dec 20, 2011 at 05:13 AM
    the sad thing is this year whom you call clowns are going to win at least to the point the gop IS gonna poop there pants!!!lol WAIT I am not crying so it isn't a sad thing is it! "big grin"
    • reply
      by troy on Dec 21, 2011 at 03:03 AM in reply to TROY
      "their" pants my bad.Please forgive me for my mistake!
  • by troy on Dec 20, 2011 at 01:14 AM
    In a Public Policy Poll conducted last Sunday night, the Ron Paul 2012 campaign has taken a solid lead over Newt Gingrich in Iowa, and leads Mitt Romney 33% to 16% amongst voters under age 45.So why is there such a divergence amongst age groups between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney? The answer could lie in the efficacy of the bias by both the right and left leaning mainstream media where the elites still control the message in traditional media. Despite the righty-lefty back and forth between MSNBC and Fox News, Hardball's Chris Matthews is just as much a daily cheerleader for Mitt Romney as the talking heads on Fox. He is also just as quick to control the conversation of his guests anytime they mention Ron Paul just like his mainstream conservative counterparts. CNN has also demonstrated this campaign season that it avoids talking about Ron Paul. So, if a person gets most of their news from television where both the right and left talk about Mitt Romney and ignore Ron Paul, which candidate would that television viewer prefer? According to a Pew Research poll conducted in December 2010, there is an enormous divergence amongst age groups where American get their news: Internet Television Newpaper Radio 18-29 65% 52% 21% 15% 30-49 48% 63% 22% 19% 50-64 34% 71% 38% 15% 65 13% 79% 47% 14% Not surprising then, the popularity of Ron Paul versus Mitt Romney by age correlates directly with where the particular age group gets their news.

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