The Republican presidential debate in Ames, Iowa Thursday night was anything but boring. Unlike past debates this cycle, the candidates weren't afraid to take shots at each other and settle their differences out in the open.
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The best back-and-forth of the night came from Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota's former governor.
It started when Fox News host Chris Wallace recapped their history of spats over principles versus results. "Is she unqualified or just beating you in the polls?" Wallace asked, with a smirk on his face that suggested he knew exactly what kind of sparks were about to fly.
After a few pleasantries from Pawlenty, he went in for the kill: "It's an indisputable fact that in Congress, her record of accomplishments and results is non-existent," Pawlenty said. "That's not going to be good enough for our candidate for the president of the United States."
In her reply, Bachmann didn't miss a beat. She turned straight to Pawlenty and pointed out that sure, he might have executive experience, but he used it to push for not-so-conservative programs such cap-and-trade, which increases the cost of energy, and a government mandate to buy health insurance. She also berated him for saying "the era of small government is over."
"People are looking for a champion," Bachmann said. "They want someone who's been fighting."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has had trouble with his campaign and staff since he first stumbled out of the gate this election cycle. But when Wallace asked him about difficulties with the campaign -- staffers fleeing left and right, skyrocketing debt -- Gingrich refused to answer, and instead tried to use the question to attack the media.
"I took seriously Bret's injuction to put aside the talking points," Gingrich began, referring to a request from Fox New moderator Brett Baier at the beginning of the debate that the candidates not waste time with canned answers. "And I wish you would put aside the 'gotcha' questions."
Wallace sat, silent and smirking.
"I'd love to see the rest of tonight's debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America that has a president that has failed to lead instead of playing Mickey Mouse games," he said."I think that there's too much attention paid by the press corps about the campaign minutiae and not enough paid by the press corps to the basic ideas that distinguish us from Barack Obama."
Texas Rep. Ron Paul set himself apart from the slate of candidates Thursday night with his stance on non-interventionist foreign policy. The moderators asked the three-time presidential candidate about his views on Iran's nuclear capability and whether the United States should continue to enforce economic sanctions on the country.
"Iran does not have an Air Force that can come here. They can't even make enough gasoline for themselves. And here we are building up this case just like we did in Iraq. Building up the war propaganda," Paul said. "It's time we quit this!"
The rise of the tea party has breathed new life into the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states that all powers not listed in the Constitution should be left unto the states. But Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a staunch social conservative, is fed up with it.
"This is the Tenth Amendment run amok!" Santorum declared, referring to suggestions from other candidates to allow states the right to set their own marriage policy. "We have Ron Paul saying, 'oh, whatever the states want to do under the Tenth Amendment, that's fine.' So if the states want to pass polygamy that's fine. If the states want to impose sterilization, that's fine. No. Our country is based on moral laws, ladies and gentlemen. There are things the states can't do. ...We are a nation that has values. We are a nation that was built on a moral enterprise. But states don't have the right to tramp over those because of the Tenth Amendment."