NBC, National Journal and Tampa Bay Times GOP Presidential Debate

Monday’s NBC News, National Journal, and Tampa Bay Times GOPPresidential Debate featured a number of questions and answers related to poverty. The debate was held at the University of Southern California. It was moderatedby NBC News’ Brian Williams, and included questions from panelists BethReinhard of National Journal and Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

The following candidates wereall either asked about poverty or referred to it inresponses:

- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

 -Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

 -Representative Ron Paul of Texas

Click here to see the full video of the debate. Click here to read a full transcription.

Here’s a rundown of what candidates were asked, and what they said:

Newt Gingrich

NBC NEWS ANCHOR BRIAN WILLIAMS: And about your problems, yourdeparture from the speakership in the ’90s, what’s the case you make to theAmerican people and voters in Republican primary contests about how you’vechanged, Mr. Speaker?

FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA):Well, first of all, the case I make is that, when I was speaker, we had four consecutive balancedbudgets, the only time in your lifetime, Brian, that we’ve had four consecutive balanced budgets. Most people think that’s good.

We were down to 4.2 percent unemployment; 11 million new jobs were created. Most people think that’s good. We reformed welfare. And two out ofthree people went to work or went to school. People think that’s good.

I left the speakership after the 1998 election because I took responsibility for the fact that our results weren’t as good as they should be.I think that’s what a leader should do. I took responsibility, and I didn’twant to stay around, as Nancy Pelosi has. I wanted to get out and do otherthings. I founded four small businesses. And I’m very comfortable that my fouryears as speaker, working with a Democratic president, achieved the kind of conservative values that most Republicans want to have in a president.

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NATIONAL JOURNAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT BETH REINHARD: Speaker Gingrich, I have another question for you on another topic. You’ve talked about the millions of jobs created by the Reagan tax cuts. If tax cuts create jobs,why didn’t the Bush tax cuts work?

GINGRICH: Well, the Bush tax cuts, I think in a period of great difficulty, with the attack of 9/11, actually stopped us fromgoing into a much deeper slump. I think we would have been in much, much worse shape, and I think most economists agree, that in 2002 and ’03 and ’04 we’dhave been in much worse shape without the Bush tax cuts.

But — but you have to also look at theregulatory burden. The reason I called for repealing Dodd-Frank and for repealing Obamacare and for repealing Sarbanes-Oxley is you now have these huge layers of paperwork and government intervention and bureaucratic micromanagement that are crippling the American system and are making it much harder for us to create the kind of jobs we’d want.

In North Dakota today, we have a boom in oil development, unemployment is down to 3.2 percent. They have had seven straight tax cuts at the state level because the oil was on private land.

If that oil had been on public land, the environmentalists and Barack Obama would have stopped its development, and North Dakota would be mired in 8 percent or 9 percent unemployment. So, get the regulations out of the way, get the tax incentives right, and you can get back to creating an amazing number of jobs very fast


Mitt Romney

WILLIAMS: [Since we’ve been nibbling around the edges of the foreclosure crisis, since, what, 40 percent of homeowners in this state are underwater, 53 percent of the homes in Tampa, Florida, are worth less todaythan before this crisis. Was it too easy? Did vehicles of the U.S. government make it too easy to own a home in America?]

Gentlemen, 30 seconds, please, on this, starting with Governor Romney.

To help these homeowners or not?

FORMER GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R-MA): To help them? Of course we help them.

Pam Mati (ph) here in Florida is cracking down on people who are committing fraud, number one. Number two, you have to get government out of the mess. Government has created the mess.

Number three, you’re going to have to help people see if they can’t get more flexibility from their banks. Right now, with Dodd- Frank, we made it harder for banks to renegotiate mortgages to help people get out.

And finally, you’ve got to get the economy going again with people having jobs. With Florida with 9.9 percent unemployment, and with 18 percent real unemployment in this state, and under employment, you’re not going to get housing recovered unless you get jobs created again.

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THE TAMPA BAY TIMES POLITICAL EDITOR ADAM SMITH: Governor Romney, you’re going some campaign support from sugar growers. It’s avery influential group in this state. What’s your view on the sugar subsidies?

ROMNEY: Yeah, my view is, we ought to get rid of subsidies and let markets work properly. But let’s step back for a second, talk about what’s really going on in Florida right now. And you know, you both know what’s going on here.

I spent time this morning with — with eightdifferent individuals, listening to them talk about their circumstances. There are a lot of people in Florida that are hurting. You got a lot of homes underwater. This president came into office saying he’d turn this economy around, and everything he has done has made it harder for the people ofFlorida.

We have 25 million Americans out of work. Wehave, in Florida, 9.9 percent unemployed. We have 18 percent of our people inthis state that are underemployed. Home values, 40 percent are underwater.

This president has failed miserably the people of Florida. His plans for NASA, he has no plans for NASA. The space coast is —is struggling. This president has failed the people of Florida. We have to havea president who understands how to get an economy going again. He does not. Heplays 90 rounds of golf when you have 25 million people out of work. He says gasoline prices doubled during his presidency. He says don’t build a Keystone pipeline.

We have $15 trillion of debt. We’re headed to a— to a Greece- type collapse, and he adds another trillion on top for Obamacareand for his stimulus plan that didn’t create private-sector jobs. Thispresident has failed. And this economy needs a president who understands thiseconomy.

* * *


WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, again tonight, so called Romneycare and so-called Obamacare have been positioned very closelyside by side by your opponent, the senator. And again, you have been called insufficiently conservative.

ROMNEY: You know, I have a record. You can lookat my record. I just described what I had accomplished in Massachusetts. It’s a conservative record.

Also, the fun of running against Ted Kennedy.What a great thrill that was. I didn’t beat him, but he had to take a mortgage out on his house to make sure that he could defeat me. I believe that thepolicies he put in place had hurt America and helped create a permanent underclass in this country.

My health care plan, by the way, is one that under our Constitution we’re allowed to have. The people in our state chose aplan which I think is working for our state.

At the time we crafted it, I was asked time and again, “Is this something that you would have the federal government do?” Isaid absolutely not.

I do not support a federal mandate. I do not support a federal one-size-fits-all plan. I believe in the Constitution. That’s why the attorney general here is saying absolutely not.

You can’t impose Obamacare on the states. What I will do if I’m president, I will repeal Obamacare and return to the states the authority and the rights the states have to craft their own programs to care for their own poor.

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WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, you talk about restoring America’s greatness. Given that, in your view when was America last great?

ROMNEY: America still is great, but we have alot of people suffering. We have people that are underemployed that shouldn’tbe, unemployed that shouldn’t be. Home values continue to go down. We have the median income in this country has declined 10 percent in the last four years.

We’re still a great nation, but a great nation doesn’t have so many people suffering. And I’m running in part because I have experience in how the economy works. And I want to use that experience to get people working again, to get our economy working again.

And the idea to get our economy working is not to have the government play a more intrusive role in how our economy works, but instead to do the seven things that always get an economy going: get taxes competitive, regulation as modest as possible and modernized, get ourselves energy independent, open up trade with other nations and crack down oncheaters, make sure we don’t have crony capitalism — that’s what we have goingon right now — build human capital through education, and also finally balance the budget.

People will not invest in an economy and create new jobs if they think we’re going to hit a Greece-like wall. I will do those seven things and get America working 


Ron Paul

SMITH: Congressman Paul, Florida’s Everglades provide one in three Floridians with their drinking water. It affects thousandsof jobs. Right now, there’s a — there’s a joint federal-state program to savewhat’s left of the Everglades. Would you commit to continuing that federal financing of the Everglades preservation?

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL (R-TX): Sure. I — I don’t see any reason to go after that. I would still look into the details on whether that could be a state issue or not.

But with all the wars going on, and the economy is in shambles, as it is, and the unemployment, to — to worry about dealing with that program, we could do it in a theoretical sense. But I would see no reason to, you know, complicate things. But I wouldn’t have any desire to interfere with that.

SMITH: At this point, we’ll take another break. We’ll return from Tampa with this line of questioning right after this.

* * *


WILLIAMS: Congressmen Paul, are the two men inthe middle [Gingrich and Romney] insufficiently conservative for you?

PAUL: Well, I think the problem is, is nobody has defined what being conservative means.

WILLIAMS: Go ahead.

PAUL: And I think that is our problem.

Conservative means we have a smaller government and more liberty. And yet, if you ask, what have we done? I think we have lost our way.

Our rhetoric is still pretty good, but when we get in charge, we expand the government. You talk about Dodd-Frank, but we gave Sarbanes-Oxley. We gave debts as well, you know, when we’re in charge.

So, if it means limited government, you have toask the basic question, what should the role of government be? The founders asked that question, had a revolution and wrote a Constitution. And they said the role of government ought to be to protect liberty.

It’s not to run a welfare state and not to be the policemen of the world. And so if you’re a conservative, how can you be conservative and cut food stamps, but you won’t cut spending overseas? There is not a nickel or a penny that anybody will cut on the conservative side,overseas spending. And we don’t have the money.

They are willing to start more wars. So, I say,if you’re conservative, you want small government across the board, especially in personal liberty. What’s wrong with having the government out of our personal lives? So, this is what — we have to decide what conservative means,what limited government means.

And I have a simple suggestion. We have a prettygood guide, and if we follow the Constitution, government would be very smalland we would all be devoted conservatives.