Republicans Square Off: Top Quotes and Big Battles from Las Vegas Debate

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GOP presidential candidates (L-R) Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann during the CNN Debate, moderated by Anderson Cooper.
GOP presidential candidates (L-R) Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

Tuesday evening's Republican debate in Las Vegas was a drama of high stakes, shouting matches and great quotes, as  presidential hopefuls squared off on immigration, job creation, health care, and foreign policy.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry proved to be a much more aggressive debater this time, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stood his ground against multiple attacks. Herman Cain was praised for the boldness of his 9-9-9 tax plan, but criticized as short-sighted and inexperienced, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich side-stepped the issue of Romney's Mormon faith. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, continued to provide some of the most extreme, and some of the most amusing, soundbites from the field.

Below, the top 10 clashes of the debate, and our top quotes from the candidates.

 

10. Perry vs. Romney on Being a Republican President

Perry came out swinging, calling himself a proven job creator, and argued that Romney was too moderate, and too vacillating, to appeal to Republicans.

Quote of the night? Perry: I'm an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience.

 

9. Perry, Romney and Santorum vs. Cain on 9-9-9 Plan

Romney said he admired Cain's nerve, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum praised the businessman for his boldness. Both, however, joined Perry in saying the 9-9-9 plan is unfeasible in many states, such as those that have no sales tax, and would increase taxes for the middle class, becoming a tool of big government. Cain defended his plan.

Quote of the Night? A tie.

Perry: I'll bump plans with you, brother, and we'll see who has the best idea about how to get this country working again.

Cain: The 9-9-9 plan does not raise taxes on those that are making the least. It's simply not true. ... I invite every American to do their own math.

 

8. Santorum and Gingrich vs. Romney on Health Care

Santorum and Gingrich both went after Romney on his Massachusetts health care reform, linking it to President Barack Obama's national program. At one point, a defensive Romney said his state mandate could be expanded to the federal level, and said he got the idea from Gingrich, to which his rival responded: You did not get that from me. Bachmann also joined the fray, but had less to say than her competitors.

Quote of the Night? Gingrich: [This is] one more big-government, bureaucratic, high-cost system.

 

7. Perry vs. Romney on Immigration

Perry, asked about the many uninsured in Texas, chose to shift gears completely. He accused Romney's family of hiring a lawn service that employed illegal immigrants. Perry accused Romney of lying about not knowing the workers were illegal, and claimed Romney had no right to discuss immigration issues, calling it the height of hypocrisy. A shouting match erupted.

Quote of the Night? Romney: This has been a rough couple of debates for Rick. ... You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking.

 

6. Gingrich and Romney vs. Perry (and Gingrich) on Religion

Perry made sure to note that he did not agree with attacks by the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a supporter, on Mormonism. (He called it a cult.) But Romney would not accept a late apology. He said he found it repulsive that people were still judged based on what church or synagogue (notably, not mosque) they attended. Gingrich stayed in the middle, arguing that faith matters but saying the no one should rush into moral judgments based on religion.

Quote of the Night? Romney: I've heard worse, so I'm not going to lose sleep over that... [but] I would have said, 'Rev. Jeffress, you got this wrong.

 

5. Bachmann vs. Obama on Immigration

During the immigration battle between Perry and Romney, Bachmann took a moment to launch a personal attack on Obama's international extended family. She claimed that the president's relatives have overstayed their legal welcome in the United States, adding fuel to the continued suspicions on the right about Obama's origins.

Quote of the Night? Bachmann: [Obama] has the immigration problem ... his uncle and his aunt have been allowed to stay in this country despite the fact that they're illegal.

 

4. Romney vs. Perry on Job Creation

Romney said the unemployment rate in Massachusetts was lower during his term than in Texas under Perry. Perry flat-out disagreed, arguing that Romney had failed to create jobs. The Texan showing a much more aggressive counterattack than he has in past debates.

Quote of the Night? Perry: You failed as governor of Massachusetts.

 

3. Paul vs. Bachmann on Israel

When the debate entered foreign policy, Texas Rep. Ron Paul said aid to Israel was too costly, and should probably be cut. Bachmann, calling the move wrong, argued that Israel was an important U.S. ally that should not be underappreciated.

Quote of the Night? Paul: I would cut all foreign aid. I would treat everybody equally. 

 

2. Paul vs. Cain on Occupy Wall Street

Paul chided Cain for telling protesters to blame themselves. He brought up Cain's past as a regional Federal Reserve president and supporter of bank bailouts, and argued that the middle class had gotten stuck through plans like Cain's 9-9-9 strategy and the creation of financial bubbles. Cain stood by his earlier comments, arguing that protestors should be standing in front of the White House, not camped out near Wall Street.

Quote of the Night? Paul: Mr. Cain has blamed the victims. There are a lot of people who are victims of this business cycle.

 

1. Bachmann vs. Obama on Libya and Basic Geography.

Bachmann blamed Obama for putting the United States in Libya, a reference to Obama's military actions there. She then went on to say that Obama is now putting us in Africa, apparently referencing the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. The problem? Libya is in Africa.

Quote of the Night? Bachmann: I am the most different candidate from Barack Obama than anyone on this stage. Double points for the Libya is in Africa hashtag exploding on Twitter.

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