The first issue that the Republican candidates debating at the Reagan presidential library tackled on Wednesday was, as expected, the economy, and specifically the question of jobs. It comes as no surprise, with polls showing how pessimistic Americans are about the economy and economic indicators showing how justified that pessimism is.
Here's a look at what the candidates said Wednesday night compared to what they said in the previous debate in Ames, Iowa:
Michele Bachmann: In Wednesday's debate, the congresswoman from Minnesota blamed President Obama's health care law and the regulations that are part of it for preventing job growth. "Obamacare is killing jobs. I know it firsthand from speaking to people," she said. She charted a different course than she did during the previous debate in Ames, Iowa, when she spent her time on the economy defending her vote on the debt ceiling.
Herman Cain: The one-time head of Godfathers pizza called for a 9 percent national sales tax and "throwing out" taxes on income. "I call it my 9-9-9 economic growth plan. ... If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent ought to be good enough for the the federal government." Cain updated his position since the last debate when he called for a maximum income tax rate of 25 percent for businesses and individuals.
Newt Gingrich: The former House speaker was consistent with his position during the last debate, choosing to focus on how he has experience working in divided government, but only after taking a shot at Obama, suggesting the president is ineffective. "[T]his is a president so dedicated to class warfare, so dedicated to bureaucratic socialism," he said.
Jon Huntsman: Huntsman challenged Rick Perry and Mitt Romney directly, citing the uptick in employment in Utah while he was governor. Huntsman seemed to be more on offense in his response in Wednesday's debate than he did in Ames, when he said he displayed better "leadership" than his competitors. Wednesday, instead, he called out Perry and Romney, the clear frontrunners, by name.
Ron Paul: During the last debate the congressman from Texas indicted the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy; this time, he focused on regulations, arguing that the government should not impose regulations and that the markets would regulate business in the government's absences.
Rick Perry: The governor of Texas is a newcomer to the field. This is his first debate and he predictably focused on job growth in Texas, saying that 1 million jobs were created in the Lone Star State on his watch. "You want to create jobs in America you free the American entrepreneur to do what he or she does."
Mitt Romney: The former Massaschusetts governor said that if he had spent his entire career in politics—a clear swipe at Perry who has been in government for over two decades—he wouldn't be running for president and wouldn't have the know-how needed for the office. During the last debate, Romney spent more time criticizing Obama; this time he set his sights on Perry.
Rick Santorum: The former senator from Pennsylvania echoed remarks that he made during the last debate when he argued that the flow of jobs out of America should be stopped, but this time, he also argued that that his plan—which he said includes cutting corporate tax rates to zero—"can actually pass the Senate. ... You want to get things going, elect someone who gets things done," he said.