Candidates participate in final republican primary debate

Chris Faircloth | Staff Writer

The last scheduled debate of the Republican primary season was held Feb. 22 in Arizona, one week before voting in Arizona and Michigan. All four remaining candidates participated in the debate, which was hosted by CNN.

Rick Santorum, the front runner according to polls going into the debate, took heat from his opponents for his record on spending. Mitt Romney criticized him for voting to raise the debt ceiling on five different occasions, and Ron Paul called Santorum out on his involvement with the No Child Left Behind Act.

“He voted for (No Child Left Behind), but now he is running on the effort to get rid of it. I think the record is so bad with politicians…it loses credibility,” said Paul.

The attacks forced Santorum to spend a good deal of time defending his actions.

“I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles that I believed in, but you know, when you’re part of a team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake,” said Santorum to an apprehensive audience. “Politics is a team sport.”

Later in the debate, candidates were asked to define themselves using only one word. They answered:

“Consistent,” said Paul.

“Courage,” said Santorum.

“Resolute,” said Romney.

“Cheerful,” said Newt Gingrich, an ironic answer considering his grave forecast on national security.

“We live in an age when we have to genuinely worry about nuclear weapons going off in our own cities,” said Gingrich. “All of us are more at risk today, men and women, boys and girls, than at any point in our nation’s history.”

The final question of the debate asked the candidates to clarify or comment on any misconceptions about them or their campaigns.

“The perpetuation of the myth by the media that I can’t win,” said Paul, who went on to criticize the media for ignoring recent polls that suggest the opposite.

Romney answered the same question by talking about restoring the American promise and creating jobs. CNN moderator Jon King interrupted Romney, asking him to address a misconception specifically, to which Romney replied, “You get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answers I want.”