Republican Presidential Hopefuls Debate National Security

Posted November 22nd, 2011 at 10:20 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls debated how to deal with terrorism, Afghanistan, and Iran's nuclear program in their latest televised debate.

The opening question Tuesday evening went to former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who for this first time this week took the lead in national opinion polls in the race for the Republican nomination.

Gingrich said “all of us are in danger” and the government must use every tool available to stop terrorists who could one day have a nuclear weapon.

Of the other candidates, only Congressman Ron Paul disagreed. Paul, well-known for his strong stance limiting government powers, said terrorism is a crime, and should be dealt with like all other crimes.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Utah governor and China ambassador John Huntsman later clashed over Afghanistan. Romney repeated his argument that the president needs to listen to his commanders “on the ground” and be wary of withdrawing troops too soon. Huntsman disagreed, saying the president is the “commander in chief” and must make his decision based on a variety of inputs. He supports a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

On Iran, businessman Herman Cain said he would support Israel if it had a workable plan to conduct a military strike on Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann criticized President Barack Obama for, in her view, trying to engage and negotiate with Iran.

In just six weeks, voters will begin the first of the series of primaries and caucuses to choose who of these eight candidates will represent the Republican party.

Going into Tuesday's debate, Gingrich held the lead in at least three national opinion polls , with former governor Romney not far behind. Cain is trailing in third after losing support amid sexual harassment allegations and public speaking blunders.

The Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday shows likely Republican voters believe Romney has the best chance to defeat Mr. Obama.

Romney is already making his case against President Obama with his first television ad of the campaign. The ad sharply criticizes Mr. Obama's record on the economy. But the White House hit back Tuesday, with press secretary Jay Carney accusing the Romney campaign of “blatant dishonesty” for taking something the president said out of context.

Romney's commercial shows Mr. Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.” But the full statement reveals Mr. Obama was actually quoting the campaign of his rival in the 2008 election, Senator John McCain.