GOP Candidates Debate Issues In South Carolina

This story was written by From Staff Reports, Daily Bruin
In their first debate since the New Hampshire primary, all the Republican Party presidential candidates except Rep. Duncan Hunter of California convened in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to discuss issues ranging from the economy, to illegal immigration, to the continuing legacy of Ronald Reagan.

On the economy, the candidates discussed the possibility of a recession and how to prevent it. For each candidate, cutting government spending in some form was of primary importance, as were tax cuts.

"The first thing we need to do is stop out of control spending. That way we can get our budget under control," said Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Other candidates, including former Govs. Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney also mentioned controlling rising fuel prices and solving the problems of the housing market as vital to preventing a recession.

But even more prominent than the debate about the state of the economy was that regarding the Reagan coalition and the legacy of the late president.

Each candidate spoke to the lasting impact of former President Reagan and the movement of the modern Republican Party away from his conservative ideology.

"Washington has moved away from the Reagan coalition. In some ways, the Republican Party has moved away from the Reagan coalition," Romney said.

He, like other candidates, mentioned the need for a revival of facets of the coalition, including limited government, strong foreign policy, lower taxes and strong family values.

"I'm a conservative because I believe in strong national defense, like Ronald Reagan did," said Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City.

His sentiment was echoed by most of the candidates, especially when asked about the recent altercation between the United States and Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

It was there that U.S. Navy ships came in contact with Iranian fastboats under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The ships ran defensive maneuvers and, though a more serious incident was avoided, it caused the Bush administration to ratchet up rhetoric against the Iranians.

"If you think you are going to engage the U.S. military ... be prepared that the next thing you see will be the gates of hell," said Huckabee.

"An incident like this reminds us that we shouldn't be lulled into some false sense of confidence about Iran," Giuliani added.

Before closing the debate, the candidates were each given the opportunity to discuss illegal immigration, a topic of great importance to the base of the Republican Party.

McCain, who has been under scrutiny by his party for his failed attempt at immigration reform last year, said he had heard the people when it came to the subject.

"(As president,) I will secure the borders first. I will have the border state governors certify that those borders are secure," he said.

For former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, the issue of illegal immigration could be solved by securing the borders, as well as cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants, and ending sanctuary cities.

Such sentiments were echoed by all candidates present at the debate, including the often out-of-the-fray Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

The debate came at an important time in the Republican Party nomination schedule. Within the next few weeks, the Republican Party will hold key primary contests or caucuses in Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida.

The location of the debate also held special significance for the Republican Party. No modern Republican has won his party's nomination without winning the South Carolina primary.
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