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eiht gop candidates debating at reagan library Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Jon Huntsman before the debate at the Reagan Library. (Photo: AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Election 2012: GOP Candidates Square Off Again

Eight presidential hopefuls met at the Reagan National Library for second debate

By Miranda Rector | September 9 , 2011

Eight Republican Presidential hopefuls met in California on Wednesday for the second GOP debate of the 2012 campaign. The debate was held at the Reagan National Library and was hosted by MSNBC and Politico. The candidates participating in the debate were Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum.

One of the primary focuses of the debate was the economy. Each candidate made their case for being the best person to stimulate job growth in the United States.

"What Americans are looking for is someone who can get this country working again," Texas Governor Rick Perry said. "And we put the model in place in the state of Texas. When you look at what we have done over the last decade, we created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas. At the same time, America lost 2.5 million."

As one of the front-runners in the GOP race, Perry faced questions from debate moderator Brian Williams about the quality of the jobs created in Texas and its high unemployment rate. Currently, Texas has a higher unemployment rate than many other states in the country.

"Nintey-five per cent of the all the jobs we've created have been above minimum wage," Perry countered. He did not address Texas's high unemployment rate.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also faced questions about his record of job creation in his state. During his time in office, Massachusetts ranked 47 out of 50 in job creation.

"When I came in as governor, we were in a real freefall. We were losing jobs every month. We had a budget that was way out of balance," Romney said. "So I came into office, we went to work as a team, and we were able to turn around the job losses. And at the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7 per cent."

Huntsman, the former Governor of Utah, wasn't impressed. During his time in office, he said, Utah was the top state for job creation in the country.

"Mitt, 47 just ain't going to cut it, my friend, not when you can be first," Huntsman added.

Despite the disagreements, Republicans found common ground on "Obamacare." The candidates said that President Barack Obama's health care reform plan is hurting the economy and employment rates.

Each candidate vowed to repeal the health care reform act, but Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachman noted it would take "strong leadership."

Bachmann added that as both a mother and a foster mother, she knows that "kids need jobs." She said she believes that because of what President Obama is doing, teens are struggling to get employed, and promised that she will turn that around.

Despite the focus on the economy, it wasn't the only issue debated Wednesday night. Education was another hot topic among the candidates.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich explained his support of President Obama's Race to the Top program.

"I liked very much the fact that it talked about charter schools," Gingrich said. "It's the one place I found to agree with President Obama. If every parent in America had a choice of the school their child went to, if that school had to report its scores, if there was a real opportunity, you'd have a dramatic improvement."

His support of the program put him at odds with many of the other candidates, including Perry, who opted Texas out of it.

Perry has said that education is a top priority, but he was forced to confront his record during the debate. As governor, he has cut millions of dollars in education funding. Meanwhile graduation rates at Texas schools rank worst in the country.

“I think the reductions that we made were thoughtful reductions, and the fact of the matter is, Texas has made great progress in the 10 years that I've been governor," Perry said. "Our graduation rates now are up to 84 per cent, higher than they've been during any period of time before that.”

The Texas governor was the newcomer on the GOP debate scene, and all eyes seemed to be on him and how he would perform.

After the debate, Rick Sullivan, Perry's communications director, said that the governor debated "strong and from the heart."

"I think he came out stronger than he came in," Sullivan added.

With the debate over, focus now shifts on campaign events across the country, where candidates can speak directly to voters. Stay with the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps for the latest coverage from the Election 2012 campaign trail.

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