Fox News debate: Romney grilled, Perry invokes Tebow, Paul unhinged on Iran again, and more

The final GOP debate of 2011 proved to be the most hard-hitting debate of the primary season. Photo: Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, December 16, 2011 — On Thursday night, the seven Republican presidential candidates converged in Sioux City, Iowa, for the Fox News debate.

The final debate of 2011 proved to be exciting and equally telling of what is to come in 2012.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Texas governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and Texas congressman Ron Paul discussed Iran, immigration, social issues, government accountability, terrorism, and conservatism, to name a few.  

Going into Thursday night’s proceedings, Newt Gingrich held the lead over the GOP pack.

A Gallup poll from December 10-14, 2011, showed Gingrich leading his competitors at 29%. Furthermore, a recent Public Policy Polling poll showed Gingrich leading in Iowa at 22%, followed by Ron Paul at 21%, Mitt Romney at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.

Nevertheless, a new Rasmussen poll showed Romney leading in Iowa at 23%, followed by Gingrich at 20%, Ron Paul at 18%, and Rick Perry at 10%.

In recent weeks, Romney and Gingrich have sparred over who is more conservative. As a result, Bachmann and Santorum have been looking for an opportune moment to surge.

As expected, frontrunner Newt Gingrich was questioned on his positions,  ranging from abortion to his involvement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Similarly, Mitt Romney was questioned and challenged on his liberal record in Massachusetts. Ron Paul continued to deny the threat Iran poses. Santorum and Bachmann had solid performances, while Huntsman appeared flat and generic in his responses.  

Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, businessman Herman Cain and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman debate under the plane used as Air Force One for President Ronald Reagan at the Reagan Library Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Here are highlights from Thursday night’s debate:

Rick Perry invokes Tim Tebow: “I’ll talk about having, the type of part-time Congress that I think Americans are ready for. You know, there are a lot of people out there, I understand it. There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback. There are people that stood up and said well, he doesn’t have the right throwing mechanisms, or he doesn’t — you know, he is not playing the game right. And you know, he won two national championships. And that looked pretty good. We’re the national champions in job creation back in Texas. But am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.”

Bachmann counters Ron Paul on Iran: “With all due respect to Ron Paul, I think I have never heard a more dangerous answer for American security than the one that we just heard from Ron Paul…I’ll tell you the reason why, the reason why I would say that is because we know without a shadow of a doubt that Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map and they stated they will use it against the United States of America. Look no further than the Iranian constitution, which states unequivocally that their mission is to extend jihad across the world and eventually to set up for worldwide caliphate. We would be fools to ignore their purpose and their plan.”

Gingrich on the Keystone pipeline: “You know Neil, I sometimes get accused of using language that is too strong, so I’ve been standing here editing. I’m very concerned about not appearing to be zany. But I want to paint a picture for all of us. The Iranians are practicing closing the Strait of Hormuz. The Canadian prime minister has already said to the American president, ‘if you don’t want to build this pipeline to create 20,000 American jobs and bring oil to the largest refinery complex in the world, Houston. I want to put straight west in Canada to Vancouver and ship the oil direct to China. So you’ll lose the jobs, you’ll lose the through-put, you’ll lose 30-40 years of work in Houston.”

Paul on electability: “I think the important thing is the philosophy I’m talking about is the Constitution and freedom, and that brings people together. It brings independence into fold and brings Democrats over on some of these issues. So therefore, I see this philosophy as being very electable because it’s an American philosophy.

Huntsman on conservatism: “I’m not going to contort myself into a pretzel, sign pledges, or attend a Donald Trump-moderated debate … We’re getting screwed as Americans.”

Bachmann on Gingrich’s ties to Freddie and Fannie: “We know that he cashed paychecks from Freddie Mac, that’s the best evidence that you can have. Over $1.6 million … We can’t have as our nominee for the Republican party, someone who continues to stand for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. They need to be shut down, not built up.”

Bachmann on activist judges: “If we give to the courts the right to make law, then the people will have lost their representation. They need hold to their representation.  That’s why I commend Iowans, because they chose not to retain three judges who decided that marriage would be in their likeness.”

Romney on business: “Not every business succeeds. … In the real world, some things don’t make it.”

Since presidential elections are notoriously volatile, voters should keep these questions in mind: Will Gingrich slip in the polls and make way for Bachmann or Santorum? Could a plausible Paul win in Iowa make the caucuses less credible? Should Romney resonate with conservative voters?

Surprises should be expected. Let the horserace begin!

Gabriella Hoffman is a senior at UC-San Diego who balances life as a student with life as a conservative activist. She’s majoring in Political Science and minoring in History. She serves as the Executive Assistant on The Rick Amato Show, and produces the “Top Young Con of the Week” segment each Monday.

Gabriella maintains her own blog at She is a regular contributor and staff member of UC-San Diego’s conservative paper, The California Review. She also serves as the Director of College outreach for Eagle Forum of San Diego, and serves as an Assistant Editor of The College Conservative.

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You can read Gabriella’s Communities column at “Being Young, Conservative and Spicy.”

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Gabriella Hoffman

Gabriella Hoffman is a senior at UC-San Diego who also balances life as a conservative activist. She’s majoring in Political Science and minoring in History. Unlike many out there today, Gabriella attributes her parents- Lithuanian immigrants- to her conservative upbringing. Her parents have a remarkable insight into conservatism because they fled the evil empire as political refugees in 1985 and entered the U.S. legally in 1986. Since age 9, she has watched Fox News and has been exposed to liberal injustices from early on. As a result, she is quite the firecracker in defending her conservative beliefs, and doesn’t hesitate to impart the corresponding message to friends and foes alike. 

Hoffman brought David Horowitz to campus May 2010, where he successfully highlighted the dangers involved in radical Islam with efforts like “Apartheid Week” and comments made by those proponents like Jumanah Albarhi. The event made national headlines, with mentions on Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. She is one of the foremost conservative activists at UC-San Diego, having interned with Young America’s Foundation at the Reagan Ranch Center. Hoffman also blogs for San Diego Rostra, David Horowitz’s NewsReal Blog,, Student Free Press Association, is a Content Examiner for UCSD’s conservative paper-The California Review, Landmark Report, and maintains her own blog:

Contact Gabriella Hoffman


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