While most of the Republican presidential candidates retreated to safe talking points during a Republican debate Sunday, Texas Rep. Ron Paul didn't shy away as moderators tried to elicit unambiguous responses to issues ranging from immigration and border security to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
The forum, sponsored by Univision and hosted by the University of Miami, gave Republicans a chance to appeal to Hispanic voters.
"I think some of the rhetoric that many Hispanics hear about illegal immigration makes some of them believe that we are not in favor nor seek the support of Hispanic citizens in this country," Arizona Sen. John McCain said.
McCain has enjoyed the distinction of being only one of two Republican candidates who agreed to attend the original Univision debate, which was initially planned for September. California Rep. Duncan Hunter was the other.
"I understand...the challenges that [Hispanic men and women] face," McCain said. "And I'm proud to have developed the relationship that I have with the Hispanic community in my state and in this country."
Most of the candidates shared similar views, calling for "secured borders" and "compassion." But Rep. Ron Paul proved a polarizing figure as he was met with loud boos as well as cheers when confronted about his foreign policies.
"[Hugo Chavez is] not the easiest person to deal with," Paul said, "But we should deal with everybody around the world the same way: With friendship and opportunity to talk and try to trade with people.
"We create the Chavezes of the world," Paul continued amid thunderous boos and then applause. "We create the Castros of the world by interfering and creating chaos in their countries."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee quickly capitalized on what the audience seemed to view as a deficiency in Paul's position.
"I think it's one of the major reasons we need to become increasingly oil-free and energy-independent," Huckabee said. "So that we don't have to worry about Mr. Chavez."
Despite Paul's mixed reception on Sunday, he has garnered heavy support among college students and set an on-line fundraising record in November when he received more than $4.2 million in 24 hours.
"I offer [college students] change," Paul said after the debate. "And they tend to be more principled than older people," he later added, jokingly.
© 2007 The Miami Hurricane via U-WIRE