The four remaining GOP hopefuls gathered in Arizona on Wednesday night for the final debate prior to the Arizona and Michigan primaries coming up on February 28. This debate was sponsored by CNN and the Republican Party of Arizona. It was held at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona.
Original Air Time: Wednesday, February 22 at 8pm ET on CNN
Participants: Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, Paul
Alternate full debate video link: ElectAd.com
Report from Fox News:
The Republican presidential candidates head back on the campaign trail Thursday after a debate in Phoenix, Ariz. that, while fiery at times, ultimately changed little in the race for the 2012 presidential nomination.
The debate, which took place one week before a flurry of voting begins with contests in Michigan and Arizona, saw Mitt Romney reaffirm his genteel but biting attack style. His main target was Rick Santorum, who faced a host of questions from his rival aimed at cutting short the would-be path of an emerging frontrunner.
Romney went on offense from the start against Santorum’s record of spending while in the U.S. Senate, accusing him of raising the debt ceiling five times, funding Planned Parenthood and expanding the Department of Education.
In a searing first shot the Republican presidential primary frontrunner said during Santorum’s watch, spending grew 80 percent of the federal government.
But in a quick retort, Santorum, seated next to Romney one week before they and candidates Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul hear from voters in Arizona and Michigan, said that while he was in office in Washington, the debt as a percentage of GDP went down from 68 percent to 64 percent.
No doubt that Santorum took a beating from both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Gingrich gave an endearing performance but I am not sure that will be enough to reignite his campaign.
Ron Paul actually seemed to come out looking the best after last night and it was due in part to letting the other candidates talk themselves into corners. Paul hammered Santorum on spending and it was a little uncomfortable watching Santorum attempt to justify certain earmarks over other earmarks.
Probably the two who benefited the most from Wednesday night were Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. The attacks on Romney have been played out time and time again in these debates so we didn’t hear anything new. Santorum and Gingrich delivered the standard lines against Romney’s Massachusetts health care law but those critiques have been heard time and time again.