April 21, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

2012 GOP Candidates Get Tougher in Ames Debate

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich was among the crowded field of Republican presidential contenders facing off in Ames, Iowa, on Thursday night for a debate ahead of this weekend’s straw poll.

Perry will skip the straw poll Saturday in favor of a trip to South Carolina and New Hampshire. He’ll head to Waterloo, Iowa, on Sunday. But straw poll attendees can write in Perry’s name, a wild card in a contest where Bachmann is the early favorite.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has yet to clarify her intentions for 2012, will stop by the Iowa State Fair on Friday afternoon.

The candidates who did participate in the debate pleaded for more face time. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) begged the hosts twice to give him equal treatment. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich complained about the moderators’ questions.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) also fought the clock, asking for more time to explain his position on Iran against a field of GOP candidates who mostly disagreed with him.

Huntsman, making his first debate appearance as a presidential candidate, acknowledged he stood apart from the crowd of Republicans onstage because of his support for civil unions and for Speaker John Boehner’s legislative deal to raise the debt ceiling.

“I know I’m a little bit different than everyone else in that regard,” Huntsman said of the Ohio Republican. “I thought Speaker Boehner should be complimented for what he did. This country should never default.”

Bachmann said that never increasing the debt limit would be part of her plan to turn the economy around, and Romney said he would only have supported a plan to cut and cap spending and a balanced budget amendment. He attempted to avoid a direct answer on whether he would have signed the deal, saying: “I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food. What he served up is not what I would have as president of the United States.”

Ahead of the debate, thousands of attendees lined up outside the auditorium on the grass, waiting to go through the security check. Guests adorned in everything from black leather motorcycle pants to formal business suits waited to get through a slow-moving line.

Santorum and Paul supporters were the most visible parties outside the debate hall. Santorum’s cadre of college student volunteers took over a cement walkway near the entrance, ringing a cowbell and playing a tambourine to show their support. A handful of people wore Romney T-shirts and stickers.

When a man dressed in white colonial garb carrying a silver teapot was forced to leave his full-sized flagpole behind, he griped, “I have to leave the rebellion outside.”

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