Candidates Debate in Orlando
Photos/text by Renee Burrell
Supporters in hall are going to the candidates' debate. Ambassadors filled the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort to show support for the GOP and speculate on whom will be the GOP nominee .
The Republican Party of Florida's (RPOF) Presidency 4 weekend was held Saturday and Sunday at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando. Nearly five thousand people were in attendance, including Governor Charlie Crist, other elected officials, 4,000 Republican supporters designated as "ambassadors" who had applied to attend the event months in advance, and 300 credentialed media.
The weekend culminated with Sunday's live, primetime debate presented nationally on Fox News Channel, FoxNews.com, and Fox News Radio.
Eight Republican Presidential candidates took the stage. The debate was moderated by FOX News Channel's Washington Managing Editor, Brit Hume, and a panel consisting of FOX News Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron, FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace, and FOX News White House Correspondent Wendell Goler.
Aside from the candidates and FOX news, speakers were Florida Governor Charlie Crist and RPOF Chairman Jim Greer.
"Not only did the debate showcase the outstanding qualifications and leadership abilities of our major Republican candidates for President; it also put the State of Florida and the Republican Party of Florida in the national spotlight," noted Crist. "We were proud to bring the Republican Presidential candidates to Floridians and to the nation."
"The RPOF debate was a defining moment for the Republican Party of Florida and for the Republican Presidential candidates," remarked Greer. "We are less than three months away from the early primary states' elections, and tonight's debate offered the candidates the first opportunity to distinguish themselves as we head into this critical phase."
Participating in the debate were: former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AK), former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN), former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-New York City), Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), and Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO).
The debate between the Presidential hopefuls heated up immediately as front-runners Giuliani and Romney and also Thompson and McCain were forced to defend and define their conservatism. Listing some of Giuliani's past political moves that Thompson has been criticizing, Chris Wallace asked Giuliani, "Who is more conservative, you or Fred Thompson?"
Giuliani answered with, "I can't comment on Fred. I can tell you that George Will wrote a couple of years back, toward the end of my time of being mayor of New York City, that I ran the most conservative government in the United States in the last 50 or 60 years. So I would think that was a pretty good indication of the things that he was drawing on. I brought down crime more than anyone in this country -- maybe in the history of this country -- while I was mayor of New York City. I brought down taxes, $9 billion, cut them 23 times.
I balanced the budget that was perennially out of balance; removed $2.3 billion surpluses . . .deficits and replaced them with surpluses. So there were many. I drove pornography out of Times Square.
There were many, many things about my governing of New York that particularly in that environment, one of the most liberal cities in the country. I had more success than anyone ever thought I could have with a city council that was 45 Democrats and, I think it was, six Republicans, then it went down to five at one point. So I think that was a pretty darn good conservative record. I think, in every case, you can always find one exception or two to someone being absolutely conservative or absolutely this or absolutely that, but I think I had a heck of a lot of conservative results."
Wallace then repeated the question to Romney. "Who is more conservative, you or Fred Thompson?"
Romney said,"…Now, I'm proud of my record. Not just of the words, but of the record of the governor of Massachusetts. Like Mayor Giuliani I had a tough state to be running in. I was a conservative Republican in a very Democrat state. My legislature, 85 percent Democrat. We faced a $3 billion budget gap. We solved it without raising taxes, without adding debt. We solved the problem in health care in our state not by having government take it over, the way Hillary Clinton would -- with private free-enterprise approaches. My approach, I believe, is best for our nation."
For his part, Thompson said of his conservatism, " In eight years in the United States Senate, I fought for tax cuts, a balanced budget, and welfare reform, all of which we achieved, and I also fought for judges who would abide by the Constitution and the law and not make it up as they went along. All that time, I compiled a 100 percent pro-life voting record…"
Wallace changed course somewhat and asked McCain,"Who's more conservative, you or Mitt Romney?"
McCain said, ". . .The fact is, I'm running on my record as a reliable conservative of 24 years. And the indicators of that, obviously, are that I've fought wasteful spending. I have had a strong and a long relationship on national security. I've been involved in every national crisis that this nation has faced since Beirut. I understand the issues. I understand and appreciate the enormity of the challenge we face from radical Islamic extremism. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time. For 20-some years, including leading the largest squadron in the United States Navy, I led. I didn't manage for profit, I led for patriotism."
McCain accused Romney of trying to fool voters. "Governor Romney, you've been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don't want you to start fooling them about mine. I stand on my record. I stand on my record of a conservative. And I don't think you can fool the American people. I think the first thing you need is their respect."
Later in the debate things lightened up when Carl Cameron brought Huckabee into the debate. Before answering Cameron's question, Huckabee prefaced with, "Let me begin by saying, for the first time in about nine debates, I'm kind of glad I wasn't in on the first few minutes because it was all about these guys fighting each other. And I am more than content to let you let them fight all they want tonight, shed each other's blood and then I'll be ready to run for President because I'm not interested in fighting these guys. What I'm interested in is fighting for the American people, and I think they're looking for a Presidential candidate who's not so interested in a demolition derby against the other people in his own party."
Two things all of the Republican candidates participating in the debate agreed on was that Hillary Clinton will most likely be the Democrat one of them will have to beat and they are all of the opinion that she has no leadership experience.
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