In NBC GOP Debate, Questions Hit Candidates From Left by 8 to 1 Margin

Out the 41 questions directed to the six Republican presidential candidates during Sunday's NBC News/Facebook debate on Meet the Press, 25 of them were from the left, 13 questions were neutral, mainly about the campaign horse race and electability, and only three questions pressed the candidates from the right.

Early in the debate, moderator David Gregory demanded to know how much "pain" the candidates would inflict upon Americans by cutting spending. Newt Gingrich called out Gregory for the slanted query: "David, you know, I, I find it fascinating that very, very highly paid Washington commentators and Washington analysts love the idea of pain. What – who's going to be in pain? The duty of the president is to find a way to manage the federal government so the primary pain is on changing the bureaucracy."

Minutes later, Gregory selected a left-wing question from a viewer on Facebook: "And this from Martin Montalvo, because we do have a spending crisis but also a lot of people hurting. He writes this: 'With more Americans on government assistance than ever before, is it un-American for Americans to feel relieved when the government helps them?'"

Talking to Rick Perry, Gregory asked: "I wonder where you would buck your party. What would you say or do to make Republicans uncomfortable?" After Perry voiced his support for a part-time Congress and a balanced budget amendment, Gregory replied: "Do you think telling conservatives, 'A balanced budget amendment is something I'm going to do, and I'm going to cut spending,' that's going to make them uncomfortable?"

In the middle of the debate, Gregory brought in New Hampshire Union Leader senior political reporter John DiStaso and Boston Channel 7 News political editor Andy Hiller to ask some questions.

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DiStaso began by pleading: "Home heating oil is nearly $4 a gallon, yet President Obama and Congress have cut by 25 percent the program that helps, helps low-income people heat their homes. About a million households that were helped last year won't be helped this year. Is this an example of pain that must be suffered? Should this, should this program funding be restored? Should it be cut more?"

In his first question to the candidates, Hiller asked Mitt Romney: "How have you stood up for gay rights and when have you used your voice to influence Republicans on this issue?...When's the last time you stood up and spoke out for increasing gay rights?"

Hiller then directed the same question to Rick Santorum: "Senator Santorum, would you be a voice for increasing gay rights in the party?...Would you be a voice for speaking out for gay rights in your party, and if not, why not?...What if you had a son who came to you and said he was gay?"

DiStaso urged the candidates to defend big labor: "What positive contributions do labor unions provide in this country at this, this point in the 21st century?"

Moments later, Gregory jumped in: "Governor Romney, on this economic question, you blame President Obama for the jobs crisis, but when you look at the data and a positive trend line he still only gets the blame and none of the credit. How come?"

Hiller rounded out his series of questions by asking Ron Paul: "Many Americans, particularly Democrats, believe that health care is a right. In your opinion, what services are all Americans entitled to expect to get from government?"

As Gregory resumed his role as moderator, he suggested the United States should just learn to "live with" a nuclear Iran: "I wonder why it is, if America has lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we have come to live with a nuclear North Korea, why is it that we cannot live with a nuclear Iran? And if we can't, are you prepared to take the country to war to disarm that country?"


Here is a list of some of the questions featured in the January 8 debate:

10:30AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: But let me get to policy, Governor Huntsman. This is, by all accounts, an age of austerity for this country – a jobs crisis, also a spending crisis in Washington. I wonder what specifically you would do to say to Americans, "These are cuts I'm going to make in federal spending that will cause pain, that will require sacrifice."....Dr. Paul said let's not be superficial. Let's talk substance. So, Governor Huntsman, name three areas where Americans will feel real pain in order to balance the budget....Three programs that will make Americans feel pain, sir...


GREGORY: Senator Santorum, same question. Three programs that would make – would have to be cut to make Americans feel pain, to sacrifice, if we're going to balance the budget....


NEWT GINGRICH: But, David, you know, I, I find it fascinating that very, very highly paid Washington commentators and Washington analysts love the idea of pain. What – who's going to be in pain? The duty of the president is to find a way to manage the federal government so the primary pain is on changing the bureaucracy....


GREGORY: Governor Perry, from Facebook, a lot of questions, as we've mentioned, have been submitted. And this from Martin Montalvo, because we do have a spending crisis but also a lot of people hurting. He writes this: "With more Americans on government assistance than ever before, is it un-American for Americans to feel relieved when the government helps them?"...


GREGORY: Governor Romney, there's a lot of discussion, a lot of discussion this morning on Facebook about taxes. And as we talk about taxes and spending, of course, we talk about economic security and economic growth. There's been a debate in Washington and beyond, as you well know, between Warren Buffett and Grover Norquist. Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, says no tax increases under any circumstances. Warren Buffett says, "Hey, the wealthier in this country can pay more and they should pay more." Indeed, balancing the budget is a way for more economic growth down the line. Who knows more about the American economy, Grover Norquist or Warren Buffett?...


GREGORY: Governor Huntsman, who knows more about the American economy? You, you, in addition to that question, you seem to be a little bit uncomfortable with the moment from earlier in this debate cycle when everybody said that they would reject even a 10 to 1 ratio of cuts to new taxes...

GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, if you become President Gingrich and the leader of the Democrats, Harry Reid, says he's going to promise to make you a one-term president, how would you propose to work with someone like that in order to achieve results in Washington?...Anybody else have a point of view about how you actually work with the other side when they've committed to working against you?...


GREGORY: Governor Huntsman, this question of, if the leader of the Democrats promised to make you a one-term president, how would you go about dealing with them in a more effective way than you think the man you serve, President Obama, did?...


GREGORY [TO RICK PERRY]: This is, as you well know, New Hampshire is an independent place. And I wonder where, besides criticizing the previous administration for running up the debt, I wonder where you would buck your party. What would you say or do to make Republicans uncomfortable?...

RICK PERRY: I will tell you two things that can occur, that a president can lead the charge on, and it will put term limits into place. One of those is a part-time Congress...and then a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.

GREGORY: Governor, my question...

PERRY: You do those two things...

GREGORY: But my question, sir, was...

PERRY: ...and that will make them uncomfortable.

GREGORY: Do you think telling conservatives, "A balanced budget amendment is something I'm going to do, and I'm going to cut spending," that's going to make them uncomfortable?

PERRY: You're darn right because there's a bunch of people standing up here that say they're conservatives, but their records don't follow up on that...


GREGORY: And we are back in New Hampshire. I'm happy to be joined now by our local partners for the debate. For the--from the New Hampshire Union Leader, senior political reporter John DiStaso is, is with us....And from WHT– WHDH – we had this problem yesterday – TV, in Boston, Channel 7 in Boston, political editor Andy Hiller. Welcome to you as well. Glad to have you both. John, get us started.

DISTASO: All right. Governor Huntsman, it's winter in New Hampshire, it's a little mild, but it's still winter. Home heating oil is nearly $4 a gallon, yet President Obama and Congress have cut by 25 percent the program that helps, helps low-income people heat their homes. About a million households that were helped last year won't be helped this year. Is this an example of pain that must be suffered? Should this, should this program funding be restored? Should it be cut more? Should this program be eliminated, perhaps? Where does this fit in? This is a practical problem in this area of the country...

DISTASO: Congressman Paul, Congressman Paul, how do you feel about, how do you, how do you feel about subsidies in general for, for a specific energy and also, though, more, more specifically right now, more immediately, this low-income program, heating assistance program?...Is this something that fits in under your view of what government does do or should not do?...


GREGORY: Governor Romney, this is such an important topic because beyond the regional implication, there's also a larger question about the social safety net. You talk all the time about opportunity for Americans, but what about Americans left behind? In this age of austerity, what do Americans have to learn to live with less of?...


ANDY HILLER: Governor Romney, I'd like to remind you of something you said in Bay Windows, which is a gay newspaper in Massachusetts, in 1994 when you were running against Senator Kennedy. These are your words: "I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party, and I would be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts." How have you stood up for gay rights and when have you used your voice to influence Republicans on this issue?...When's the last time you stood up and spoke out for increasing gay rights?...


HILLER: Senator Santorum, would you be a voice for increasing gay rights in the party?

RICK SANTORUM: Surprised it's coming to me. What? What was your question?

HILLER: Would you be a voice for speaking out for gay rights in your party, and if not, why not?...What if you had a son who came to you and said he was gay?...


DISTASO: I'd like to, I'd like to ask both Governor Romney, quickly, and Senator Santorum, quickly, do – what positive contributions do labor unions provide in this country at this, this point in the 21st century?...


GREGORY: And we are back for our final half-hour. So much discussion, Speaker Gingrich, on Facebook, in the course of this debate, about jobs. And you can understand why. And we've talked about spending, we've talked about economic growth. It was Governor Romney who made the point to a young person who approached him that if he were president when this person got out of college he or she would have a job. If President Obama has a second term, he or she will not have a job. Isn't that the kind of thing that makes people angry with the politicians? Easy answers like that?...


GREGORY: But, Governor Romney, on this economic question, you blame President Obama for the jobs crisis, but when you look at the data and a positive trend line he still only gets the blame and none of the credit. How come?...


DISTASO: Governor Romney, I'm going to stay with you for one moment here. On the – talking about regulation, one of your prime New Hampshire supporters, Senator Kelly Ayotte, has said, quote, "New Hampshire should not be the tailpipe for pollutants from out-of-state power plants." Many Senate Republicans attacked an EPA rule limiting air pollution that affects downwind states. But she and others, including Scott Brown, joined with the president and Senate Democrats to block a repeal effort. Now, is this an example of this cross-state air pollution rule of fair regulation, something that we in the Northeast are very concerned about in terms of pollution, or is this overregulation, job-killing overregulation?...


HILLER: Governor Perry, your party's last nominee, John McCain, wrote in The Washington Post in an op-ed about a year ago, his words, "I disagree with many of the president's policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause. I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals." Agree?

PERRY: I make a very proud statement and a fact that we have a president that's a socialist. I don't think our Founding Fathers wanted America to be a socialist country. So I disagree with that premise that somehow or another that President Obama reflects our Founding Fathers...


GREGORY: Can I just jump in on – with Senator Santorum. Governor Perry, you called the president a socialist. I wonder, Senator Santorum, when you voted for a new prescription drug benefit that did not have a funding mechanism, were you advancing socialism?...Were you advancing socialism, though? That's the point...


HILLER [TO RON PAUL]: And I'm going to say many Americans, particularly Democrats, believe that health care is a right. In your opinion, what services are all Americans entitled to expect to get from government?...


GREGORY: Senator Santorum, I want to ask you about Iran. It's been a big issue in the course of this campaign so far. I wonder why it is, if America has lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we have come to live with a nuclear North Korea, why is it that we cannot live with a nuclear Iran? And if we can't, are you prepared to take the country to war to disarm that country?...

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Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC