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Romney steps toward center in debate

 Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011...
 Republican presidential candidates from left facing camera, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Texas Gov. Rick Perry, bus...
 Republican presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry gestures as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., left,  and businessman Herman Cain listen during...
 Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Oct...
 Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, makes a point as Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick S...
 Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left,  speaks to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, as businessman Herman Cain, c...
 Republican presidential candidates businessman Herman Cain answers a question as Texas Gov. Rick Perry looks on during a Republican presidential deba...
 Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., T...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidates from left facing camera, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Texas Gov. Rick Perry, bus...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry gestures as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., left, and businessman Herman Cain listen during...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday, Oct...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, makes a point as Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick S...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, speaks to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, as businessman Herman Cain, c...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidates businessman Herman Cain answers a question as Texas Gov. Rick Perry looks on during a Republican presidential deba...

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., T...

Republican front-runner Mitt Romney took some less staunchly conservative stands than his presidential rivals in their debate Tuesday night, positioning himself closer to the center in line with his claim that he can draw crucial independent voters in next year's race against President Barack Obama.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, declared he could work with "good" Democrats. He even defended portions of the 2008 Wall Street bailout, a particular sore point with many conservative voters who will play an important role in choosing the Republican nominee next winter and spring.
But Romney joined the others in sharply criticizing numerous aspects of Obama's economic policies.
Romney has faced doubts within his own party about his conservative credentials. As Massachusetts governor, he won approval for a state health insurance program with a mandate to purchase coverage that is similar to the national program backed by Obama and widely despised by Republicans.
He briefly lost his front-runner status when Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who seemed to be a more solid conservative, entered the race in August. But Perry has stumbled after some shaky debate performances and comments he made on immigration and other issues alienated some Republicans.
A recent surge in the polls by former pizza company executive Herman Cain, considered a longshot for the nomination, was apparent in the debate as rivals targeted him and his signature "9-9-9" plan that would replace the U.S. tax code with a 9 percent national sales tax and a 9 percent levy on personal and corporate income. "I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard it," joked former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who remains low in the polls.
On the Wall Street bailouts, Romney said no one liked the idea of bailing out big financial firms. However, he said, many of the actions taken in 2008 and 2009 were needed to keep the dollar's value from plummeting and "to make sure that we didn't all lose our jobs." The nation was on a precipice, Romney said, "and we could have had a complete meltdown."
Romney also said he would work with "good" Democrats to lead the country out of the economic crisis. He said that's what he did as Massachusetts governor and what he would do if he wins the White House.
While those comments might have been unremarkable in the past, they are more noteworthy given the intense partisan divide in Washington, with Republicans almost unanimously opposed to Obama's main initiatives. Several veteran Republican lawmakers who had worked with Democrats were defeated by challengers backed by the conservative tea party movement which advocates small government, huge spending cuts and no tax increases.
Taking on a more familiar target, Romney said he would confront China for undervaluing its currency and hurting American jobs. He said that if the U.S. isn't willing to stand up to China, "you'll get run over by China." He said the U.S. needs to "call cheating for what it is."
Huntsman, the former Utah governor, cautioned that the tough tactics could lead to a trade war with China, which would hurt small businesses. He said the U.S. has no choice but to find common ground with China.
Romney received a boost just hours before the debate, winning the coveted endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a conservative favorite who had weighed a presidential bid of his own. Romney hopes the endorsement will help cement his support among the Republican establishment and nurture an image that he's the party's inevitable nominee.
The economy dominated the debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the state with the first presidential primary. Obama is seen as vulnerable in the November 2012 election if the unemployment rate, now slightly over 9 percent, doesn't come down.
But other issues have also been getting attention in the Republican race.
Romney called on Perry Tuesday to repudiate comments from an ally who likened Romney's Mormonism to a "cult."
Perry, through a spokesman, declined to repudiate the Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, though Perry has said he disagrees with the pastor's comment that Mormonism is a "cult."
The race has a new sense of urgency. Romney, who lost the Republican nomination in 2008, this time leads in national and state polling and is sitting on a mound of campaign cash in anticipation of a drawn-out march to the nomination.
States have scheduled their nominating contests earlier than planned, meaning that there are less than 100 days for Romney's rivals to undercut him before crucial early voting.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also participated in the debate.
While Republicans held their debate, Obama was campaigning in the crucial swing state of Florida, which he won in 2008. Obama said voters can choose to go back to ideas _ Republican ideas _ that have been tried and that have failed or they can work toward an America where everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share.


Updated : 2021-10-21 10:27 GMT+08:00