Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on stage at the beginning of the Arizona Republicans' Presidential Primary debate in Mesa Wednesday.
The long awaited Presidential Primary debate finally happened Wednesday, the 20th of this long running primary season. The four remaining candidates sat down with CNN anchor John King (unlike previous debates which saw candidates standing behind a lectern, this debate was a sit down affair) for two hours of give and take.
Mitt Romney, the presumed front runner, took aim at Rick Santorum, calling him a big spending Washington insider. Later, Ron Paul also called out Santorum for being an insider and a "fake." The Romney/Paul attacks on Santorum were so constant that a Santorum supporter called Paul out for secretly aiding Romney. For his part, Newt didn't call for the colonization of the moon this time, but he did say it would be easy to secure the border with a fence. Clearly Newt has never actually seen the border in southern Arizona.
The candidates stayed on the well practiced GOP talking points all night: taxes are too high (personal taxes are actually at a historic low), health care reform is a budget buster that will result in rationed care (OMB statistics suggest health care reform will contain costs over time and health care is already rationed by being priced out of reach of most Americans) and that President Obama is coddling terrorists (who was it that got bin Laden? Oh right, that was President Obama, who has also used drones to kill hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan).
The crowd in the debate hall though, all members of the Arizona Republican party, ate it up, cheering through the night. It wasn't as boisterous as some debates (no one cheered the death penalty, or child labor or allowing the uninsured to just die this time) but it was an undeniably conservative, Red State crowd.
I worked debate related stories all day, starting with a Ron Paul fundraiser in Mesa early in the morning and ending with Rick Santorum in the "spin room" after the debate. There are lots of photos from the day's activities in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.