Top Stories From GOP Debate In Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Republican presidential hopefuls are casting President Barack Obama as a failure on Cuba and say they would do a better job ushering freedom into the nation after Castro.

Newt Gingrich said during Thursday night’s debate that the United States should use the same tactics President Ronald Reagan employed to bring down the Soviet Union. Gingrich says the U.S. policy should be to connect with young Cubans to persuade them that they want freedom for their generation.

Mitt Romney says he would use economic pressure to bring about freedom for the island nation 90 miles off Florida. Rick Santorum says Obama’s policies to ease restrictions on Cuba are “the exact wrong message at the exact wrong time.”

Ron Paul alone says the United States should engage Cuba now to ease tensions.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Newt Gingrich is defending himself after a questioner at the GOP presidential debate criticized him for calling Palestinians an invented people.

A questioner of Palestinian descent asked Gingrich how he could say Palestinians are “invented.”

Gingrich answered by reiterating his stance, saying that Palestinians were, in fact, invented in the 1970s. He says before that they were simply identified as Arabs.

Gingrich is also making it clear he is a strong supporter of Israel. He says that President Barack Obama has not stood up in support of Israel amid ongoing tension with Palestinians. Gingrich says he would be a steadfast supporter of Israel.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Winning the White House is a package deal, so the Republican presidential candidates are eager to talk up their spouses as ideal first ladies.

Each of the four contenders was asked during Thursday night’s debate why his wife would be strong in the role.

Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum highlight their decades-long marriages and describe their spouses as wonderful mothers.

Romney says wife Ann’s past battles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer would make her an ambassador on health causes.

Gingrich, the only candidate married more than once, says his third wife, Callista, is a patron of the arts who has film production and children’s books to her credit.


JACKSONVILE, Fla. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says he was vastly closer to President Ronald Reagan than his opponents.

Gingrich says he worked with Reagan when he was in Congress and is proud to have the endorsement of Michael Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s oldest son. Gingrich also says that he was “fighting in the trenches” while Reagan was president.

The former House speaker is contrasting himself with rival Mitt Romney, who he says was voting in a Democratic primary while Gingrich worked with Reagan.

Romney says he’s always voted for Republicans when he could, though he voted when he was an independent in a Democratic primary. He says it’s reasonable to say that Gingrich was closer to Reagan because Gingrich was in Congress while Reagan was president.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The GOP presidential candidates say they’d involve a number of top Hispanic GOP office holders in their Cabinet — and three say they’re particularly impressed with Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney all name-checked Rubio, the Florida senator elected in 2010. He is a tea party favorite and widely viewed as a potential vice presidential nominee.

Gingrich is implying he would look hard at Rubio as his vice presidential nominee. Santorum and Romney both mentioned Rubio as a top Hispanic leader.

The candidates also mentioned New Mexico Gov. Barbara Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval among other prominent Hispanic leaders.

Their responses came after a question on what Hispanic leaders they would involve in their Cabinet.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Newt Gingrich wants America to establish a colony on the moon. Mitt Romney says it’s not worth the enormous cost.

The GOP presidential debate turned to space Thursday night as the candidates were asked about Gingrich’s call for developing a permanent lunar presence as a way to invigorate a key Florida industry.

Gingrich says NASA should offer prize incentives to businesses that develop commercial flight to the moon and beyond. He holds up that idea as an example of bold thinking.

But Romney chalks it up as pandering to local concerns over national interests. He says that if a business subordinate brought the space idea to him he’d fire him.

Texas congressman Ron Paul drew laughs when he said the people he’d send to the moon are politicians.



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No matter what polls say about tax fairness, the Republican presidential candidates all say calls to tax the rich fall flat with them.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in a GOP debate Thursday night that government should shrink to fit tax revenues. And he wants something akin to a flat tax.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum favors two tax brackets with the top rate of 28 percent, the upper end when President Ronald Reagan was in charge.

Texas congressman Ron Paul says he wants to get rid of the constitutional amendment authorizing a federal income tax.

Tax fairness is expected to be a major general election theme. Democratic President Barack Obama says the wealthy should pay the same share of their income in taxes as those at lower rungs.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is defending rival Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on attacks from each other on their wealth.

Santorum says Romney is, in his words, “a wealthy guy because he worked hard.” He is also defending Gingrich by saying Gingrich’s work advising companies after leaving government is not the worst thing in the world.

Santorum says Romney’s and Gingrich’s attacks on each other distract from bigger issues and that they should focus on policy differences.

Gingrich says he believe his wealth should be a non-issue but says he must defend himself from attacks.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Republicans running for their party’s presidential nomination say they will release their medical records if they are picked.

Ron Paul is the 76-year-old congressman from Texas. He was asked Monday if he would release his health records given he would be the nation’s oldest president if he wins. Paul says he will and then challenged his younger rivals to a 25-mile bike ride.

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum all say they also will release their records. Gingrich joked that he has watched Paul campaign and says Paul is “in great shape.”

Paul chided moderator Wolf Blitzer for the question. He says there are laws against age discrimination.



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Rivals Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are trading barbs over their income from mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In Thursday’s debate in Florida, Gingrich criticized Romney’s investment in mutual funds that included the lenders, as well as Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.

Gingrich says Romney is profiting from home foreclosures that plague Florida, and he’s asking how much of Romney’s personal fortune came from those foreclosures.

Romney defends the investments, saying his blind trust handles his finances and that Gingrich himself owns mutual funds that also invest in the quasi-government lenders.

Romney also is criticizing Gingrich for his paychecks as a consultant to the lender that some blame for the housing crisis.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Mitt Romney is citing his family’s arrival in the United States in rebutting a claim by rival Republican Newt Gingrich that he’s “anti-immigrant.”

The former Massachusetts governor forcefully rejected the label during Thursday night’s debate, noting that his father was born in Mexico and his father-in-law in Wales. Romney says he wants to enforce laws so people who come to the U.S. illegally don’t get to stay. He accuses the former House speaker of “over-the-top rhetoric.”

Gingrich has been accusing Romney of sounding inhumane for suggesting that people in the country illegally will “self-deport.”

The Republican candidates want to appear tough on illegal immigration but not uncompassionate when it comes to long-standing families with deep ties to the United States.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Newt Gingrich says he does not believe rival Mitt Romney’s proposal to allow illegal immigrants to voluntarily deport themselves would be successful, adding that his presidential rival is the “most anti-immigrant” candidate.

Gingrich and Romney clashed in the opening moments of Thursday’s debate in Florida.

Gingrich says the United States is not going to yank grandmothers from their homes and calls for immigration policies to be realistic. He adds that Romney is biased against immigrants.

Romney says such rhetoric is “inexcusable” and “repulsive.” He says he wants legal immigration and that existing laws must be obeyed.

Rick Santorum says he agrees with Romney’s position. Ron Paul says the U.S. needs to focus on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, not the one between the U.S. and Texas.