Five potential Republican presidential candidates gathered at a New Hampshire forum hosted by Americans for Prosperity on Friday night. The likely candidates expressed optimism for America’s future and opposition to the policies of the Obama administration.
First to the podium was former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty slipped, telling the crowd, “I see a brighter future for our nation, that’s why I’m running for president,” only to follow-up the statement with, “considering running for president.”
Next to speak was former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The former Senator went after Obama for mocking Republicans’ “drill baby, drill” slogan. “He said that’s not the answer, no the answer is we need to conserve, we need to use less, we need all these new technologies to conserve and use less liquid fuels,” said Santorum. “Does the president really think you are that stupid? Think about what he said– the answer is not supply, it is just demand.”
Santorum was asked about his past as an aggressive user of earmarks while in Congress. “I came into the United States Senate with Bill Clinton in charge of the presidency, and on a variety of issues I did not like the way the president was spending money. So I aggressively earmarked money so we would spend money in areas that the president would otherwise not have spent,” Santorum said. He joked about having “track marks” on his arms and said that he has since recognized that earmarks only help accelerate spending.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stressed that America should not pursue European-style policies, as he accused Obama of doing with healthcare, labor, and public debt.
Romney thanked the moderator for asking him about the Massachusetts healthcare reform law that he signed into law as governor, jokingly expressing his eagerness to be asked the question. Romney said that he regretted sections of the law, dubbed ‘Romneycare’ by opponents, and said that he wished President Obama had spoken with him about the law’s successes and failures. He said that he believed that a national healthcare mandate was unconstitutional.
Romney also said that Republicans needed to take a page out of Reagan’s playbook against Carter. “We’re going to hang the Obama Misery Index around his neck,” Romney said. “We’re going to hang him with that, so to speak.” He quickly added that he meant the statement metaphorically, saying, “you have to be careful these days.” The comment, which may be presented as an embarrassing gaffe, comes shortly after a controversial editorial in which Romney accused Obama of the “biggest peacetime spending binges in American history.” After criticism, he said that he meant since World War II.
Former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain gave a passionate address during which he said that he would like to re-model social security on Chile’s system. Cain said that the Chilean system, which he noted was adopted thirty years ago– during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, placed money in individual accounts for future use.
Cain, a natural at wooing a crowd with personal anecdotes, told attendees that he believed in American exceptionalism; to illustrate his point, he told of his grandfather driving a mule-drawn wagon loaded with potatoes to market. Cain said that he asked his grandfather why he intentionally drove over the road’s rough patches. His grandfather told him that he did so to cause the small potatoes to rattle to the bottom, leaving the larger ones at the top– Cain said Americans need to be big potatoes.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said that if she were elected president, she would push an omnibus repeal of many Obama initiatives. The Minnesota congresswoman said that such an endeavor would require Republican leaders to gather for an exhilarating “long weekend” fueled by energy drinks.
Cain concluded the event with a prayer. “We thank you for this fellowship on this evening, and we thank you dear master for giving us the opportunity to be a part of the greatest country in the world,” Cain said. “The founding fathers did their job, we pray for strength that we can be the defending fathers. This is our prayer dear lord, amen.”