GOP candidates trade attacks, accusations in debate

Texas Governor Rick Perry has built his platform on inspiring economic growth, preserving national security and reforming President Obama's health care law, according to his website. AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

If the debate this Monday was any indication, the race for the presidential nomination in the GOP is heating up.

The candidates vying for the Republican nomination discussed and argued about everything from job creation to vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases in a debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express.

For the second time in six days, the eight Republican candidates for the presidency gathered on the debate stage at the Florida State fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla.

The debate featured Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain.

Recent polls show Gov. Perry ahead of rival GOP candidates in the race for the White House.

The governor has built his platform on inspiring economic growth, preserving national security and reforming President Obama’s health care law, according to his website.

Ethan Hollenberger, a senior in the College of Business Administration and chairman of the Marquette University College Republicans, said Gov. Perry has been an effective leader in Texas.

Former Mass. Governor Mitt Romneyis focusing on job creation and economic competitiveness, according to his website. AP Photo/Mike Carlson

“He has balanced budgets for several years and knows how to keep the Texas economy going,” Hollenberger said.

Close behind Perry in the race is Romney, who is focusing on job creation and economic competitiveness, according to his website.

“When it comes to taxes and the economy, Romney is brilliant,” Hollenberger said. “While he is more moderate than most conservatives like, Romney is electable and in my belief will govern as a moderate.”

Highlights from the debate include an attack by Rep. Bachmann against Gov. Perry, an accusation of treason and disturbing shouts from the audience.

Bachmann, the Tea Party favorite who has gained national attention for condemning tax hikes and the health care law, said an executive order signed by Gov. Perry forced young girls to take the “potentially dangerous” vaccine against the human papilloma virus, or HPV, although the Food and Drug Administration has deemed vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix safe to use in protecting against HPV.

In a moment of uncharacteristic aggression, Huntsman accused Gov. Perry of treason. Perry is Texas’ longest serving governor, having won reelection twice since 2000.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota attacked Perry for an executive order forcing young girls to get a vaccination for HPV. AP Photo/ Cliff Owen

For Perry to say the Mexican border cannot be controlled, Huntsman said, is “pretty much a

treasonous comment.”

Near the end of the debate, mediator Wolf Blitzer of CNN posed a hypothetical question to Paul, who opposes Obama’s health care policy.

“What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn’t have health insurance?” Blitzer asked. “Who pays for his coverage? Are you saying society should just let him die?”

“Yeah!” a handful of crowd members yelled.

Paul, who is known for his libertarian positions on most political and social issues, interjected to explain for what he believes is a core choice of free society, adding that communities and non-government institutions can help fill the void.

Still, the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd overshadowed Paul’s answer for some.

“I was pretty shocked when people cheered for letting the hypothetical uninsured guy die,” said Julia Azari, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette. “I’m hoping someone else can help me make sense of that.”

The nature of the debate demonstrated the candidates are aiming to please conservatives, but no matter the audience, they need more than just inflammatory accusations, Azari said.

“To win, you just need people to dislike you less than they dislike your opponent,” she said. “To govern, you need something resembling a plan.”