Updated: 2:52 p.m. ET
The following is a rush transcript of the NBC News/Facebook debate on Meet the Press featuring the six remaining Republican presidential candidates: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry. A final transcript will be available later.
DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, a special edition of MEET THE PRESS live from New Hampshire, the last debate before the first in the nation Republican presidential primary. Voting here is just 48 hours away. We come to the Granite State where nearly one in five voters remains undecided despite seeing these candidates face-to-face in town halls, coffee shops and even in their living rooms, a small state that will have a big impact on the race. Their motto, "Live free or die." The issues: jobs and the economy, America's role in the world, and which of these candidates is best suited to take on President Obama. This morning, a debate in partnership with Facebook, the world's number one social platform, and the New Hampshire Union Leader. The candidates, the issues and your questions.
ANNNOUNCER: This is the NBC News/Facebook Republican Candidates Debate from the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire. Here now, the moderator of MEET THE PRESS, David Gregory.
DAVID GREGORY: And good morning and welcome to this special edition of MEET THE PRESS. The final debate before New Hampshire voting begins. All six candidates are here; and before we begin, you know the drill, we quickly go through the rules. Each candidate will have one minute, 60 seconds, to make their statement, to respond to questions and, at my discretion, 30 seconds for follow-ups or rebuttals. We're on a pretty tight schedule, so I will ask the candidates to stay within their allotted time, and we'll see how that goes.
We've partnered with Facebook, so some of the questions will come from me and some, of course, will come from you. We encourage you to weigh in on the debate in real time. Our online app at mtp.msnbc.com. You can monitor the conversation there and we'll see some of your feedback during that debate over the course of this debate.
Candidates, good morning.
REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES: (In unison) Good morning.
DAVID GREGORY: I just want to say on behalf of all Americans that I thank you for being willing to debate each other every 10 hours, whether you feel you need it or not.
This is an important moment. Elections are about choices. They're about distinguishing one from the other. There is a political element to that, and of course it has to do with policy, as well. Governor Romney has won the Iowa caucuses, although narrowly. He's up in the polls here in New Hampshire, he's also up in the polls down in South Carolina.
Speaker Gingrich, why shouldn't Governor Romney be the nominee of this party? What about his record concerns you most or makes him-- disqualified to be the nominee?
NEWT GINGRICH: Look, I-- I think what Republicans have to ask is who's most likely in the long run-- to survive against the kind of billion dollar campaign the Obama team is gonna run. And I think that a bold Reagan conservative with a very strong economic plan is a lot more likely to succeed in that campaign than a relatively timid Massachusetts moderate who evenThe Wall Street Journal said had an economy plan so timid it resembled Obama.
So I think you've gotta look at, you know, Massachusetts was fourth from the bottom in job creation under Governor Romney. I-- we created 11 million jobs while I was Speaker and I worked with governor-- with President Reagan in the entire recover of the 1980s. That is they-- there's a huge difference between a Reagan conservative and somebody who comes out of the Massachusetts culture with an essentially moderate record who I think will have a very hard time in a debate with president.
DAVID GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, bottom line, you believe that Governor Romney is unelectable?
NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I don't believe he's unelectable but I think he has a much-- I-- look, against Obama's record, I think , you know, the fact is President Obama's gonna have a very hard reelection effort. But I do think the bigger the contrast, the bolder ideas, the clearer the choice, the harder it is for that billion dollar campaign to smear his way back into office.
DAVID GREGORY: Speaker, this your flier that you're--
NEWT GINGRICH: Right.
DAVID GREGORY: --circulating here in New Hampshire. It says very clearly, "Romney is not electable."
NEWT GINGRICH: I think he will have a very hard time getting reelected. Getting elected?
DAVID GREGORY: Governor?
MITT ROMNEY: David-- I'm very proud of the record that I have and I think the one thing you can't fool the people about New Hampshire about is-- the record of a governor next door. And people have watched me over my term as governor and saw that I was a solid conservative and that I brought important change to Massachusetts.
They recognized that I cut taxes 19 times. Balanced the budget every one of the four years I was in governor. Put in place a $2 billion rainy day fund by the time I'd gone. We had-- we'd seen job losses-- in the month leading up to my-- becoming-- the governor and then we began to finally create jobs. And by the way, we created more jobs-- in Massachusetts than Barack Obama's created in the entire country.
We also got our state police to enforce illegal immigration law, put in place-- English immersion in our schools. I'm very proud of the conservative record I have and I think that's why some of the leading conservatives in today's-- world who are fighting the conservative battles of today that don't have any axe to grind have gotten behind my campaign.
Governor Nikki Haley of-- of South Carolina. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Right here, the great senator of-- of New Hampshire, Ken-- Kelly Ayotte. These are conservative who looked at my record, looked at my plan to get this economy going.
I happen to believe that if we want to replace a lifetime politician like Barack Obama, who had no experience leading anything, you have to choose someone who's not been a lifelong politician, who has not spent his tire-- en-- entire career in Washington, and instead has proven time and again he could lead in the private sector twice, in the Olympics and as a governor. We've got to nominate a leader if we're gonna replace someone who is not a leader.
DAVID GREGORY: Well, Senator Santorum, had you not lost a reelection in 2006 you would have been in Washington even longer than you were. It would have been 21 years. So you've got a long Washington record. How do you address this question? Why shouldn't Governor Romney be the nominee? What is disqualifying, in your judgment?
RICK SANTORUM: Well, if his record was so great as Governor of Massachusetts why didn't he run for reelection? I mean if you didn't wanna even stand before the people of Massachusetts and run on your record. If it was that great, why didn't you-- why did you bail out? I mean the bottom-- the bottom line is-- you know, I-- I go and fight the fight.
If it was that important to the people of Massachusetts that you were gonna go and fight for them, at least you can stand up and-- and make the battle that you did a good job. I did that. I ran for reelection a couple of times and I won a couple of times in-- in a 71% Democratic district. When I ran for reelection I was redistricted and I was in a 71% Democratic district. Had a 90% conservative voting record.
It was a hard thing to do. My district was more Democrat than the state of Massachusetts that I ran in. It was the Steel Valley of Pittsburgh. And I stood up and fought for the conservative principals. I didn't do what Governor Romney did in 1994. I was running the same year he ran in 1994. I ran in a tough state of Pennsylvania against an incumbent.
Governor Romney lost by almost 20 points. Why? Because at the end of that campaign he wouldn't stand up for conservative principles, he ran for Ronald Reagan and he said he was gonna be to the left just like Kennedy on gay rights and abortion, a whole host of other issues. We want someone when the time gets tough-- and it will in this election. We want someone who's gonna stand up and fight for the conservative principles, not bail out and not run and not run to the left of Ted Kennedy.
DAVID GREGORY: Oh, you did say when you endorsed him four years ago just those words. That he would stand up for conservative principles, Senator.
RICK SANTORUM: Vis-à-vis John McCain.
DAVID GREGORY: Vis-à-vis John McCain. Governor? Your response.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, a lot of things that were inaccurate in that and I'm not gonna go through 'em one by one. But I-- but I can tell you this. I-- I think it's unusual, and-- and perhaps-- understandable, that people who spend their life in politics imagine that if you get in politics that that's all you wanna do. That if you've been elected to something, well, you get-- wanna get reelected and reelected.
I-- I went to Massachusetts to make it different. I didn't go there to begin a political career, running time and time again. I-- I made a difference. I put in place the things I wanted to do. I listed out the accomplishments we wanted to pursue in our administration. There were 100 things we wanted to do. Those things I pursued aggressively. Some we won. Some we didn't.
Run again? That would be about me. I was tryin' to help get the state in best shape as I possibly could. Left the-- the world of politics, went back into business. Now I have the opportunity, I believe, to use the experience I have-- you-- you got-- a surprised look on your face.
RICK SANTORUM: I thought--
MITT ROMNEY: Hold-- hold-- wait. It's still my--
MITT ROMNEY: --it's still my time.
RICK SANTORUM: --are you gonna-- are you gonna-- are you gonna tell people--
MITT ROMNEY: Rick.
RICK SANTORUM: --you're not gonna run for reelection--
MITT ROMNEY: Rick.
RICK SANTORUM: --for president--
MITT ROMNEY: Rick.
RICK SANTORUM: --if you win?
MITT ROMNEY: Rick. It's still my time.
RICK SANTORUM: I-- I'm just askin'.
MITT ROMNEY: Okay. Well-- (LAUGHTER)
DAVID GREGORY: Go ahead.
DAVID GREGORY: Governor Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: I had--
DAVID GREGORY: Governor Romney, take 30 seconds there.
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, what I'm gonna tell you is I-- this-- this for me, politics, is not a career. For me my career was being in business and starting a business and making it success. My-- my life's passion has been my family, my faith and my country. I believe by virtue of the experiences I've had that I'm in a good position to make a contribution to Washington.
I long for a day where instead of having people to go to Washington for 20 and 30 years who get elected and then when they lose office they stay there and make money as lobbyists or connecting to businesses, I think it stinks. I think we oughta have people go to Washington and serve Washington. And-- and go-- serve as-- as their-- the people of their-- of their nation and go home. I'd like to see term limits in Washington.
MALE VOICE: So one-- so one term.
MITT ROMNEY: And so-- no--
DAVID GREGORY: Let me inter-- speak--
MITT ROMNEY: --as the president of the United States--
MITT ROMNEY: --as the president of the United States, if I'm elected, of course I'll fight for a second term.
DAVID GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich--
MITT ROMNEY: There's a lot of work do be done.
DAVID GREGORY: Take 30 seconds here.
NEWT GINGRICH: Oh yeah. I mean I-- I realize the red light doesn't mean anything to you because you're the front runner. (LAUGHTER) But-- but can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is you ran in '94 and lost. That's why you weren't serving in the Senate with-- Rick Santorum.
The fact is you had a very bad reelection rating. You dropped out of office. You had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president. You didn't have this interlude of (UNINTEL) citizenship while you thought about what to do. You were running for president while you were governor. You were gone all over the country. You were-- you were out of state consistently.
You then promptly reentered politics. You happened to lose to McCain as you had lost to Kennedy. Now you're back running. You've been running consistently for years and years and years. So this idea that suddenly citizenship showed up in your mind, just level with the American people. You've been running for-- so at least since the 1990s. (APPLAUSE)
DAVID GREGORY: Governor, please.
MITT ROMNEY: Mr. Speaker, citizenship has always been on my mind. And-- and I happened to see my dad-- run for governor when he was 54 years old. He had good advice to me. He said, "Mitt, never get involved in politics if you have to win an election to pay a mortgage. If you find yourself in a position when you can serve, why, you oughta have a responsibility to do so if you think you can make a difference." He said, "Also don't get involved in politics if your kids are still young 'cause it may turn their head."
I never thought I'd get involved in politics. When I saw Ted Kennedy running virtually unopposed in 1994, a man who I thought by virtue of the policies of the liberal welfare state had created a permanent under-class in America, I said, "Someone's gotta run against him."
And I happened to have been wise enough (CLEARS THROAT) to realize I didn't have a ghost of a chance of beat-- beating him. This-- this guy from Mass-- a Republican from Massachusetts was not gonna beat Ted Kennedy. And I told my partners in my firm, "I'll be back in six months. Don't take my chair."
And I-- I went in and gave it a real battle and went after it. It was-- I was happy that he had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me. And I'm-- I'm-- I'm very proud of the fact that I have stood up-- as a citizen to battle where I felt it was best--
DAVID GREGORY: Well, let--
MITT ROMNEY: --for the nation. And-- and we're talking about running for president. I am in this race 'cause I care about the country. I believe my background and experience--
DAVID GREGORY: All right. Let me--
MITT ROMNEY: --will happen to but--
DAVID GREGORY: --break--
MITT ROMNEY: --an advantage (UNINTEL).
DAVID GREGORY: --let me bring Dr. Paul into this, because there is a question about who is the true conservative in the race. And Governor Romney-- said, only nine years ago, during an interview with New England Cable News, he said the following. "I think people recognize that I'm not a partisan Republican. That I'm someone who is moderate and my views are progressive." Do you believe Governor Romney now when he says that he is a man of constancy and that he'll stand up for conservative principles?
RON PAUL: You know, I think this whole discussion so far has been very superficial. And I think the question in a way that you ask is superficial in that you're talking about character, which is very important. But I think we should deal with the issues as well. And I don't see how we can do well against Obama if we have any candidate-- that-- you know, endorsed-- you know, single payer systems and TARP bailouts and don't challenge the Federal Reserve. $15 trillion of injection bailing out their friends.
I don't see how we can have anybody really compete-- with Obama who doesn't challenge this huge empire we have overseas and the overseas spending. I mean this is now nations come down. Is they extend themselves too far overseas. That's how the Soviets came down.
We-- we really have to talk about real cuts and we haven't gotten around to this yet. So if we want to change things, this is what we have to talk about. Character is important and motivation's important. Our history's important. But I really consider that in the debate format to be less significant than what we really believe in.
DAVID GREGORY: You read my mind, Dr. Paul, and we're gonna get to (APPLAUSE) some of the tough choices, not just on politics but on policy. First, Governor Perry, I do wanna ask you though, flat out, you're stakin' your campaign goin' down to South Carolina. Is Governor Romney unelectable, in your judgment?
RICK PERRY: Well, I think you have to ask the question of-- who is it that can beat Obama, who it is that can invigorate the-- the Tea Party-- who is it that can-- take the message of-- of smaller, outsider government that's truly gonna change at places. I look from here down to Rick Santorum, I see insiders. Individuals who have been the big spending Republicans in-- in Washington, D.C..
And let's be honest with ourselves. I mean the fact of the matter is that Obama has thrown gasoline on the fire, but the bonfire was burning well before Obama got there. It was policies and spending, both from Wall Street and from the insiders in Washington, D.C., that got us in this problem.
And we need a candidate that can not only draw that stark contrast between themselves and Barack Obama but also stand up and lead the Tea Party movement back-- 2010 was about the Tea Party standing up and understanding that Republicans, big spending Republicans, had caused the-- as much as of this problem as anything. And it was their power that brought together-- that brought Washington, D.C. and the House to Republican--
DAVID GREGORY: All right.
RICK PERRY: --control.
DAVID GREGORY: Well--
RICK PERRY: And that's the kind of individual that we gotta have to-- to—
DAVID GREGORY: Before I--
RICK PERRY: --lead this—
DAVID GREGORY: --get to Governor--
RICK PERRY: --election.
DAVID GREGORY: Huntsman, I'd be remiss, Governor Romney, if I did not allow you to respond to the quote that I read from you nine years ago. What would you say to conservatives so that they'll trust that you will stand up for conservative principles?
MITT ROMNEY: They've got my record as governor. That-- that's the great thing in people here in New Hampshire, is they see what I did as governor of Massachusetts. I also got-- had the occasion after my last-- failed attempt to run for president, a learning experience, to sit down and write a book. And I wrote a book and described my view for the country.
And people can describe it differing ways. But-- but my view is that-- the principles that I've learned in business and the principles as governor frankly have made me more conservative as time has gone on. I've seen a lot of government tryin' to solve problems and it didn't work. And-- and my view is the right course for America is to have someone who understands how the economy works, who will passionately get America back on track.
DAVID GREGORY: All right. We're gonna come back to the question of obstacles to the nomination, but let me get to policy, Governor Huntsman. This is, by all accounts, an age of austerity for this country. A jobs crisis. Also a spending crisis in Washington. I wonder what specifically you would do to say to Americans, "These are cuts I'm going to make in federal spending that cause pain, that will require sacrifice?"
JON HUNTSMAN: Let me say-- let me say, first of all, with respect to Governor Romney, you know, there are a lot of people who are tuning in this morning. And I'm sure they're terribly confused after watching all of this political spin up here. I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first.
And I just wanna remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States that I think-- he criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat. Like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They're not asking who-- what political affiliation the president is. I wanna be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country. I will always put my country first. And I think that's important to them.
DAVID GREGORY: All right. Well, why don't you get a response, Governor Romney, and I'll come back to you on the austerity question.
MITT ROMNEY: I-- I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama's agenda. I think the decision to go and work for President Obama is one which you took. I don't-- don't disrespect your decision to do that. I just think it's-- 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.
JON HUNTSMAN: This nation is divided, David, because of attitudes like that. The American people are tired of the partisan division. They have had enough. There is no trust left among the American people in the institutions of power and among the American people and our elected officials.
DAVID GREGORY: All right.
JON HUNTSMAN: And I say we've had enough and we have to change our direction in terms of coming together as Americans first and foremost--
DAVID GREGORY: Dr. Paul--
JON HUNTSMAN: --and finding solutions--
DAVID GREGORY: --said let's not be--
JON HUNTSMAN: --to your problems.
DAVID GREGORY: --superficial. Let's talk substance. So Governor Huntsman, name three areas where Americans will feel real pain in order to balance the budget?
JON HUNTSMAN: Well, I would have to say that I agree with the Ryan plan. I think I'm the only one standing up here who has embraced the Ryan plan. It's a very aggressive approach to taking about 6.2-- $6.2 trillion out of the budget over 10 years. And it looks at everything. And what I like about it is it says there will be no sacred cows.
JON HUNTSMAN: Medicare won't be a sacred cow. Department of Defense won't be a sacred cow. As president of the United States I'm gonna stand up and I'm gonna say, "We are where we are. 24% spending-- as a percentage of GDP. We've gotta move to 19%--
DAVID GREGORY: Three programs that will make Americans feel pain, sir?
JON HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say on-- on-- on entitlements. Across the board, I will tell the upper income category in this country that there will be means testing. There are a lot of people in this nation--
DAVID GREGORY: Social Security--
JON HUNTSMAN: --who don't need some of the benefits?
DAVID GREGORY: --and Medicare?
JON HUNTSMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And also I'm not gonna tie Department of Defense spending some percentage of GDP. I'm gonna tie it to a strategy that protects the American people. And if we think that we can't find efficiencies and cuts in the Department of Defense budget, then we are crazy.
DAVID GREGORY: Senator Santorum, same question. Three programs that would make-- would have to be cut to make Americans feel pain, to sacrifice, if we're gonna balance the budget.
RICK SANTORUM: I’ve gotta agree with go-- Governor Huntsman, the means test. And I talked about that in Hollis yesterday. We had about 1,200 people there. And I walked through and talked about how we have to make sure that-- we're not gonna burden future generations with a Social Security program that's underfunded. It's underfunded right now.
And-- we have to take those who have-- that have been successful, who are seniors, who have a tremendous amount of wealth and we oughta reduce benefits. It-- it makes no sense for folks who are struggling right now to pay their payroll tax, which is the biggest tax, it's a tax on labor, it makes us uncompetitive, and the idea that someone to the left would (UNINTEL) to raise those taxes to make labor even more uncompetitive for those working people who are trying to get a job, to subsidize high income seniors, doesn't make any sense to me.
Foods stamps is another place. We gotta block grant and send it back to the states, just like I did on welfare reform. Do the same thing with Medicare. Those three programs. We gotta-- and-- and-- and including-- housing programs, block grant them, send it back to the states, require work and put a time limit. You do those three things, we will help-- take these programs, which are now dependency programs which people are continually dependent upon, and you take them into transitional programs to help people move out of poverty.
DAVID GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, on the issue of Medicare-- when you were on Meet The Press-- earlier in the year, you had talked about what-- Paul Ryan was talking about as a step too far, which is moving seniors onto a premium support, or a voucher program, depending on how you phrase it. As you know, Senator Santorum thinks that current seniors-- should be moved off of that program into premium support or a voucher program. Do you agree with doing it that quickly and making current seniors-- bear the brunt of that?
NEWT GINGRICH: Well, the fact is that the-- Ryan Wyden bill, which was just introduced recently, actually incorporates allowing people to choose and allows them to stay in traditional Medicare with the premium support model, or go to new methods. And I think it's a substantial improvement. It allows for a transition in Medicare in a way that makes sense.
But David, you know, I-- I find it fascinating that very, very highly paid Washington commentators and Washington analysts love the idea of pain. What-- who's gonna be in pain? The duty of the president is to find a way to manage the federal government so the primary pain is on changing the bureaucracy.
On-- on theft alone we could save $100 billion a year in Medicaid and Medicare if the federal government were competent. That's a trillion dollars over 10 years and the only people in pain would be crooks. So I think a (APPLAUSE) sound approach is to actually improve the government, not punish the American people because of a failure of the political class to have any sense of cleverness.
DAVID GREGORY: Governor Perry, from Facebook. A lot of questions, as we've mentioned, have been submitted. And this from Martin Montalvo, because we do have a spending crisis, but also a lot of people hurting, he writes this, "With more Americans on government assistance than ever before, is it un-American for Americans to feel relieved when the government helps them?"
RICK PERRY: Well, let me answer the question that you asked earlier. What are the three-- areas that you would make some reductions that people would feel some pain and I would tell you (LAUGHTER) it would be those-- bureaucrats at Department of Commerce and-- and Energy and-- Education-- (LAUGHTER) that we're gonna do away with. (APPLAUSE) So that's--
DAVID GREGORY: And that's your final answer? (LAUGHTER)
RICK PERRY: You know, the fact of the matter is that-- that Americans wanna have a job. That's-- that's the issue here. And the idea that-- that there are people clamoring for government to come and to give them assistance-- is-- is just wrong headed. And-- and that's what we need to be focusing on as a people.
Is how do we create the environment in this country where the entrepreneurs know that they can risk their capital, have a chance to have a return on the investment and create the-- the jobs out there so people can have the dignity to take care of their families. That's what Americans are lookin' for. I've done that for the last 11 years in the state of Texas and have the executive governing experience that no one else up here on this stage has.
DAVID GREGORY: All right. I'm gonna leave it there. We're gonna take a quick break.
DAVID GREGORY: We wanna get right back to-- the questions here with our candidates. And-- before the break-- we were talking about Medicare. Paul Ryan, Senator Santorum had a plan where he'd like to move-- seniors off, give them a voucher or premium support and then they would-- take care of their healthcare from there. There's a lot of debate about that. And I mentioned you said seniors should be affected right now. 55-plus-- have them affected right now, which has been somewhat controversial. You wanna respond to that?
RON PAUL: Well, you know, I hear this all the time when I was-- have been campaigning around-- the state. You know, we should have the same kind of healthcare the members of Congress have. Well, that's pretty much what Paul Ryan's plan is. That the-- the members of Congress have a premium support model. So does every other federal employee.
I mean it works very well. As-- you know, the-- the federal government has a liability. They put-- put money out there. And then if you want, you-- you have-- about this thick. If you're an employee in Washington, D.C. it-- got a-- whole bunch of different plans to choose from and you have all sorts of options available to you. You want a more expensive plan, you pay more of a co-insurance. If you want a less expensive plan, you don't.
But here's the fundamental difference between Barack Obama and-- and everybody up here. It's whether you believe people can be free to make choices or whether you have to make decisions for them. And I believe seniors, just like every other American, should be free to make the choices in their healthcare plan that's best for them.
DAVID GREGORY: Governor Romney, there's a lot of (APPLAUSE) discussion-- a lot of discussion this morning on Facebook about taxes. And as we talk about taxes and spending, of course we talk about economic security and economic growth. There's been a debate in Washington and beyond, as you well known, between Warren Buffett and Grover Norquist. Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, says, "No tax increases under any circumstances."
Warren Buffett says, "Hey, the wealthier in this country can pay more and they should pay more. Indeed-- balancing the budget is a way for more economic growth down the line." Who knows more about the American economy, Grover Norquist or Warren Buffet?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, who knows more about tax policy? I'm not sure that we're gonna choose from the two of them, but I can tell you this. The right course for America is not to raise taxes on Americans. I understand that President Obama and people of his political persuasion would like to take more money from the American people. And they want to do that so they can continue to grow government.
The answer for America is not to grow government. It is to shrink dro-- government. We've been going-- over the last 20, 30, 40 years, government keeps growing at a faster rate relative to inflation. We have got to stop the extraordinary spending in this country. That's why I put-- a plan that (APPLAUSE) reduces government spending. I'd cut-- I'd cut programs, a whole series of programs. By-- by the way, the number one to cut is Obamacare. That saves $95 billion a year. (APPLAUSE)
Return-- this, as Rick indicated, return to states a whole series of programs, food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid and then set how much goes to them. And finally, with regards with entitlement, in the entitlement reform area, I do not wanna change Medicare and Social Security for current retirees. But for younger people coming up they have to recognize that in the future higher income people will receive less payments in the premium support program.
DAVID GREGORY: Governor Huntsman, who knows more about the American economy? You-- you-- interested in that question. You seemed maybe a little bit uncomfortable with a moment from earlier in this debate cycle when everybody said that they would reject even a 10 to one ratio of cuts-- to new taxes.
JON HUNTSMAN: It was-- it was a silly format. I mean it was an important question and they asked us to raise our hands. I mean for heaven's sake, we didn't get a chance to talk about it. I put a tax reform-- proposal on the table endorsed by The Wall Street Journal that goes farther than anybody else's on this stage. It calls for what absolutely needs to be done and everybody knows about it.
We are so chuck full of loop holes and deductions it weighs down our tax code to tune of $1 trillion, 100 billion. You can't compete that way. It gives rise to lobbying on Capitol Hill that needs to clean up. We've gotta phase out loopholes and deductions in total and we've gotta say so long to corporate welfare and to subsidies, because this country could no longer afford it and we've gotta prepare for competition in the 21st century.
DAVID GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, if you become President Gingrich and the leader of the Democrats-- Harry Reid says he's gonna promise to make you a one term president, how would you propose to work with someone like that in order to achieve results in Washington?
NEWT GINGRICH: I think every president who works with the leader of every opposition knows they're working with somebody who wants to make them a one term president. I mean-- you know, that-- that's the American process. I worked with Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. Tip O'Neill was speaker. He wanted to make Reagan a one term president. We had to get 1/3 of the Democrats to vote for the Reagan tax cuts. And we did.
As speaker I was negotiating with Bill Clinton. He knew I wanted him to be a one term president. And we got a lot of things done, including welfare reform, because you have to reach-- I go to what Governor Huntsman said earlier. You have to at some point say, "The country comes first. How are we gonna get things done? We'll fight later."
"Let's sit down in a room. Let's talk it through. I'll tell you what I need and I'll tell you what I can't do. You tell me what you need and you tell me what you can't do." And it sometimes takes 20 or 30 days. But if people of goodwill, even if they're partisans, come together, talk it out. You know, we got welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, 4.2% unemployment and four straight years of a balanced budget with a Republican speaker and a Democratic president. So it can be done with real leadership.
DAVID GREGORY: Anybody else have a point of view about how you actually work with the other side when they've committed to working against you? Governor?
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, I mean I was governor of a state that had-- a slightly Democratic-- leaning House and Senate. (LAUGHTER) My legislature was 85% Democrat. And-- and I went around at the very beginning of having been elected and met with the speaker of the House and the Senate president. The Senate president said something I won't forget. He said, "Mitt, the campaign is over. The people expect us to now govern for them."
And we did. We met every week. We rotated in offices. We got to know each other personally. We developed a relationship of respect and rapport, even though we disagreed on a lot of issues. And when crises arose, as they did time and again-- we had a severe budget crisis.
I went to them and said, "Will you give me unilateral power to cut spending without even a vote of the legislature?" They had enough confidence in me, they decided to do that. What-- and I was able to cut the spending on an emergency basis, not just slow down its rate of growth.
We can work together. Republicans and Democrats are able to go across the aisle because we have common-- we really do have areas of-- of common interest. Even though there're dramatically different perspectives on how the world works and what's right, we can find common ground. And I have proven in a state that is very Democrat that I'm able to work with people, 19 tax cuts. I protected charter schools. Drove our schools to be number one in the nation. Kept them there, rather. I-- I-- that-- that record could work with Republicans and Democrats who are willin' to work together.
DAVID GREGORY: Dr. Paul, there's this question of argument versus of accomplishment. The question again comes from Facebook. Heath Treet writes, "I-- I wanna--" Paul Treet, rather. "I want to know what Ron Paul's plan of action will be to achieve getting the House and Senate to help him do all he's promised." And here's the record, Dr. Paul. You have actually sponsored 620 measures. Only four made it to a vote on the House floor and only one has been signed into law.
RON PAUL: You know, that demonstrates how much out of touch the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress is with the American people, because I'm supporting things that help the American people. That's the disgust that people have because they keep-- growing government, whether it's Republicans in charge or the Democrats in-- in charge.
But-- as far as working with other groups, I think my record's about as good with anybody's because I work on the principle that freedom and the Constitution bring people together. For different reasons. People use freedom in different ways like it does. It invites-- variations in our religious beliefs. In-- in economic beliefs.
We tell people that there are a lot of-- you know-- spend their money as they choose. On civil liberties, that's a different segment, 'cause-- Republican conservatives aren't all that well known for protecting privacy and-- and personal liberty.
And when it comes to this spending overseas, I can work a coalition. Matter of fact, my trillion dollar proposal to cut spending doesn't immediately deal with Social Security. It's to try to work our way out of Social Security. I'm cutting a trillion dollars by attacking overseas spending and going back to '06 budgets. And I do not believe that you have to have pain-- people who have gotten special privileges and bailouts from the government, they may get the pain, but the American people that get their freedom back and get no income tax--
RON PAUL: --they don't suffer any pain.
DAVID GREGORY: Senator Santorum, here's the reality. Two previous presidents. President Bush talked about being the uniter and not a divider. President Obama talked about transforming Washington. And it hasn't worked. Washington is polarized. The country is polarized. And the American people are pretty sick of the fact that nothing gets done in Washington. Specifically how do you change that?
RICK SANTORUM: Well, let me first address Congressman Paul because the-- the serious issue with Congressman Paul here is, you're right, he's never really passed anything of any-- any importance. And-- and what-- one of the pep-- 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-- on the margins and-- has really been unsuccessful in-- in working together with anybody to do anything.
The problem is that what Congressman Paul can do as commander-in-chief is he can on day one do what he says he wants to do, which is pull all our troops back out of seas-- overseas, put them-- here in America. Leave us in-- in-- in a situation where the world is now gonna be created huge amounts of vacuums all over the place. And-- and have folks like China and Iran and others-- look at the Strait of Hormuz as I said last night. We wouldn't even have the fifth fleet there.
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. And-- and that's the problem. And-- and so what we-- what-- what we need to do is have someone who has a plan and has experience to do all the things Republicans and conservatives would like to do.
DAVID GREGORY: Let me get--
RICK SANTORUM: And I--
DAVID GREGORY: --Dr. Paul to respond to--
RICK SANTORUM: --and then I'd like my opportunity--
RON PAUL: You know, he--
RICK SANTORUM: --to answer to go back and answer your question.
RON PAUL: --it's--
DAVID GREGORY: Well--
RON PAUL: --it's not exactly a simple task to repeal approximately 100 years of us sliding away from our republic and still running a foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson, trying to make the world safe for democracy. And, look, we have elections overseas and we don't even accept the elections. You know, change in foreign policy is significant, but that's where a nation will come down if they keep doing this. We can't say in 130 countries, get involved in nation building. We cannot have 900 bases overseas. We have to change policy.
What about change in monetary policy? Yes, we do. But we've had that for 100 years. And right now we're winning that battle. The American people now agree-- about 75% of the American people now say, "We ought to audit the Federal Reserve. Find out what they're doing and who are their friends that they're bailing out constantly.
DAVID GREGORY: Senator Santorum, come back to this point. It's easy to say, "Boy, I'm gonna change the culture in Washington." Hasn't worked for the past two presidents.
RICK SANTORUM: Well, it-- it worked in-- in my case. Look at-- welfare reform. And-- a federal entitlement that-- I remember standing next to Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Ted Kennedy. We were out there just talking about how this was gonna be the end of civilization as we know it. There'd be break lines. The-- the-- the horrific consequences of removing federal income support-- from basically-- mothers with children.
And we stood up and said "No." That creating dependency and creating that dependency upon-- upon federal dollars is more harmful than-- and-- and-- in not believing in people and their ability to work is more harmful. And so we stood up and fought and went out to the American public. Bill Clinton vetoed this bill twice. We had-- hard opposition. But I was able to-- to work together and paint a vision.
We made compromises, but not on our core principle. The core principles were this was gonna end the federal program. We were gonna require work. We were gonna put time limits on welfare. I stuck to those principles and we were able to compromise on some things like transportation funding and some daycare funding. All voted to get a consensus that poverty is not a disability.
DAVID GREGORY: All right.
RICK SANTORUM: And that programs that we need to put in place should help transition people, not make them dependent. And we were able to get 70 votes in the United States Senate, including 17 Democrats.
DAVID GREGORY: Governor Huntsman, this question of if the leader of the Democrats promised to make you a one term president, how would you go about dealing with them in a more effective way than you think the man you served, President Obama, did?
JON HUNTSMAN: I think it comes down to one word, David, and I think the one word-- is trust. When the American people look at the political process play out, they hear all the spinning and all the doctrinaire language.
JON HUNTSMAN: And they still walk away with the belief that they're not being represented in Congress. That there's no trust in the executive branch. And the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan proposal lands right on the desk of Barack Obama and it lands in the garbage can.
The first press conference I had when I ran for governor in 2004 was on ethics in government service. I talked about term limits. I talked about campaign finance reform. I talked about the role of lobbyists and knew I would make a lot of friends.
I had one member of the legislature who supported me in that run. We won because we had the will of the people. And I believe the next president, and if that is to be me, I wanna roam around this country and I wanna generate the level of excitement and-- enthusiasm that I know exists among the American people to bring term limits to Congress. To close the revolving door on members going right on out and becoming a lobby. We've gotta start with the structural problems. There is no trust.
DAVID GREGORY: All right. Governor Perry, I wanna continue on the theme of leadership.
RICK PERRY: We need to.
DAVID GREGORY: This is-- as you well know, New Hampshire is an independent place. And I wonder where-- besides criticizing the previous administration for running up the debt, I wonder where you would buck your party? What would you say or do to make Republicans uncomfortable?
RICK PERRY: I hope I'm makin' Republicans uncomfortable right now by talkin' about the spending that they've done back in the 2000s when we had-- control of both (UNINTEL).
DAVID GREGORY: But aside from--
RICK PERRY: I mean--
DAVID GREGORY: --that I guess--
RICK PERRY: --that-- that is--
DAVID GREGORY: --I just-- I just (UNINTEL) that.
RICK PERRY: --well, listen. Dr. Paul says that the biggest problem facing this country is-- is our-- work overseas. I disagree with that. The biggest problem facing this country today is a Congress that is out of control with their spending. And we've gotta have someone, an outsider, that will walk in, not part of the insider group that you see here. People who have voted for raising the-- the debt limit. People who have been part of the problem that is facing America.
I will tell you two things that can occur. That a president can lead the charge on. And it will put term limits into place. One of those is a part-time Congress to tell those members of Congress, "We're gonna cut your pay. We're gonna cut the amount of time that you spend in Washington, D.C. Send you back to your district so you can have a job like everybody else in your district has and live under the laws of which you pass."
DAVID GREGORY: Well, Governor--
RICK PERRY: And then a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.
DAVID GREGORY: Governor, my question though--
RICK PERRY: You do those two things--
DAVID GREGORY: But my question, sir, was--
RICK PERRY: --and that will make 'em uncomfortable.
DAVID GREGORY: You think telling conservatives, "A balanced budget amendment is something I'm gonna do and I'm gonna cut spending," that's gonna make 'em uncomfortable?
RICK PERRY: You're darn right, because there's a bunch of people standin' up here that say they're conservatives but their records don't follow up on that.
DAVID GREGORY: All right. I gotta take another break here.
DAVID GREGORY: And we are back, in New Hampshire. I'm happy to be joined now by our local partners for the debate. For the-- from the New Hampshire Union Leader, senior political reporter, John Distaso is with us. Good to have you here, John. And from WHD-- WHDH-- we had this problem yesterday, TV-- in Boston, Channel 7 in Boston-- political editor, Andy Hiller. Welcome to you, as well. Glad to have you both. John, get us started.
JOHN DISTASO: All right, Governor Huntsman. It's winter in New Hampshire. It's a little mild, but it's still winter. Home heating oil is nearly $4 a gallon. Yet President Obama and Congress have cut by 25% the program that helps-- helps low income people heat their homes. About a million households that were helped last year, won't be helped this year. Is this an example of pain that must be suffered? Should this-- should this program funding be restored, should it be cut more? Should this program be eliminated, perhaps? Where does this fit in? This is a practical problem in this area of the country?
JON HUNTSMAN: No. (CLEARS THROAT) We have people in need. We have people suffering. And this is a challenge that we need to address. But I believe we're not going to be able to effectively-- confront it head on, until such time as this nation begins to move more toward greater energy diversity and energy independence. One of the first things I would do as president is I would take a look at that one product distribution bias, that always favors one product, and that's oil.
And I'd say if we're gonna do what this nation needs to be done, in terms of using a multiplicity of products that we have in such diversity and abundance, and get them to the customers, we're gonna have to break up that one product distribution monopoly. I want to do to that oil distribution monopoly what we did to broadcast communication in the-- (CLEARS THROAT) in the early 1970s. We blew it apart. We went to the Federal Trade Commission and said, "We need more. We need diverse sources to draw from. We need-- we need to service the consumers."
I believe if we're gonna do what needs to be done from an energy independence standpoint, all products, getting the products to the customer, we've got to disrupt that one product monopoly that does not serve this country well, nor its consumers.
JOHN DISTASO: Congressman Paul-- (APPLAUSE) Congressman Paul, how do you feel about-- how do you feel about subsidies in-- in general, for-- for a specific energy? And also, though, more-- more specifically right now, more immediately, this low income-- program, heating assistance program? Is this something that fits in un-- under your deal of-- of what government does do or should not do?
RON PAUL: Well, subsidies, per se, are-- it's bad economic policy, it's bad moral policy, be