presidential contenders debating in New
Hampshire voiced support for the Iraq war despite
a warning from antiwar candidate Ron Paul that they
risk dragging the party down to defeat in the 2008
''Even if we lose
elections, we should not lose our honor,'' shot back
former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, ''and that is more
important than the Republican Party.''
Huckabee was in
the majority, Paul very much in the minority on the
debate stage Wednesday night when it came to the war, a
politically unpopular conflict that has emerged as the
dominant issue of the 2008 race for the presidency.
flared up near the end of a 90-minute encounter in which all
eight men on stage welcomed former senator Fred Thompson, an
actor who starred on the television show Law &
Order, to the race with barbed humor and pointed
''This is a
nomination you have to earn,'' said former New York mayor
Rudy Giuliani. ''Nobody's going to give it to you. Nobody's
going to grant it to you.''
unfolded several days before Gen. David Petraeus is
scheduled to deliver an assessment of President George
W. Bush's decision to commit 30,000 additional combat
troops to Iraq in order to give the Iraqi government
time to develop.
Sen. John McCain,
former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and Giuliani
were among those who stressed their support for the war, at
times even competing to show their commitment.
''The surge is
apparently working,'' said Romney, referring to the
increase in troops.
That brought an
instant rebuke from McCain, who said, ''The surge is
working, sir, no, not apparently. It's working.''
Alone among those
on stage, Paul, a veteran congressman with a
libertarian streak, made the case for withdrawing troops.
That drew a sharp challenge from Chris Wallace, one of
the debate questioners, who asked whether the United
States should take its marching orders from al-Qaida.
''No! We should
take our marching orders from our Constitution,'' Paul
shouted back, pointing his pen at Wallace for emphasis. ''We
should not go to war without a declaration'' by
interrupted by applause, Paul doggedly stuck to his point.
''We have lost over 5,000 Americans over there in
Afghanistan, in Iraq, and plus the civilians killed,''
he said during his exchange with Huckabee.
long--what do we have to pay to save face? That's all
we're doing, is saving face. It's time we came home,''
There was no
debating whether it was important to cut taxes and spending,
although McCain and Giuliani defended their refusal to sign
a pledge not to raise taxes.
The debate ranged
over familiar issues, and each of the men on stage
looked for moments to appeal to their target constituents.
to win the support of social conservatives, said he
supports a ''human life amendment'' to outlaw abortion.
Giuliani supports abortion rights and Romney favors allowing
states to decide on their own whether to permit or ban
Brownback and Rep. Duncan Hunter called for the resignation
of Sen. Larry Craig, the Idaho Republican who pleaded
guilty to disorderly conduct in an airport men's room
after being arrested in an undercover police
that the party stand for family values,'' said
Brownback, although as recently as last week he pointedly
avoided recommending that Craig step down.
drew boos from the audience when he called for passage of
a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. ''I
understand there is a divided audience,'' he said.
responded to questions about his personal life by saying he
is human and faces problems that are not uncommon to
''I am not
running as a perfect candidate for president of the United
States. I'm running as a human being who has been very
successful as a leader,'' he said. ''So obviously, any
issues in my private life do not affect my public
His daughter has
indicated support for Democrat Barack Obama, and his son
has said he did not speak to his father for some time.
Giuliani and their mother, Donna Hanover, had a nasty
and public divorce while Giuliani was New York's
mayor, and he has since remarried.
The debate took
place on a stage at the University of New Hampshire,
roughly four months before the state holds the first primary
of the 2008 race.
hoped to upstage the event--scheduling an appearance
on a late-night television show and airing the first
television commercial of his campaign on Fox News,
which was airing the debate.
He was not
disappointed. Brit Hume, the debate moderator, opened up by
asking each of the eight candidates to respond to the
''I was scheduled
to be on Jay Leno tonight, but I gave up my spot to
somebody else because I'd rather be here in New Hampshire,''
joked Huckabee, referring to the host of the show
Thompson was to appear on.
''Why the hurry?
Why not take some more time off?'' Romney said
humorously. (Libby Quaid, AP)