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Transcript of Tonight's CNN Republican Debate in Arizona

10:42 PM, Feb 22, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Here's a transcript of tonight's Republican presidential primary debate in Arizona, courtesy of CNN:

JOHN KING, DEBATE MODERATOR, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.

Our thanks to the Arizona State University Symphonic Chorale. That was fabulous.

Gentlemen, I want to ask you to take your seats. I'll take a moment now to explain to you how our debate will work.

I'll question the candidates, as well as we'll also take some questions from members of our audience. I'll follow up and guide tonight's discussion.

Candidates, we're going to try to make sure each of you get your fair amount of questions. And you'll have a minute to answer and 30 seconds for rebuttal and follow-ups. And if you're singled out for a particular criticism, I'll make sure you get a chance to respond.

Now we're going to have each of the candidates introduce themselves. And so we have more time to debate tonight, we're going to ask them to keep it short.

Here's an example. I'm John King from CNN. I'm honored to be your moderator tonight and I'm thrilled to be in a state that reminds us baseball season is just around the corner.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, we begin with you, sir.

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Congressman Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas.

I am the defender of the Constitution. I'm the champion of liberty. This shows the roadmap to peace and prosperity.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Rick Santorum.

And we have a lot of troubles around the world, as you see, the Middle East in flames, and what's going on in this country with gas prices and the economy. And I'm here to talk about a positive solutions that confront this country that include everybody from the bottom up.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Mitt Romney.

And there was a time in this country when you knew that if you worked hard and went to school, and if you learned the values of America in your home, that you could count on having a secure future and a prosperous life. That was an American promise and it's been broken by this president.

I want to restore America's promise, and I'm going to do that --

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: That's good enough. As George Costanza would say, when they're applauding, stop. Right?

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Newt Gingrich.

And I've developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again and so every American can look forward to $2.50 a gallon gasoline.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Gentlemen, it's good to see you again.

Let's get started on the important issues with a question from our audience.

Sir, please tell us who you are and state your question.

(UNKNOWN): My name is Gilbert Fidler (ph) from Gilbert, Arizona, and I'd like to ask this question to all the candidates if I could.

Since the first time in 65 years our national debt exceeds our gross national product, what are you going to do to bring down the debt?

KING: Thank you, sir.

Senator Santorum, let's begin with you.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Gilbert.

I put together a specific plan that cuts $5 trillion over five years, that spends less money each year for the next four years that I'll be president of the United States. So it's not inflation- adjusted, it's not baseline-budgeting. We're actually going to shrink the actual size of the federal budget, and we're going to do so by dealing with the real problem.

And here's where I differentiate myself from everybody else, including, obviously, the president. I actually have experience on tackling the toughest problems that we have in this country, and that's the growth of entitlement spending.

Obviously, the first thing we need to do is repeal Obamacare. That's the one entitlement that we can get rid of.

(APPLAUSE)

And that's a couple trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years. But there's bigger issues.

When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It's now 60 percent of the budget.

Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It's now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to.

Defense spending will not be cut under my administration, but we will go after all of the means-tested entitlement programs -- Medicaid, food stamps, all of those programs -- and do what we did with welfare.

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