IBTimes live-blogged as the Republican presidential candidates debated a variety of issues in a Fox News-sponsored forum in Orlando, Fla., Thursday night. The participants were Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
10:52 p.m.: Now for the last question: who among the candidates on this stage would you pick as your running mate if you got the nomination? Here goes:
JOHNSON: Ron Paul.
SANTORUM: Newt Gingrich
GINGRICH: I have no idea.
PAUL: I won't choose until I'm in the top two in the polls.
PERRY: If Cain and Gingrich would mate...
ROMNEY: No choice yet; it requires a lot of thought.
BACHMANN: It has to be a strong constitutional conservative. No settling!
CAIN: If Romney threw out his jobs plan and replaced it with 999, then he has a shot. Otherwise, Gingrich.
HUNTSMAN: Assuming Perry and Romney bludgeon each other to death before the primaries are over: Cain because of his selection of ties.
10:47 p.m.: Perry again touts his record of proven job creation. He suggests repealing Obamacare and job-killing regulations like Dodd-Frank, lowering corporate tax rates and pursuing energy independence.
Paul says, Government destroys jobs, the market creates jobs.
Gingrich says that 32 years ago we were in the same place with President Jimmy Carter, and then a leader came along. So, When Barack Obama loses decisively, the country will turn around.
Santorum says we have a president who doesn't understand what America is all about. We need to build the economy from the ground up, not from on high.
Johnson: My next-door neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current president. He says we need a balanced budget now and should throw out the entire federal tax system and replace it with a consumption tax. It does away with the corporate income tax. If that doesn't create tens of millions of jobs in this country, I don't know what does. Perhaps a bit of hyperbole?
10:45 p.m.: Bachmann says it's time to reach for the brass ring of liberty once again. She cites a UBS study that the No. 1 reason employers aren't hiring is because of Obamacare, and says the very first thing she would do as president would be to repeal Obamacare.
Romney is very vague, saying that Americans are a patriotic people, and that if we're led by a leader who draws on that patriotism, tells the truth, lives with integrity and knows how to lead, America will remain the strongest nation in the world. He doesn't give any specific policy proposals.
10:40 p.m.: How will you turn this country around? Huntsman proposes a tax reform package, serious regulatory reform (including repealing the Obama health care law) and energy independence. Cain promotes his 999 tax plan again and says that Americans are looking for leadership. There is a severe deficiency of leadership in Washington, D.C., he says.
10:34 p.m.: Nice try, Romney says once again. He says he stands by all the positions in his book, while Perry has backed down from some of the positions in his.
10:33 p.m.: Perry is back to attacking Romney, his main competitor in the race. I think Americans just don't know sometimes which Mitt Romney they're dealing with, he says. He accuses Romney of flip-flopping on the Second Amendment, on Roe v. Wade, on the Race to the Top program and now on Obamacare.
10:31 p.m.: Perry responds that the only important person he was lobbied by was a 31-year-old woman with stage 4 cervical cancer. I've readily admitted we should have had an opt in in his vaccination mandate, he says, but I don't know what part of opt out most parents don't get. The fact is, I erred on the side of life, and I will always err on the side of life, as a governor and as president of the United States.
10:29 p.m.: Does Bachmann stand by her statement that the HPV vaccine is potentially dangerous, and if not, should she be more careful when making statements about public health? First, I didn't make that claim, nor did I make that statement, she says, repeating her argument that she was only relating a story she heard from a mother. Then she turns the subject to Perry. Here's the real issue. Gov. Perry mandated a health care decision on all 12-year-old little girls in the state of Texas, she says. They had to have a shot for a sexually transmitted infection, and that is not appropriate to be a decision that a governor makes. She also accuses Perry of basing his policy on lobbying from a big drug company that contributed to his campaign.
10:25 p.m.: Huntsman chimes in on health care reform. Obama's $1 trillion bomb is creating such uncertainty in the marketplace that businesses aren't willing to hire, he says. It has gummed up our system. We should just let the states experiment, rather than relying on federal solutions to the problem of the uninsured.
10:23 p.m.: Cain, a cancer survivor, defends his comment that if Obamacare had been in effect when he was diagnosed, he would have died. If a bureaucrat was trying to tell me when I could get that CAT scan, that would have delayed my treatment, he says, so the government needs to stop micromanaging health care.
10:21 p.m.: Perry is asked about the differences between him and former President George W. Bush. We have a great rapport, he says, refuting rumors that there is bad blood between the two. But he says he disagreed with Bush that the federal government should be involved in the very expensive Medicaid Part B. He also opposed No Child Left Behind, because the federal government has no business telling the states how to educate our children.
10:19 p.m.: A gay soldier who came out after don't ask, don't tell was repealed asks what the candidates think about the repeal. Santorum says it's tragic that we're playing social experimentation with our military, and that he would reinstate the policy as president. In the military, he says, Sex is not an issue. It shouldn't be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it to yourself, whether you're heterosexual or homosexual.
10:16 p.m.: Bachmann is asked how far the separation of church and state goes. She references Thomas Jefferson, who said the U.S. government should not be a state church. That's really what the fundamental was of separation of church and state, she said. We can't have a national church, because we believe in freedom of conscience. But that doesn't mean that we aren't people of faith and that people of faith shouldn't be allowed to exercise religious liberty in the public sphere.
10:15 p.m.: Huntsman says it's time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Santorum shakes his head and raises his arm, looking appalled. He responds that just because our economy is sick doesn't mean our country or our values are sick, and we should stand up for those values every chance we get. So, he says, we should be fighting wars to win, not fighting wars for politics, and Obama is tying generals' hands.
10:13 p.m.: Johnson says that in order to promote trade, we should allow some flights between the U.S. and Cuba. Bachmann asks for time to respond, and says that according to the State Department, there are four countries that are state sponsors of terrorism, and one of them is Cuba. We should never have flights between the U.S. and Cuba because it is a sponsor of terrorism, she says.
10:11 p.m.: Gingrich is asked why we are sending international aid to countries that hate us. He says he would replace direct aid with an investment approach that encouraged American companies to create jobs that would make both the U.S. and the other countries wealthier. And if a particular country votes against us consistently in the U.N., why would we give them aid to begin with? The postwar world, when we had 50 percent of the world economy, is gone. We can't afford that much international aid anymore, he says.
10:09 p.m.: Santorum is asked whether he would send troops back to Iraq if the security situation there deteriorated. He responds that he doesn't support taking troops out of Iraq to begin with. I believe we need to listen to our generals, he says. We need to continue to stabilize the Iraqi government. We need to have 20 or 30,000 troops, potentially, to remain in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition. He adds that we need to work with our allies in the Middle East and ensure them that we stand with them in order to ensure that rogue states don't acquire nuclear weapons.
10:06 p.m.: Cain says we should extend the Reagan philosophy of peace through strength. The U.S. needs to make it very clear that it stands with Israel, he says, because when he talked to Israeli officials, they told him they weren't sure where the Obama administration stood. It should be clear that if you mess with Israel, you mess with the United States, and if that had been clear before, maybe Palestine wouldn't have pursued unilateral action in the U.N.
10:03 p.m.: Back from a commercial break and on to questions on foreign policy. The first question is about the Palestinian effort to gain United Nations recognition: as president, how would you approach the new reality in the Middle East and support our ally, Israel? Romney: You don't allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and your allies. The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America. If you disagree with an ally, you talk to them in private, he says, but you never contradict them in public.
9:57 p.m.: Paul says we shouldn't have free education, subsidies or citizenship for illegal immigrants -- that would force them out of the country by making it unpleasant for them to live here. But we shouldn't have a national ID card, because that infringes on individual liberties.
9:55 p.m.: Santorum says Perry is soft on border security for not supporting a fence, and accuses him of supporting policies even Obama wouldn't support. Perry responds that it's not practical to build a fence along the entire Texas border. Santorum keeps trying to interrupt him, saying Perry is acting like he knows how border security works but he really doesn't. Santorum is getting very agitated.
9:52 p.m.: Rick Perry on border security: he says no candidate has done as much to protect U.S. borders as he has. But he thinks that we should educate the children of illegal immigrants, because they came here through no fault of our own and will become a drag on our society if they are not educated. Applause.
9:46 p.m.: The federal government has failed the American people, Bachmann says. She adds that she would stop illegal immigration by building a fence along every inch of the southern border of the United States, and accuses Obama of trying to prevent Arizona from protecting its citizens. Lots of applause.
9:44 p.m.: Huntsman on education: Localize, localize, localize.
9:43 p.m.: Bachmann agrees with Johnson that the entire Department of Education should be eliminated and all the money given back to the states. Cain says, Get the federal government out of trying to educate our kids. Starting to sound familiar.
9:41 p.m.: Perry says we should promote school choice with a voucher system and charter schools. Then he accuses Romney of favoring Obama's Race to the Top program. That is not conservative, he says. Romney: Nice try. He agrees that education should be governed at the local and state levels, not the federal level. He doesn't support any specific program, but he does like some of the things Education Secretary Arne Duncan has done. He also refutes the argument that smaller classroom size is the key to better education: that's a scam promoted by teachers' unions to hire more teachers, he says; it's not actually necessary.
9:40 p.m.: Gingrich says we need profound reform at the state level and get rid of most Department of Education regulations. States should adopt a form of Pell Grants so that parents could choose where their children went to school. Paul echoes the small-government line that all the candidates are using: Get the federal government out of the business of educating our kids.
9:39 p.m.: Johnson says he would eliminate the entire Department of Education, to loud applause. Santorum agrees that the government is meddling in the education system, and adds that it's parents' responsibility to educate children, not the government's responsibility.
9:37 p.m.: Them's fighting words: Gingrich outright accuses Obama of socialist policies, class warfare and bureaucratic socialism.
9:36 p.m.: Gingrich, how would you cut spending by 40 percent when the government is so opposed to cutting spending at all? He responds that if the government stays the way it is, his plan wouldn't be possible, but we can't give up on changing the way the government is, otherwise we might as well buy Greek bonds and all go down together.
9:35 p.m.: Now Cain is promoting the Chilean model of Social Security: private retirement accounts.
9:34 p.m.: If you had to eliminate one federal department, which one would it be, a YouTube questioner asks. Cain says he would start with the Environmental Protection Agency, because it's out of control. He adds that the EPA's attempt to regulate dust is proof that it has gone wild.
9:32 p.m.: Huntsman is asked what he thinks about polls showing that a large number of Americans support raising taxes on millionaires. He responds: This is the worst time to be raising taxes, and everyone knows that.
9:31 p.m.: Romney is asked whether he believes that Obama is a socialist. Romney answers, to applause: Let me tell you the title I want to hear said about President Obama: 'former President Obama.' He then accuses Obama of borrowing big-spending liberal policies from Europe, which isn't even working in Europe. He reiterates that he spent most of his career in business, not in government, and makes fun of an old Bill Clinton quote: I was only governor for four years. I didn't inhale.
9:30 p.m.: Perry responds by accusing Romney of changing his own health care proposal for the paperback edition of his book. Romney says he didn't change his mind at all -- he simply noted that the health care plan he had proposed for Massachusetts would not work on the national level.
9:28 p.m.: How would 50 different Social Security programs work, if Social Security were turned over to the states, as Perry suggested? Perry responds that that's not what he suggested -- the states should just have an option to withdraw from the national system and establish their own. Romney retorts that Perry said in his book that the federal government shouldn't be in the pension business, so if he's changed his mind, you'd better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.
9:21 p.m.: Going to commercial break. The next segment will be about foreign policy.
9:20 p.m.: Huge applause as Paul expounds on his support for the 10th Amendment. Next, Johnson is asked what would make him a better choice for libertarians than Paul. He says he started a one-man business in Albuquerque and grew it into a hugely successful business. He also promises to submit a balanced budget to Congress in 2013 and to veto legislation where expenditures exceed legislature. He says proudly that he vetoed more bills than any governor in the history of the United States, and says that should assure voters that he means it when he threatens vetoes. Then he suggests replacing the entire tax code with a consumption tax, doing away with corporate taxes and creating lots of jobs.
9:18 p.m.: Question for Paul: how do you plan to restore the 10th Amendment as president, allowing states to govern themselves? Lots of applause at that question. Paul's answer: I would veto every single bill that violates the 10th Amendment.
9:17 p.m.: Cain is asked about his proposal for flat 9 percent taxes, including a new national sales tax. Wouldn't there be a risk of some future president raising taxes, which would then affect three types of taxes rather than two? His answer: the 999 plan is good because it treats all businesses the same. We also have to completely overhaul the tax code. We can't work within the current one: That dog won't hunt.
9:14 p.m.: Question for Huntsman: how is your plan different from Obama's Solyndra plan? His answer: we've learned that subsidies don't work. We can pursue renewable energy, but the solar and wind energy don't work economically right now. Natural gas would be a better idea, he says.
9:12 p.m.: Gingrich on unemployment compensation: It is fundamentally wrong to give people money for 99 weeks for doing nothing.
9:11 p.m.: The next question is for Santorum: with unemployment above 9 percent, union issues have become increasingly relevant. Would you support some form of a federal right-to-work law allowing Americans to choose whether or not to join a union? Santorum's answer: eliminate public employee unions, which have bankrupted some states. I would support a bill that says we should not have public employee unions for the purpose of wages and benefits to be negotiated, he says.
9:09 p.m.: When people make money, it's OUR money, one questioner says. He characterizes Obama's policies as government-directed temporary fixes and gimmicks.
9:07 p.m.: The way to lift America isn't to redistribute income, Romney says.
9:05 p.m.: Romney is asked about his jobs plan. President Obama has done everything wrong. ... Having had a job in small business and in big business, I know what you have to do is make America the most attractive place in the world for businesses, he says, adding that we need to lower taxes and make government the friend of business rather than the enemy. The people that have been hurt the most by the president's economy ... has been the middle class. That's why I'll cut taxes for the middle class.
9:03 p.m.: Question for Perry: As a small business owner, one of the obstacles I have ... is having the confidence and incentive to hire new employees. What would you propose to do to allow small companies to confidently hire? Perry: Lower the tax burden, have a fair and predictable regulatory climate, and pass tort reform. That's the way you get the government off of the back of small businessmen. ... If it'll work in the state of Texas, it'll work in Washington, D.C.