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GOP Hopefuls Tout Conservative Stances, Take Aim at Clinton in Debate

GOP candidates vying for their party's nomination met Sunday for a debate in Florida, where they promoted their conservative credentials and took aim at the record of Democratic hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton. Political reporters assess the Republicans' performance.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, the latest on those Republicans who want to be president. Ray Suarez has the story.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Republican presidential candidates auditioned for Christian conservatives this weekend in Washington, looking to answer the big question of the race: Who’s the real conservative?

    The most anticipated remarks at what the Family Research Council called the Value Voters Summit were from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

  • RUDY GIULIANI (R), Former Mayor of New York:

    Isn’t it better that I tell you what I really believe instead of pretending to change all of my positions to fit the prevailing winds?

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Giuliani’s views on abortion and gay marriage are contrary to those of Christian conservatives and much of the party’s base. He told the crowd that honesty was more important than changing his views to score political points.

    Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, told the crowd he was one of them.

  • FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), Arkansas:

    I come today not as one not who comes to you, but as one who comes from you. You are my roots.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Huckabee’s strong showing carried the straw poll convincingly among those in the room to hear him and gave him second place when combined with online balloting.

    Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finished first. Evangelical leaders have publicly debated whether a Mormon could carry Christian conservative voters.

    They were followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul; former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson; and Congressmen Duncan Hunter of California; and Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Giuliani finished just ahead of Arizona Senator John McCain, who came in last.

    Sunday, the candidates met again in Orlando, Florida. Giuliani’s conservative credentials came under scrutiny again, under questioning from FOX News’ Chris Wallace.

  • CHRIS WALLACE, FOX News Anchor:

    Mayor Giuliani, Senator Thompson says that you’re soft on abortion, that you’re soft on gun control, and that you’ve never claimed to be a conservative. Who is more conservative, you or Fred Thompson?

  • RUDY GIULIANI:

    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 deficits and replaced them with surpluses.

    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.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Thompson didn’t back down.

  • FORMER SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), Tennessee:

    Mayor Giuliani believes in federal funding for abortion. He believes in sanctuary cities. He’s for gun control. He supported Mario Cuomo, a liberal Democrat, against a Republican who was running for governor, then opposed the governor’s tax cuts when he was there. So I simply disagree with him on those issues. And he sides with Hillary Clinton on each of those issues I just mentioned.

  • RUDY GIULIANI:

    You know, Fred has his problems, too. I mean, Fred was the single biggest obstacle to tort reform in the United States Senate. He stood with Democrats over and over again.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Romney was asked to defend his recent comment that he represented the Republican wing of the Republican Party.

  • FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), Massachusetts:

    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.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Romney then came under attack from McCain.

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona:

    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…

    … of a conservative, and I don’t think you can fool the American people. I think the first thing you’d need is their respect. And I intend to earn their respect, because they may not agree with me on a couple of issues, but they all know I’m telling them the truth and what I believe, and my steadfast positions one these issues for more than 20 years.

    And I know that the transcendent challenge, I have the qualifications to lead, to grapple with, and to emerge victorious.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Huckabee, meanwhile, tried to remain above the fray.

  • FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), Arkansas:

    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.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    There was one presidential candidate they all agreed on: Senator Hillary Clinton.

  • MITT ROMNEY:

    She hasn’t run a corner store. She hasn’t run a state. She hasn’t run a city. She has never run anything. And the idea that she could learn to be president, you know, as an internship just doesn’t make any sense.

  • RUDY GIULIANI:

    Quote Hillary Clinton, “I have a million ideas; America cannot afford them all.” I’m not making it up. I am not making it up.

    One more time, “I have a million ideas; America can’t afford them all.” No kidding, Hillary. American can’t afford you.

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    In case you missed it, a few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum. Now, my friends, I wasn’t there. I’m sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event.

    I was tied up at the time, but the fact is…

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    But the often-humorous Huckabee struck a serious tone when asked about a Clinton presidency.

  • MIKE HUCKABEE:

    Look, I like to be funny. Let me be real honest with you. There’s nothing funny about Hillary Clinton being president. Let me tell you why.

    If she’s president, taxes go up. Health care becomes the domain of the government. Spending goes out of control. Our military loses its morale. And I’m not sure we’ll have the courage and the will and the resolve to fight the greatest threat this country’s ever faced in Islamofascism.

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