Republicans meet in New Hampshire debate


U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), at the Republican Presidential Debate debate at Saint Anselm College January 7, 2012 in Manchester, New Hampshire.


Win McNamee

The Republican presidential hopefuls met at a debate Saturday night at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman covered a broad range of topics from abortion to foreign policy.

Notably the candidates did not unite to attack Mitt Romney, the frontrunner, who in recent polls is expected to take over 40 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.

More from GlobalPost: Poll: Obama and Romney tied in presidential race.

The candidates entered into several heated exchanges with moderators, including one in which Mitt Romney argued with George Stephanopoulos about whether states could ban contraception: “It's working fine. Leave it alone,” he said, to applause. The New York Times reported that the exchange was actually an attempt by the moderator to have Romney respond to controversial personhood amendments. The Times reports:

Voters in Mississippi recently rejected a "personhood" ballot initiative, but abortion opponents led by a Colorado-based group, Personhood USA, seek to get the measure on ballots this year in several other states. The idea, which has split the anti-abortion movement over tactics, is designed to provoke a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.

Rick Perry criticized President Barack Obama for ending the Iraq war. “I would send troops back into Iraq,” said Perry, who argued that the withdrawal demonstrated that President Obama was “kowtowing” to his liberal base.

The candidates also entered into an exchange about spending. Ron Paul, a stalwart critic of government expenditures, said to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, “You didn’t do much to slow it up when you had the chance."

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and ambassador to China under President Obama, said his appeal was his “leadership.” He called for congressional term limits and said, “everyone knows we have got to close the revolving door that has corrupted Washington.”

Other candidates agreed on ending the Afghanistan war. Huntsman predicting the country was careening toward “civil war.”

More from GlobalPost: Afghan peace talks confirmed by insurgent group

Huntsman and Romney argued about China, where Huntsman was ambassador for nearly two years. Romney said on China's alleged currency deflation, “I am also going tell the Chinese its time to stop. You have got to play by the rules. It's time to stop letting China kill American jobs.” Huntsman warned that Romney’s course would result in a trade war “at a time when this country can least afford a trade war.”

More from GlobalPost: Chinese yuan hits 17-year high

The debate finished with a light question: where would you be on a Saturday night if you weren’t at the debate?

“I’d probably be at the shooting range,” said Perry. “I’d be watching the college championship basketball game... or the football game,” answered Newt Gingrich.