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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Part 1: (08:00pm - 08:30pm) CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate
Aired October 18, 2011 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR AND DEBATE MODERATOR: I'm Anderson Cooper in Las Vegas.
Tonight, the presidential candidates come here to win the West.
NARRATOR: The west. From the mountain majesty of the Rockies, to the desert sands of the Mojave, the American frontier is a historic land of opportunity for Republicans.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Believe in America.
NARRATOR: Tonight, the fight for the GOP presidential nomination comes here, to a region where Barack Obama made inroads four years ago, to a state that could be decisive in the primary season and the general election, to a city where dreams are made and crushed.
Stand by for a Las Vegas event, the Republican presidential contenders on stage and in depth after a dramatic reshuffling of the pack.
Herman Cain, now among the leaders surging in recent weeks.
PERRY: We put more boots on the ground.
NARRATOR: Rick Perry, trying to get back on track after a meteoric rise.
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for being here today.
NARRATOR: And Mitt Romney, steady, holding his place in the top tier.
They could have the most to win or lose. But Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul could be wildcards. And Rick Santorum, eager to beat the odds.
The candidates facing tough questions about jobs and the economy, the immigration wars, and other issues that matter to westerners and voters across the nation.
Now, with nothing less than America's future at stake, the presidential campaign goes West.
COOPER: And welcome to the Sands Convention Center at the Venetian in Las Vegas, our host of the Western Republican Presidential Debate.
Tonight, seven contenders will be on this stage to convince you he or she should be the Republican nominee for the president of the United States.
I'm Anderson Cooper.
Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world.
Tonight's debate is airing on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, and the American Forces Network.
We want to thank our cosponsors, the Western Republican Leadership Conference, representing 16 western states and territories. Western voters will play an active role in tonight's debate. Voters here in our audience will have a chance to put questions directly to the candidates on this stage.
Let's meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders.
Joining us on stage, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
COOPER: The former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.
COOPER: Texas Governor Rick Perry.
COOPER: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
COOPER: The former president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, Herman Cain.
COOPER: Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
COOPER: And the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.
COOPER: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Republican candidates for president of the United States.
COOPER: Well, the crowd is on its feet. Everyone, please remain standing. It's time now for our national anthem performed tonight by Tony award-winner Anthony Crivello, starring as the Phantom in "Phantom Las Vegas," the Las Vegas spectacular. Please stand for the national anthem.
CRIVELLO: (SINGING NATIONAL ANTHEM)
COOPER: I want to ask the candidates to please take your podiums. While the candidates are taking their podiums, I just want to tell you a little bit more about how tonight's debate is going to work. I'll be the moderator. I'll ask questions on a wide range of issues. And I'll work to make sure that each candidate is getting his or her fair share of questions.
Also, Western voters right here in the hall will be asking questions, as well, and viewers watching at home can participate, also. We're accepting questions for the candidates on Twitter. If you send a question for the candidates on Twitter, make sure to include the hash tag #cnndebate, on Facebook at facebook.com/cnnpolitics, and on cnnpolitics.com.
Now, each candidate will have about one minute to answer the questions and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. I'll make sure candidates get time to respond if they're singled out for criticism. There are no buzzers. There's no bells. I'll just politely inform the candidates when they need to wrap things up.
We want everyone watching to emerge from this debate more informed about the candidates, more able to judge who should be the next president of the United States.
Now that everyone is in place, it's time for the candidates to introduce themselves to our audience. All the candidates are going to keep it short. Here's an example. I'm Anderson Cooper. I'm usually anchoring "AC 360" on CNN, but I'm honored to be here in Las Vegas at the Western Republican Presidential Debate. That will be my introduction.
So, Senator Santorum, you're first. Let's start with you.
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Anderson. I'm Rick Santorum. My wife, Karen, and I are the parents of seven children. And my little girl, Isabella, 3 years old, had some surgery today. She's doing fine. But I just wanted to send to her a little "I love you" and I will take the red eye home to be with you tomorrow and make sure that you're feeling fine.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Congressman Ron Paul from Texas. I'm the champion of liberty. I am the only one that has offered a balanced budget in -- in a sincere method. And also, I present the case for a free society as being the best defense for peace and prosperity.
HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am businessman Herman Cain. I've been married to my wife, Gloria, for 43 years. And I'm a 42-year businessman, which means I solve problems for a living.
ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney. I was a businessman for 25 years. Then I had the fun of getting the chance to help run the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City next door. And then I had the fun also of being governor of Massachusetts. I also solve problems, sometimes for a living, sometimes for other people to make things better. And I hope to be your president. Thank you.
PERRY: Good evening. I'm Texas Governor Rick Perry, a proven job-creator and a man who is about economic growth, an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience.
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Newt Gingrich. And unlike President Obama, I'm glad to be in Las Vegas. I think it's a great place to have a convention.
And -- and when I am president, we're going to replace class warfare with cooperation so all Americans can get off food stamps and onto paychecks.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, my name is Michele Bachmann. I am thrilled to be able to be with you tonight in Las Vegas. And this is one night when I hope what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.
COOPER: All right. Let's -- time to begin. We'll begin with actually a question in the hall.
QUESTION: This is for all candidates. What's your position on replacing the federal income tax with a federal sales tax?
COOPER: I'll direct that to Congresswoman Bachmann. You've been very critical of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan, which calls for a 9 percent sales tax, a 9 percent income tax, and 9 percent corporate tax. In fact, you've said it would destroy the economy. Why?
BACHMANN: Well, I am a former federal tax litigation attorney. And also, my husband and I are job-creators.
One thing I know about Congress, being a member of Congress for five years, is that any time you give the Congress a brand-new tax, it doesn't go away. When we got the income tax in 1913, the top rate was 7 percent. By 1980, the top rate was 70 percent. If we give Congress a 9 percent sales tax, how long will it take a liberal president and a liberal Congress to run that up to maybe 90 percent? Who knows?
What I do know is that we also have to be concerned about the hidden tax of the value-added tax, because at every step and stage of production, you'd be taxing that item 9 percent on the profit. That's the worry.
In my plan -- again, that's a tax plan, it's not a jobs plan -- my plan for economic recovery is real jobs right now. I have a tax plan. I have a jobs plan. I have an energy plan and a plan to really turn this country around and create millions of high-paying jobs.
COOPER: Mr. Cain, a lot of prominent conservatives now are coming forward saying that your 9-9-9 plan would actually raise taxes on middle-class voters, on lower-income voters.
CAIN: The thing that I would encourage people to do before they engage in this knee-jerk reaction is read our analysis. It is available at hermancain.com. It was performed by Fiscal Associates. And all of the claims that are made against it, it is a jobs plan, it is revenue-neutral, it does not raise taxes on those that are making the least. All of those are simply not true.
The reason that my plan -- the reason that our plan is being attacked so much is because lobbyists, accountants, politicians, they don't want to throw out the current tax code and put in something that's simple and fair. They want to continue to be able to manipulate the American people with a 10-million-word mess.
Let's throw out the 10-million-word mess and put in our plan, which will liberate the American workers and liberate American businesses.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, will his plan raise taxes?
SANTORUM: Herman's well-meaning, and I love his boldness, and it's great. But the fact of the matter is, I mean, reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan. That's the analysis. And it makes sense, because when -- when you don't provide a standard deduction, when you don't provide anything for low-income individuals, and you have a sales tax and an income tax and, as Michele said, a value-added tax, which is really what his corporate tax is, we're talking about major increases in taxes on people.
He also doesn't have anything that takes care of the families. I mean, you have -- you have a situation where, under Herman's plan, a single person pays as much in taxes as a -- as a man and a woman raising three children. Ever since we've had the income tax in America, we've always taken advantage of the fact that we want to encourage people to -- to have children and not have to pay more already to raise children, but also pay that additional taxes -- we gave some breaks for families. He doesn't do that in this bill.
And we're going to -- we've seen that happen in Europe. And what happened? Boom, birth rates went into -- into the basement. It's a bad tax for -- again, it's bold. I give him credit for -- for starting a debate, but it's not good for families, and it's not good for low-income...
COOPER: I'm going to give you 30 seconds to respond. That 84 percent figure comes from the Tax Policy Center.
CAIN: That simply is not true. I invite people to look at our analysis, which we make available.
Secondly, the -- the point that he makes about is a value-added tax -- I'm sorry, Representative Bachmann -- it's not a value-added tax. It's a single tax.
And I invite every American to do their own math, because most of these are knee-jerk reactions. And we do provide a provision, if you read the analysis, something we call opportunity zones that will, in fact, address the issue of those making the least.
COOPER: I want to bring in Congresswoman Bachmann since she was referenced by you.
BACHMANN: But Anderson, how do you not have a value-added tax? Because at every level of production you have a profit, and that profit gets taxed, because you produce one portion at one level, and then you take it to the next supplier or vendor at the next level, and you have an exchange. That is a taxable event.
And ultimately, that becomes a value-added tax. It's a hidden tax. And any time the federal government needs revenue, they dial up the rate and the American people think that it's -- that it is the vendor that creates the tax, but it's the government that creates the tax.
COOPER: Governor Perry, in your state, you have a 6.25 percent sales tax. Would taxpayers pay more under the 9-9-9 plan?
Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don't need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out. Go to New Hampshire, where they don't have a sales tax, and you're fixing to give them one.
They're not interested in 9-9-9. What they're interested in is flatter and fairer. At the end of the week, I'm going to be laying out a plan that clearly -- I'll bump plans with you, brother, and we'll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working again.
And one of the ways, right here in Nevada you've got 8-plus percent. You want nine cents on top of that, and nine cents on a new home -- or 9 percent on a new home, 9 percent on your Social Security, 9 percent more?
I don't think so, Herman. It's not going to fly.
COOPER: Mr. Cain, 30 seconds.
CAIN: This is an example of mixing apples and oranges. The state tax is an apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges. So it's not correct to mix apples and oranges.
Secondly, it is not a value-added tax. If you take most of the products -- take a loaf of bread. It does have five taxes in it right now. What the 9 percent does is that we take out those five invisible taxes and replace it with one visible 9 percent.
So you're absolutely wrong. It's not a value-added tax.
Now one other quick thing.
COOPER: Your time's up, I'm sorry.
CAIN: This whole thing about --
COOPER: You'll have another 30 seconds. Trust me, they're going to go --
COOPER: Yes, I guarantee it. In about a minute.
Congressman Paul, you called his plan dangerous today.
PAUL: Oh, it is, because it raises revenues, and the worst part about it, it's regressive. A lot of people aren't paying any taxes, and I like that. I don't think that we should even things up by raising taxes.
So it is a regressive tax. So it's very, very dangerous. And it will raise more revenues.
But the gentlemen asked the question -- he didn't even ask what we're talking about. He asked the question, what are you going to replace the income tax with? And I say nothing. That's what we should replace it with.
PAUL: But I do want to make a point that spending is a tax. As soon as the governments spend money, eventually it's a tax. Sometimes we put a direct tax on the people. Sometimes we borrow the money. And sometimes we print the money.
And then when prices go up, like today, the wholesale price index went up 7 percent rate, and if you look at the free market, prices are going up 9 and 10 percent. So that is the tax.
So, spending is the tax. That is the reason I offered the program, to cut $1 trillion out of the first year budget that I offer.
COOPER: Mr. Cain, in 30 seconds?
CAIN: Once again, unfortunately, none of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me up here tonight understand the plan. They're wrong about it being a value-added tax.
We simply remove the hidden taxes that are in goods and services with our plan and replace it with a single rate 9 percent. I invite every family to do your own calculations with that arithmetic.
COOPER: Governor Romney, you have your only 59-point plan. In the last debate, Mr. Cain suggested it was too complicated. Is simpler better?
ROMNEY: Oftentimes simpler is better. And I know we're not supposed the ask each other questions, but if you permit.
Herman, are you saying that the state sales tax will also go away?
CAIN: No, that's an apple.
CAIN: We're replacing a bunch of oranges.
So, then Governor Perry was right that --
CAIN: No, he wasn't. He was mixing apples and oranges.
ROMNEY: Well, but will the people in Nevada not have to pay Nevada sales tax and in addition pay the 9 percent tax? CAIN: Governor Romney, you're doing the same thing that they're doing. You're mixing apples and oranges. You're going to pay --
ROMNEY: I'm --
CAIN: No, no, no, no. You're going to pay the state sales tax, no matter what.
CAIN: Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you're still going to pay that. That's apples and oranges.
ROMNEY: Fine. And I'm going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it because I've got to pay both taxes, and the people in Nevada don't want to pay both taxes.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: Now let me make this comment. Let's just step back here. We've got a lot of people in America that are out of work. We've got a lot of people in this state, 13.4 percent of the people in this state out of work. We've got home prices going down. We've got to talk about how to get America growing again, how to start adding jobs, raising incomes, and tax is part of it.
I want to reduce taxes on our employers to make it easier to invest in America. I want to reduce taxes on middle income families. I like your chutzpah on this, Herman, but I have to tell you, the analysis I did, person by person, return by return, is that middle income people see higher taxes under your plan.
If it's lower for the middle class, that's great. But that's not what I saw. I have to tell you, I want to get our burden down on our employers, on our people. I want to make sure our regulations work to encourage the private sector as opposed to putting a damper on it.
I want to get trade, opening up new markets for America. I want to also find a way to get our energy resources -- and they're all over the world, are all over this country, used for us. This is time to get America growing again. And that's what this campaign ought to be about.
COOPER: Thank you, Governor.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, you have said in recent days that Mr. Cain's 999 plan would be a harder sell than he lets on. How so?
GINGRICH: Well, you just watched it.
(LAUGHTER) GINGRICH: I mean, look, there are -- first of all, I think that Herman Cain deserves a lot of credit. He has had the courage to go out and take a specific very big idea at the right level.
GINGRICH: And he has us at least talking about something that matters as opposed to the junk that all too often is masquerading as politics in this country. So I think that's important.
There are two parts to this. The first is, if you take his plan, and I think it's in the interest of the whole country to have serious people take his plan and go through it step by step. There are much more complexities than Herman lets on. OK. I mean, 999, when you get into details like you pay it on a new product, you don't pay it on an old product, et cetera, there's a lot more detail here than he lets on.
Second, I favor very narrow, focused tax cuts such as zero capital gains, 100 percent expensing, because I think, as Governor Romney said, jobs are the number one challenge of the next two or three years. Get something you can do very fast. Change on this scale takes years to think through if you're going to do it right.
COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you said in the last debate that everyone should pay something. Does that mean that you would raise taxes on the 47 percent of Americans who currently don't pay taxes?
BACHMANN: I believe absolutely every American benefits by this magnificent country. Absolutely every American should pay something, even if it's a dollar.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BACHMANN: Everyone needs to pay something in this country. That's why with my tax plan, I take a page out of not theory but what's provable and what works. What is provable and what works was the economic miracle that was wrought by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. That's the plan that I look at.
I also want to completely abolish the tax code. I want to flatten the tax for all of Americans, simplify that tax for all of Americans. And that creates job growth, which is exactly what we need to have.
Because to be able to fuel the fire for this economy, again, it is the tax code, but it doesn't end with the tax code. It's the regulatory burden that costs us $1.8 trillion every year, but it's more than that cost. It's jobs that are lost.
So we need to repeal "Obama-care," repeal the jobs and housing destruction act known as Dodd-Frank. President Obama's plan has been a plan for destruction of this economy and failure.
COOPER: Thank you.
BACHMANN: I plan to change that with real jobs right now at michelebachmann.com.
COOPER: We've been talking about Herman Cain's plan. Let's talk about Governor Romney's plan.
Governor Perry, you have said that Governor Romney was an abject failure at creating jobs when he was governor of Massachusetts. If you've read his 59-point plan, has it changed your mind?
PERRY: Well, here's the nine that we need to get focused on. And it's not 999, it's not 59. It's that 9 percent unemployment in this country. And that's where we've got to get focused in America, is how to create an environment where the men and women get back to work.
It's the reason I laid out a plan, Newt, this last week to get this energy that's under our feet. We've got 300 years of resources right under our feet in this country. Yet we've got an administration that is blockading our ability to bring that to the surface, whether it's our petroleum, our natural gas, or our coal. And 1.2 million jobs could be put to work.
Americans who are sitting out there listening to this conversation tonight, somebody wants someone on this stage to say: Listen, we got an idea here how to get you to work and take care of your family and have the dignity of a job. And that's exactly what I did with my plan, laid it out where Americans understand we don't have to wait on OPEC anymore. We don't have to let them hold us hostage. America's got the energy. Let's have American energy independence.
COOPER: Governor Romney, does Governor Perry have the answer?
ROMNEY: Well, he's absolutely right about -- about getting energy independence and taking advantage of our natural resources here. We're an energy-rich nation that's acting like an energy-poor nation. And that's something I've been talking about for some time, as the governor has. He's absolutely right.
But there are also a lot of good jobs we need in manufacturing, and high-tech jobs, and good service jobs, technology of all kinds. America produces an economy that's very, very broad. And that's why our policy to get America the most attractive place in the world for investment and -- and job growth encompasses more than just energy. It includes that, but also tax policy, regulatory policy, trade policy, education, training and balancing the federal budget, and that starts with repealing Obamacare, which is a huge burden on this economy.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, does Mitt Romney have the answers for jobs? SANTORUM: I agree with -- with all of what Governor Romney and both -- and Governor Perry said. I would add the fact that -- that I've put forward the plan that's going to allow for income mobility. That's a new term, but I've been using it for a long time, which is people at the bottom part of the income scale being able to rise in society.
Believe it or not, studies have been done that show that in Western Europe, people at the lower parts of the income scale actually have a better mobility going up the ladder now than in America. And I believe that's because we've lost our manufacturing base. No more stamp "Made in America" is really hurting people in the middle.
And that's why I focus all of the real big changes in the tax code at manufacturing. I cut the corporate rate for manufacturing to zero, repeal all regulations affecting manufacturers that cost over $100 million and replace them with something that's friendlier, they can work with. We repatriate $1.2 trillion that manufacturers made overseas and allow them to bring it back here, if they invest in plants and equipment. They can do it without having to pay any -- any excise tax.
The final point I would make to Governor Romney, you just don't have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing Obamacare. You are -- you are -- your plan was the basis for Obamacare. Your consultants helped Obama craft Obamacare. And to say that you're going to repeal it, you just -- you have no track record on that that -- that we can trust you that you're going to do that.
COOPER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds.
SANTORUM: You don't.
ROMNEY: You know, this I think is either our eighth or ninth debate. And each chance I've -- I've had to talk about Obamacare, I've made it very clear, and also in my book. And at the time, by the way, I crafted the plan, in the last campaign, I was asked, is this something that you would have the whole nation do? And I said, no, this is something that was crafted for Massachusetts. It would be wrong to adopt this as a nation.
SANTORUM: That's not what you said.
ROMNEY: You're -- you're shaking -- you're shaking your head.
SANTORUM: Governor, no, that's not what you said.
ROMNEY: That happens -- to happens to be...
SANTORUM: It was in your book that it should be for everybody.
ROMNEY: Guys... PERRY: You took it out of your book.
SANTORUM: You took it out of your book.
ROMNEY: Hey, his turn. His turn, OK, and mine.
ROMNEY: I'll tell you what? Why don't you let me speak?
SANTORUM: You're allowed -- you're allowed to change -- you're allowed to change...
ROMNEY: Rick, you had your chance. Let me speak.
SANTORUM: You can't change the facts.
ROMNEY: Rick, you had your chance. Let me speak.
SANTORUM: You're out of time. You're out of time.
COOPER: He ate into your time.
ROMNEY: I haven't had a chance to respond yet, because you were interrupting the entire time I was trying to speak.
ROMNEY: Let me make it very clear.
COOPER: I'll give another 20 seconds.
ROMNEY: And -- look -- look, we'll let everybody take a look at the fact checks. I was interviewed by Dan Balz. I was in interviews in this debate stage with you four years ago. I was asked about the Massachusetts plan, was it something I'd impose on the nation? And the answer is absolutely not.
It was something crafted for a state. And I've said time and again, Obamacare is bad news. It's unconstitutional. It costs way too much money, a trillion dollars. And if I'm president of the United States, I will repeal it for the American people.
COOPER: All right. Senator Santorum?
SANTORUM: Mitt, the governor of Massachusetts just is coming forward saying we have to pick up the job left undone by Romneycare, which is doing something about cutting health care costs.
What you did is exactly what Barack Obama did: focused on the wrong problem. Herman always says you've got to find the right problem. Well, the right problem is health care costs. What you did with a top-down, government-run program was focus on the problem of health care access. You expanded the pool of insurance without controlling costs. You've blown a hole in the budget up there. And you authored in Obamacare, which is going to blow a hole in the budget of this country.