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Pious baloney? Mandarin? What you missed at the GOP debates

January 09, 2012|By James Oliphant

Huntsman ignored the question and chose to re-litigate the moment from Saturday's debate when Romney attacked him for serving a Democratic president as ambassador to China. The context is important, however. Saturday night, Huntsman provided one of the strangest moments of the debate when he spoke in Mandarin to criticize Romney. (Watch video below.)

The Twitterverse went crazy with that one, and perhaps Huntsman was stung by the reaction. So he took the opportunity Sunday to turn the tables on his front-runner nemesis, and played the patriot card.

"A lot of people are tuning in this morning and I am sure they are terribly confused after watching all this political spin up here," said Huntsman. "I was criticized last night by Gov. Romney for putting my country first. I just want to remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States" -- and here, he was interrupted by applause -- "he criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China, like my two sons who are in the United States Navy. They are not asking what the affiliation of the president is. I want to be clear, I will always put my country first. I think that's important."

Romney, however, was not about to back down, or apologize. And he went for the jugular against Huntsman, hitting him for something that has undermined his standing as a Republican with sterling conservative credentials.

"I just think most likely that the person who should represent our party running against President Obama is not someone who called him a 'remarkable leader' and went to be his ambassador in China."

Huntsman drew a big round of applause when he replied: "This country is divided because of attitudes like that." -- Robin Abcarian

Santorum calls Paul dangerous and ineffective

Long before his jump in the polls, Santorum stood out for his debate battles with Ron Paul. The two were back at Sunday, with Santorum branding the Texas congressman as an ineffective legislator that would make for a dangerous commander in chief.

"He's never really passed anything of any import," Santorum charged. "And one of the reasons people like Congressman Paul is his economic plan. He's never been able to accomplish any of that. He has no track record of being able to work together. He's been out there on the margins."

He continued, "The problem with Congressman Paul is, all the things that Republicans like about him he can't accomplish and all the things they're worried about, he'll do day one.

Paul responded by saying that the fact that so few of the bills have introduced in Congress have advanced "demonstrates how out of touch the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress is with the American people."

And he defended what has been called an isolationist foreign policy.

"We can't stay in 130 countries, get involved in nation-building. We cannot have 900 bases overseas. We have to change policy," he said. -- Michael A. Memoli

Bad blood spills over between Gingrich, Romney

Tensions between Gingrich and Romney finally spilled onto the debate stage when the two mixed it up over ads slamming Gingrich aired by a pro-Romney super PAC that Gingrich has called on Romney to disavow.

Moderator Gregory ratcheted up the disagreement Sunday. He noted that a former Gingrich campaign spokesman had launched a pro-Gingrich super PAC and was preparing to launch an attack against Romney, calling him a “predator” for killing jobs when he led Bain Capital, the private equity firm that enriched him before he entered politics. 

“You would have to say that Bain at times engaged in behavior where they looted a company, leaving behind 1,700 people,” said Gingrich.

“You have agreed with the characterization that Gov. Romney is a liar,” said Gregory. “Look at him now, do you stand by that claim?”

“Sure,” replied Gingrich, not missing a beat.

However, Gingrich handed Romney an opening to repeat charges against him that were hammered home in the negative ads.

“Governor,” Gingrich told Romney, “I wish you would calmly and clearly state that it is your former staff running the PAC, it is your millionaire friends giving to the PAC, and you know some of the ads are untrue. Just say that straightforward.”

Romney, unfazed: “Of course it’s former people of mine. Of course it’s people who support me. They wouldn’t be putting money into a PAC that supports me if they weren’t people who support me,” he said.

Then, Romney seemed to contradict himself:

“And as regards to their ads,” he said, “I haven’t seen 'em.”

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