Presidential candidates speak freely at Hampton forum

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By Roni Reino

Foster's Daily Democrat, November 11, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Foster's Daily Democrat]

HAMPTON — Four Republican presidential candidates faced off Thursday night in hopes of grabbing the attention of a few more voters at the One Liberty Lane Offices and Conference Center.

Former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum, right, answers questions with former U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich Friday night during a Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC forum in Hampton. [EJ Hersom/Staff photographer]

The forum, put on by the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC, brought in a room full of Granite State voters to listen to candidates Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer.

During the first session Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer responded to select questions, each of them pushing their position on how they would reduce spending at the federal level.

Event Coordinator Rob Larson said the idea of a forum instead of a debate allowed the candidates to talk freely about issues, while allowing those invited to the event to ask questions that might not be asked of those running.

"We were trying to capture what clicks with the general population and at the same time creating a mechanism to reach out to the people," he said.

Former New Mexico Gov. Johnson received applause from the audience after he stated he would ground Air Force One in an effort to save money if he was elected into office. He said there are more efficient ways for the president to travel.

"The president needs to lead by example," he said.

Sticking with his position to reduce federal spending by 43 percent, he would want to see the elimination of the IRS with the institution of a fair tax system. He also reminded the crowd of his promise to present a balanced budget by 2013.

Former Louisiana Gov. Roemer stressed his position to eliminate the use of super PAC (political action committee) money, calling Washington, D.C., a "capital of corruption."

He will not accept donations greater than $100, and in response to other candidates accepting large campaign contributions replied, "it's not about the size" of contributions, "it's the intent."

Johnson said he doesn't believe in contribution caps, but when it came to the lobbyists in Washington, he'd like to see them wear jackets similar to that of NASCAR drivers — sporting the logos of those who give them money.

He added America needs to stop printing money, and lowering the value of the dollar.

Former U.S. Rep. and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks at the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC forum in Hampton Friday night. [EJ Hersom/Staff photographer]

To cut spending, Roemer wants to see federal departments restructured, saying he would cut the Department of Education down to a department collecting data, instead of writing checks for schools.

During the second session, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum took time addressing positions on spending and military use. Huge applause broke out as Gingrich stepped out before the crowd, many of them calling out, "Newt!" The former speaker of the House of Representatives received much applause throughout the night speaking on hot topic issues.

As discussion turned to whether the candidates would support an amendment banning same-sex marriage, Gingrich replied, "I'd support a constitutional amendment that defines a marriage as between a man and a woman."

Following that response, Santorum said a constitutional amendment needs to be passed, otherwise states will have differing positions on same-sex marriage.

"The reason that polls show its not a winning issue is because Americans don't realize how far reaching it is," he said.

He said if an amendment is not passed, the courts will likely step in. He stated America and its religious beliefs "will be uprooted."

"I'm not optimistic on what they will do," he said. "We will have it imposed on us."

On the issue of immigration, former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum thinks the states should do what they need to protect its southern border.

Gingrich would like to see the border controlled within a year, and suggested bringing down defense officials from Washington to Texas and New Mexico to help with the defending the border.

Fielding a question regarding the creation of the Super Committee in Washington, Gingrich said he thought it was "the dumbest legislative idea" he's seen in his career.

"I think it's the exact opposite approach our founding fathers would've chosen," he said.

He thinks if all the members of the House and Senate can't answer pressing questions, why should only 12 of those members be able to complete the same tasks.

Former La. Governor Buddy Roemer gives an interview after his appearance at the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC forum Friday night in Hampton. [EJ Hersom/Staff photographer]

Talks turned to revenue and jobs, Santorum said he'd like to see the United States have more jobs at home, filling factories with American workers to lower the unemployment rate.

"I'm tired of losing all these jobs to foreign countries," he said. "We need to go out and compete against those countries."

Throughout the forum, those tuning in and present at the event were asked to text in how they felt the candidates were doing. However, organizers said the results of those votes were not ready for release Thursday evening and might be available today.

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