The four remaining Republican presidential candidates took part in a
televised debate late Wednesday in Arizona, one of two states holding
Republican primary elections next Tuesday. Most of the debate dealt with
domestic issues but, Iran’s nuclear capability did spark a lively
exchange among the contenders.
After nearly a month without a Republican debate, the four remaining
contenders took to a stage in Mesa, Arizona, for a testy debate that
covered a wide range of issues including taxes, government spending and
But near the end the debate did delve into foreign policy and in
particular how the United States should deal with Iran’s nuclear
Three of the four Republican contenders took a tough line on Iran and
criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to pressure
Tehran on its nuclear program.
Among them was former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who now leads
the Republican field in national public opinion polls.
“When they are going up against a dangerous theocratic regime that wants
to wipe out the state of Israel, that wants to dominate the radical
Islamic world and take on the ‘Great Satan’, the United States, we do
nothing. That is a president who must go and you want a leader who will
take them on. I will do that,” he said.
Santorum’s main Republican rival is former Massachusetts governor Mitt
Romney, who faces a critical challenge in next week’s Michigan primary,
the state where Romney grew up.
Romney also took a tough line on U.S. policy toward Iran.
“But nothing in my view is as serious a failure as his failure to deal
with Iran appropriately. This president should have put in place
crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not,” Romney said.
Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich has fallen behind in the polls
but remains in the race. Gingrich hopes to have a breakthrough on March
6th when his home state of Georgia and nine other states will vote in
the so-called Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.
Gingrich also advocated a tough line on Iran during the debate.
“If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons and you think
that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an
absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by
eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons,” he said.
Only one of the four Republican candidates had a different view on Iran
policy. Texas Congressman Ron Paul opposed the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan and says he would not favor another U.S. military
involvement in the Middle East.
disagree because we don’t know if they have a weapon. Matter of fact
there is no evidence they have it. Israel claims they do not have it and
our government doesn’t. I don’t want them to have a weapon but I think
what we are doing is encouraging them to have a weapon because they feel
The debate was the last showdown for the candidates before next
Tuesday’s primaries in Arizona and Michigan, and the 10 Super Tuesday
contests on March 6th.
So far, three of the four contenders have won at least one primary or
caucus vote but none of them have established any consistent political
momentum or forged a large lead in the delegate count that will
determine the Republican nominee at the party’s presidential nominating
convention in Tampa, Florida, in late August.
Political experts say if the trend continues the Republican race could
go on right up until the end of the primary season in early June.