Republicans Debate: The First Moments
The leading Republican presidential candidates spent the opening moments of tonight's debate in South Carolina discussing the state of the American economy, with former governor Mitt Romney (Mass.) coming out aggressively against Sen. John McCain's alleged pessimism on the matter.
Right out of the box, Romney went on the attack -- noting that McCain had said jobs were leaving Michigan that wouldn't be coming back. "I disagree," said Romney. "I am going to fight for every single job."
In his response, McCain hued closely to the "straight talk" message that won him the New Hampshire primary in 2000 and 2008, implicitly suggesting that Romney wasn't being honest with the voters. "One of the reasons why I won in New Hampshire is because I went there and told them the truth," said McCain. "There are some jobs that aren't coming back to Michigan."
The opening back-and-forth signaled that while tonight's debate is going on in Myrtle Beach, Romney and McCain both have an eye on Michigan's Jan. 15 primary. The collapse of the automobile industry has badly damaged the state's economy and is a major issue on the minds of Michigan voters.
McCain, enjoying his newfound frontrunner status, dominated the early minutes of the debate -- highlighting his work in Congress to cut spending and reciting several of his favorite lines including how the member of the Senate Appropriations Committee call him sheriff.
McCain also got a chance to tout his service as a "footsoldier" in the political army of President Ronald Reagan. "We have to return to those principles of less government, less taxes, strong family values and a strong national defense."
Romney refused to let McCain one-up him on praise for Reagan while also pivoting to his fundamental message that Washington is broken and has changed for the worse. "Washington has moved away from the Reagan coalition," Romney said.
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