Republican presidential hopefuls will appear in their fourth debate on September 7 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation in California in what will be their fourth debate, but the first to include pro-life Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
GOP candidates seeking to replace pro-abortion President Barack Obama have gathered in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — the site of the first three presidential primary election contests — for debates that touched on pro-life and other issues. This fourth debate is co-sponsored by the Reagan foundation along with Politico and NBC News.
Perry, who is shown leading the Republican contest in many polls, will have to answer questions for the first time and may face criticism from other candidates because of his quick ascent to the top of the leaderboard. The debate will also feature top-tier candidates Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul along with Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum. All of the candidates are running on a pro-life position, though some of them have longer records voting for or signing pro-life legislation.
The standards for the debate made it so a couple of the candidates — Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman — barely qualified. A candidate must have at least 4 percent of the support of Republican voters in one of eight recent polls. With Huntsman and Santorum at the bottom of the polls, they had a harder time qualifying than the other GOP candidates.
MSNBC will broadcast the debate live from the Reagan library’s Air Force One Pavilion at 8 p.m. ET while Politico live-streams the debate on its website. CNBC and Telemundo will also broadcast the debate, Politico indicates, and Brian Williams, of “NBC Nightly News,” and John F. Harris, editor in chief of POLITICO, will moderate.
This will also be the first debate without former candidate Tim Pawlenty, the pro-life Minnesota governor who dropped out following a third place showing in the Iowa caucus. Pawlenty and Santorum both expanded on their pro-life views in the last debate — with Santorum giving a passionate and articulate defense of the pro-life position against abortions in cases of rape or incest.
Santorum was asked why he didn’t support abortion exceptions for rape and incest and he pointed out that society should help pregnant women in such cases rather than push them into abortions. He said the crime of rape should not be exacerbated by the crime of an abortion and that the unborn child did not deserve to die simply because of the circumstances surrounding his or her conception.
During his eloquent defense of the pro-life position against abortions in rare cases of rape or incest, he pointed out that under current law, a murderer or rapist can escape the death penalty, but a child conceived in rape cannot escape execution if the mother decides to have an abortion.
Santorum said: “You know the Supreme Court of the United States on a recent case said that a man who committed rape could not be killed, could not be subject to the death penalty, yet the child conceived as a result of that rape could be. That to me sounds like a country that doesn’t have its morals correct. That child did nothing wrong. [Applause.] That child is an innocent victim. To be victimized twice would be a horrible thing. It is an innocent human life. It is genetically human from the moment of conception, and it is a human life, and we in America should be big enough to try to surround ourselves and help women in those terrible situations who have been traumatized already, [to] put them through another trauma of abortion? I think it’s too much to ask and so I would absolutely stand and say that one violence is enough.”
At the second debate in New Hampshire, Santorum declined to attack Romney on his conversion to the pro-life position and said the pro-life movement should welcome converts.
Romney was given a brief time to respond to the question as well and he said he is now “firmly pro-life.”
“People have had a chance to look at my record and look what I’ve said as — as I’ve been through that last campaign. I believe people understand that I’m firmly pro-life,” he said. “I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end.”
CNN then turned to a New Hampshire voter who had a question for Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who just today announced she will seek the Republican nomination.
“I am 100 percent pro-life. I’ve given birth to five babies, and I’ve taken 23 foster children into my home. I believe in the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life,” Bachmann said.
“And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said it’s a creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take,” she continued. “And the first of those rights is life. And I stand for that right. I stand for the right to life. The very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases, and yet they get all the attention. Where all of the firepower is and where the real battle is, is on the general — genuine issue of taking an innocent human life. I stand for life from conception until natural death.”