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Republicans Assail Obama, Not Each Other in Debate

By Philip Elliott - June 13, 2011

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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty labeled Obama a "declinist" who views America "as one of equals around the world," rather than a special nation.

"If Brazil can have 5 percent growth, if China can have 5 percent growth, then America can have 5 percent growth," he added, shrugging off criticism that his own economic projections were impossibly rosy.

Businessman Herman Cain, a political novice, called for eliminating the capital gains tax as a way to stimulate job creation.

Romney stressed his experience as a businessman over 25 years as evidence that he can lead the nation out of a lingering recession.

Said Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the seventh contender on the stage: "As long as we are running a program that deliberately weakens our currency, our jobs will go overseas. And that's what's happening."

As front-runner of a sort, Romney could well have expected criticism from his rivals.

But Pawlenty, a few feet away on the debate stage, at first sidestepped a chance to repeat his recent criticism of Romney in connection with the Massachusetts health care law that Romney signed as governor. It includes a requirement for residents to purchase coverage, a forerunner of the "individual mandate" that conservatives loath in the new federal law.

"My using `Obamneycare' was a reflection of the president's comments," Pawlenty said, referring to a word he coined in a Sunday interview.

Bachmann - newest to the race - drew one of the loudest rounds of applause Monday night from a partisan debate audience when she predicted that Obama would not win re-election. He is "a one-term president," she declared.

Instead, the most conservative presidential field in memory all but said what Ronald Reagan once preached - that government was the problem.

Romney said the auto bailout was a mistake, and said more generally, "Instead of thinking in the federal budget what should we cut, we should ask ourselves the opposite question, `What should we keep?'"

Santorum criticized the financial bailout that Presidents George W. Bush and Obama backed, and Bachmann said she had worked in closed-door meetings in Congress to defeat the legislation when it was originally passed.

Pawlenty said politicians had caused the housing price bubble that contributed to the recession, and Paul blamed the recession on the Federal Reserve.

"As long as we do what we're doing in Washington it's going to last another 10 years," Paul said. "What we're doing now is absolutely wrong," he said of federal programs meant to support the housing industry.

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© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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