LGBT issues didn’t come up in today’s early-evening debate between the four lowest-polling Republican candidates, which was expected because the focus was the economy, but the candidates sought to burnish their conservative credentials in other ways.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania argued over who would cut taxes and government spending most, saying those moves are the key to creating jobs. The debate, held at the University of Colorado in Boulder, was televised on business-oriented cable channel CNBC.
“Do you grow the government economy or do you grow the American economy?” asked Jindal, who touted his record of cutting spending in Louisiana, which included slashing government employment and closing or privatizing charity hospitals.
All decried the state of the U.S. economy and derided Democrats as backers of regulations that they say will harm business. Pataki, one of the more moderate GOPers, allowed that President Obama inherited an economic mess when he took office in 2009 but said it got worse because of his policies, especially the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, designed to increase the number of Americans with health insurance coverage (which it has done).
On that topic, Jindal denounced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying they “forced Obamacare and socialism down our throats.” Santorum said Obamacare has made it “virtually impossible” for small insurance companies to survive.
Graham focused largely on foreign policy, saying the U.S. military needs to be larger and better-funded, while getting a dig in at Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist. Sanders “went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon, and I don’t think he ever came back,” Graham said.
Pataki promoted himself as someone who can work with Democrats, as he did in New York, but that didn’t keep him from lambasting Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server when she was secretary of State, something that he said compromised national security. That alone should disqualify her from the presidency, he said.
Graham defended his positions on climate change, saying he believes it’s real and that Republicans don’t do themselves any favors by denying science, and immigration reform, pointing out that it’s impossible to deport all undocumented immigrants.
There were a few moments of levity, such as Graham and Santorum both saying how much they like beer, and Graham claiming he has a smartphone only because he gave his old phone number to Donald Trump.
There was the barest touching on social issues, with Jindal contending Democrats want to take away “religious liberty rights” (he has previously argued that these include the right to discriminate against LGBT people) and Santorum saying strong families are part of a strong economy (his vision of the family is notoriously not LGBT-inclusive). Pataki, for his part, said he’s a small-government conservative on social issues as well as economic ones. He didn’t go into detail, but he has a record of supporting LGBT rights.