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Republican Debate Sunday: GOP Presidential Candidates Face Off Ahead Of 2012 New Hampshire Primary (VIDEO, LIVE UPDATES)

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With less than 12 hours to rest after finishing a Saturday night debate, arguably the worst debate ever, the GOP candidates are facing off once again in New Hampshire, this time on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum will all participate. Perry will leave New Hampshire before the primary on Tuesday, making him the only candidate of the six not to be in the Granite State on primary night.

See live updates from the campaign trail in New Hampshire here and Iowa caucus results here.

Watch with us as we live blog the event:

Concord Patch's Ryan O'Connor and Tony Schinella report:

According to his friends who were with him at the time, authorities at the theatre reportedly arrested Matthew Richards, a student at UNH/Manchester, allegedly attempting to enter the building. His friends claimed that he was injured during the arrest. They also claimed he offered no resistance while being taken into custody.

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Concord Patch's Marc Fortier reports the reaction of New Hampshire Republican insiders to Sunday morning's debate:

"Romney again was strong, on message," said We The People founder Jennifer Horn of Nashua, who recently endorsed the former Massachusetts governor. "He proved today he can answer social questions as well as fiscal questions."

"Unfortunately for the New Hampshire Primary - because we like contests here - this hasn't been much of a contest," said Pat Griffin, a senior fellow with Saint Anselm College's Institute for Politics. "Mitt Romney did what he had to do this week - look presidential, withstand attacks. No runs, no hits, no errors. The other guys all had something to do, and I'm not sure anyone did a whole lot."

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David Gregory discussed the campaign's increasingly negative tone, noting Newt Gingrich had complained bitterly about a super PAC that had launched numerous attack ads against him in Iowa. The ads, issued by Restore Our Future, dug up material from the former House Speaker's past, hitting him for supporting a national health insurance mandate as well as "amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants."

The super PAC also hit Gingrich for appearing in an ad alongside then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2008 urging the country to address climate change. Since announcing his presidential candidacy, Gingrich has walked back those views, calling appearing in that ad one of the stupidest things he's ever done. His critics are calling it a flip-flop.

"Sure, I'm consistent, because I think you have to have a fact-based campaign to talk about [your opponents'] records," Gingrich told Gregory in defense of his record.

Gingrich said that referring to Romney as a "predator" for his involvement at the investment company Bain Capital was above board, given a New York Times article and a Washington Post fact check on his tenure there. He asked Romney to calmly state that former staff and friends were running his super PAC.

Romney said, "Of course they are." He went on to insist that everything that his super PAC's ads had to say about Gingrich was true, and that Gingrich's rhetoric was "over the top."

"You think my rhetoric is over the top?" asked Gingrich, who went on to essentially assert that he was going to use the same tactics against Romney.

Of the forthcoming movie describing Romney's term at Bain Capital, Gingrich said, "I hope it's accurate."

-- Lucia Graves

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@ howardfineman : bottom line: Romney bloodied, counting the minutes til Tuesday night; under attack for his account of himself as a nice bizman non-politican

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Mitt Romney just claimed that businesses are not creating jobs because they "feel like they're under attack" since, among other things, President Obama has stacked the National Labor Relations Board with "labor stooges." It's a variation on a very common GOP talking point on uncertainty -- that businesses don't hire because they are worried the Obama administration is going to tax or regulate them.

"They look at the policies of this administration and they feel they're under attack," Romney said. "When you have an administration who tries to raise taxes, and has on businesses, when it puts in place Obamacare that'll raise the cost of health care for businesses, when they staff the national labor relations board with labor stooges" [Obama is] anti-investment, anti-jobs, anti-business."

The U.S. economy is, in fact, plagued by uncertainty -- but not the variety Romney is pontificating about. It's consumer uncertainty about the stability of the economy, not business uncertainty about how much of their profit will be taxed or how they'll be regulated.

According to banking data from Moebs Services, consumers have withdrawn trillions of dollars from longer-term, higher-yielding investments since 2007, dumping the money into short-term checking accounts that pay next to nothing. That shift underscores short-term pressures on families who need to access money now, and are willing to give up longer-term profits for quick, easy access to cash. Families really are uncertain about their future, and that uncertainty deters them from spending money at businesses, who can use that cash to pay workers.

But that isn't the same uncertainty Romney is talking about -- an unwillingness from businesses to seek profits because they're afraid of regulatory or tax costs. Hordes of small business owners have repeatedly emphasized that tax policy does not play a significant role in their hiring decisions -- when they see an opportunity to make a profit, they take it. How much of that total profit ends up going to the government isn't particularly important to the business decision.

-- Zach Carter

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Texas Governor Rick Perry doubled down on his claim that President Barack Obama is a socialist during Sunday morning's debate.

"I make a very proud statement and a fact that we have a president that's a socialist," he said, in response to a question about whether he agrees with a 2011 editorial by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that said Obama should not be attacked as having un-American values.

The moderator asked if Perry agrees with that statement.

"I don't think that our founding fathers wanted America to be a socialist country," Perry continued. "So I disagree with that premise that somehow or another President Obama reflects our founding fathers. He doesn't. He talks about having a more powerful, more centralized, more consuming and costly federal government."

Perry said as governor he pushed for a stronger embrace of 10th Amendment, which says some powers should be left to the states rather than the federal government. "The states will considerably do a better job than Washington D.C. as led by this president," he said.

This was not the first time Perry has attacked Obama as a socialist. Perry ran a 30-second ad in November called "Lazy," featuring a clip of the president saying, "We've been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades."

That statement is "pathetic," Perry said in the ad. "Obama's socialist policies are bankrupting America. We must stop him now."

-- Elise Foley

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@ howardfineman : As at the end of a prize fight, Newt and Mitt pound each other in the middle of the ring over who is a liar, over the top and a looter.

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CONCORD, N.H. -- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were pressed on their support for gay rights, with both men saying that they support respect for the LGBT community but still don't want to see key policy changes -- like marriage equality and same-sex adoption -- put into place.

Romney said that while Massachusetts governor, a member of his cabinet was gay and he appointed judges regardless of sexual orientation, to show that he doesn't discriminate.

"At the same time, from the very beginning in 1994, I said to the gay community, I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage and that has been my view," he added. "If people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays or will in any way try and suggest that people -- that have different sexual orientation don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that in me."

"When was the last time you stood up and spoke out for increasing gay rights?" asked the moderator.

"Right now," he said to applause. He did not elaborate on what that increase would look like.

When the moderator asked Santorum if he would be a voice for "speaking out for gay rights" in the Republican Party, the former Pennsylvania senator replied, "I would be a voice in speaking out for making sure that every person in America, gay or straight, is treated with respect and dignity and has the equality of opportunity. That does not mean that I would agree with certain things that the gay community would like to do with changing laws, with respect to marriage or respect to adoption or things like that. You can be respectful. ... But just because you don't agree with someone's desire to change the law doesn't mean you don't like them or you hate them or you want to discriminate against them."

He cited his town hall meetings in New Hampshire, where he has been repeatedly questioned about gay rights.

"I listen to the other side, I let them make their arguments and we do so in a very respectful way. And you know what? We may not agree," he said.

When asked what he would do if one of his sons revealed he were gay, Santorum replied, "I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it. And I would try to do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible."

Many gay rights advocates would no doubt dispute Santorum's characterization of his "respect" for gay men and women. He has said that children raised by same-sex couples will lead to "dysfunction" in society and that the "country will fall" as a result of same-sex marriage.

-- Amanda Terkel

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Turning away from policy to the theme of leadership, moderator David Gregory asked Rick Perry what, besides criticizing the previous administration for running up the debt, he would do to buck his party.

"What would you say or do to make Republicans uncomfortable?" Gregory wanted to know.

"I hope I'm making Republicans uncomfortable right now," said Perry to laughs, "by talking about the spending that they've done back in the 2000s when we had control of both parties."

When pressed to find something -- anything -- more current, Perry slammed Ron Paul for saying earlier in Sunday's debate that the biggest problem facing this country is our work overseas. He then suggested, as he has in the past, implementing a "part-time" Congress.

"The biggest problem facing this country today is a Congress that's out of control with their spending, and we've got to have somebody, an outsider, who will walk in -- not part of the insider group that you see here -- people who have voted for raising the debt limit, people who have been part of the problem that's facing America..."

The second way Perry would set himself apart?

A balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.

"You think telling conservatives a balanced budget amendment is something ... that's going to make them uncomfortable?" asked Gregory.

-- Lucia Graves

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This has been a perennial criticism from Romney, that really won't get fully litigated unless and until he becomes the nominee. He says he has "talked to businesses" (can one converse with a business?) and has been told that they aren't hiring because of high taxes and stringent regulations, which the Obama administration has either failed to sufficiently lower or remove, respectively. But it would be useful -- for all reporters -- for him to name specific business owners. Because as it happens, the existence of such businesses remains a mystery.

This is something NPR has addressed at length:

We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.

So we went to the business groups that have been lobbying against the surtax. Again, three days after putting in a request, none of them was able to find someone for us to talk to. A group called the Tax Relief Coalition said the problem was finding someone willing to talk about their personal taxes on national radio.

So next we put a query on Facebook. And several business owners who said they would be affected by the "millionaires surtax" responded.

"It's not in the top 20 things that we think about when we're making a business hire," said Ian Yankwitt, who owns Tortoise Investment Management.

Tortoise is a boutique investment firm in White Plains, N.Y. Yankwitt has 10 employees and in recent years has done a lot of hiring.

As a result, Yankwitt says he's had many conversations about hiring, "both with respect to specific people, with respect to whether we should hire one junior person or two, whether we should hire a senior person."

He says his ultimate marginal tax rate "didn't even make it on the agenda."

We've done a lot of work to expand upon this reporting. Zach Carter went looking to find out if the idea that hiring was stalled because of "uncertainty" was true. I dug through our archives, looking for the types of business owner that NPR was hoping to hook. Our efforts to back up Romney's argument have, thus far, proven futile.

-- Jason Linkins

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@ elise_foley : Remember, guys, this dust and the EPA thing is nonsense http://t.co/QWX8qbkv

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@ howardfineman : not sure Newt's "radical and imperious" EPA works here. It's Live Free or Die here, to be sure, but also they care about a clean environment

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Responding to the question of whether Ron Paul could actually follow through on any of his more radical economic and foreign policy ideas as president, Rick Santorum said Paul would only be able to make the changes that worry Republicans the most.

"The problem with Congressman Paul is that all the things Republicans like about him, he can't accomplish, and all the things they're worried about, he'll do day one," Santorum said.

"One of the things people like about Congressman Paul is his economic plan, but he's never been able to accomplish anything. He has no track record of being able to work together. The problem is that what Congressman Paul can do as Commander-in-Chief is he can, on day one, do what he wants to do, which is pull our troops back out of overseas put them here in America and leave us in a situation where the world is out there creating vacuums."

Paul fired back by saying that shifting America over to a non-interventionist approach to foreign policy would be the more important and difficult change to accomplish, because public opinion already favors changing monetary policy.

"Changing foreign policy is significant-- that's where our nation will come down if they keep doing this," he said. "We can't stay in 130 countries, get involved in nation-building, we can't have 900 bases overseas. We have to change policy. Do we need to change monetary policy? Yes, we do, but right now we're winning that battle. Seventy-five percent of American people say we want to audit the Federal Reserve, find out what what they're doing and who they're bailing out constantly."

-- Laura Bassett

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@ howardfineman : quote of the debate -- if not the NH campaign -- was Newt on Mitt's alleged lack of interest in politics. "PIOUS BALONEY," Newt said. Kaboom

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Apparently, not everyone is excited about watching the candidates spar at Sunday morning's debate.

A woman seated behind moderator David Gregory was caught onscreen sleeping.

-- Amanda Terkel

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@ howardfineman : Santorum told me last night he didnt expect to do that well in NH and, despite the crowds at some events, seems right. He heads to SC today

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@ howardfineman : Andy Hiller, one tough customer, is the same reporter who asked George W. Bush who the head of pakistan was. He asks Mitt about gay rights

@ howardfineman : good answer by Mitt; shows that he has learned a lot as a candidate. He cites his Mass record, and personal appointment record

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Rick Santorum wants to do to food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance what he did for welfare in the 1990s. The program was eliminated in 1996 by a Republican Congress and Democratic president, and replaced with a time-limited program that cuts people off regardless of their family's financial situation.

It failed: Poverty has risen significantly since the program was eliminated and replaced. (It succeeded, however, if the goal was simply to take the issues of welfare and poverty off the political table.)

Today, more than 46 million people live in poverty, the highest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began counting more than half a century ago.

That model, said Santorum, should be applied to other assistance programs, cutting families off without regard to their current situation, but instead based on timelines set by Congress.

"We've gotta block grant [food stamps] and send it back to the states, just like I did with welfare reform -- do the same thing with Medicaid, including housing programs, block grant them send them back to the states, require work, and you put a time limit on it," said Santorum.

"We'll help take these programs which are now dependencies," he said, "and you help people move out of poverty."

But without a dramatic and unprecedented expansion of jobs that pay middle-class wages, it's unclear where those tens of millions people would find such work.

-- Ryan Grim

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@ howardfineman : New poll shows Huntsman in third place and rising to double digits, which is why Paul is attacking. Also, Mitt down to 35 percent.

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Ron Paul was forced to defend his record in Congress on Sunday after a Facebook questioner asked why the candidate's bills have seldom made it to a vote, much less passage.

Moderator David Gregory of NBC's "Meet the Press" pointed out that of the 620 measures Paul sponsored, only four made it to the House floor and only one has been signed into law.

"That demonstrates how out of touch the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress is with the American people, because I'm supporting things that help the American people," he said. "That's the disgust that people have because they keep growing government, whether it's the Republicans in charge or the Democrats in charge."

Paul argued, as he has before, that he can unite people and accomplish things in Congress, despite partisan gridlock.

"In terms of working with other groups I think my record's as good as anyone's," he continued, saying his belief in freedom appeals to people in both parties.

He said people interpret freedom differently, but that many conservative Republicans have a bad record on privacy issues.

"When it comes to this spending overseas, I can work a coalition," he said.

-- Elise Foley

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There's absolutely nothing new to report here. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have been battling over Paul's neo-isolationist foreign policy since the first time they were ever matched up against each other in a debate. Back then, they were outlier candidates who a debate moderator could sic on one another for ten minutes of decent fireworks. Now, they're in the top tier, and debate moderators are still trotting out this act for auld lang syne.

Advantage: Romney. Every time a debate veers into ten minutes of Santorum and Paul arguing about who would lead us into war with Iran faster, Mitt can slip his hands in his pockets, sit back, and relax.

-- Jason Linkins

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Rick Santorum said Sunday morning that Social Security should be means tested, converting it from a universal insurance program that everyone participates in to a welfare program that would be subject to the same criticism that faces programs that benefit one slice of the population over another.

He added that the program is "underfunded right now," though Social Security's actuaries say it can pay full benefits, without changes, through 2037, and roughly four-fifths of benefits afterward.

"We have to make sure that we're not going to burden future generations with a Social Security program that's underfunded -- it's underfunded right now -- and we have to take those who have been successful who are seniors who have a tremendous amount of wealth and we've gotta reduce benefits," Santorum said. "It makes no sense for folks who are struggling right now to pay the payroll tax, which is the biggest tax, a tax on labor, it makes us uncompetitive. The idea that some on the left would have us raise those taxes to make labor even more uncompetitive who are trying to get a job, to subsidize high income seniors doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

Currently, the payroll tax hits the first 6,000 in income. Some Social Security advocates would like to see the cap raised. The program's actuaries say lifting the cap entirely would make the program solvent indefinitely.

-- Ryan Grim

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The Ron Paul camp sent out an email within the first 30 minutes of the debate blasting former Utah governor Jon Huntsman but providing very little context:

Jon Huntsman is not a serious candidate for president…

He could not compete in Iowa.

He has not qualified for the Illinois ballot, the 5th largest state.

He has not qualified for the Virginia ballot, the 12th largest state.

-- Elise Foley

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The Huntsman campaign clearly thinks that the back-and-forth their candidate had with Mitt Romney, over the former Utah Governor's service as ambassador to China, was a high-water mark of the debate, if not the week.

And in a statement released shortly after the exchange -- in which Romney said Huntsman would have difficulty beating President Obama because he served in his administration and Huntsman replied by calling Romney cynical -- Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller hit similar points.

The fundamental difference in this campaign is Jon Huntsman puts country first, Mitt Romney puts politics first. Governor Romney's evolution as a candidate is attributable to his desire to do whatever it takes to win an election and illustrates the cynical nature of politics. He has not changed positions on one or two issues, but nearly every major issue in the last two decades and at precisely the time it's been politically advantageous to do so. While Mitt Romney's career is defined by putting politics first, Jon Huntsman -- who has served four presidents -- puts country first.

-- Sam Stein

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Jon Huntsman finally scored some points, and Mitt Romney didn't exactly make himself look great while disparaging Huntsman's time as U.S. Ambassador to China.

Huntsman raised the point unilaterally, going off topic to point out that Romney -- in last night's debate -- criticized him for becoming an ambassador in the Obama administration.

"I was criticized last night by Gov. Romney for putting my country first," Huntsman said. "He criticized me while he was out raising money, for serving my country in China, yes under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They're not asking what political affiliation the president is."

"I will always put my country first and I think that's important," Huntsman said.

Romney essentially doubled down on his assertion that serving as an ambassador under a president of the opposite political party is an unworthy undertaking.

"I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama's agenda," Romney said. "The decision to go to work for President Obama is one which you took, and I don't — I respect your decision to do that. I just think it's most likely that the person who should represent our party running against President Obama is not someone who called him a remarkable leader and went to be his ambassador in China."

Huntsman shot back immediately: "This nation is divided because of attitudes like that."

The crowd applauded Huntsman's retort. He went on to say that "the American people are tired of the partisan division."

"They have had enough. There is no trust left among the American people and the institutions of power and among the American people and their elected officials," Huntsman said.

-- Jon Ward

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@ howardfineman : Huntsman, ridiculed last night for speaking Chinese, talked common sense this morning about the need for bipartisanship. His best moment.

@ howardfineman : The longer Huntsman speaks and the more sense he makes, the fewer votes Romney gets. Remains to be seen whether that will matter.

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Rick Perry was able to name all three agencies of government he wanted to cut when he was asked a question about government assistance. The Texas governor infamously forgot the name of the third agency of government he would cut in a November debate, cementing the perception of him as a lousy debater.

"Let me answer the question that you asked earlier: what would be the three areas that you would make some reductions and people would feel some pain," Perry said Sunday. "And I'll tell you it would be those bureaucrats at the Departments of Commerce and Energy and Education.

Perry held up three fingers in triumph, as the audience cheered and applauded. Rick Santorum joined in the congratulations, also holding up three fingers for Perry.

"And that's your final answer," replied David Gregory.

"The fact is that Americans want to have a job, that's the issue here," Perry continued.

-- Luke Johnson

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@ howardfineman : Romney's account of his career is so full of holes there is almost no there there. He WANTED to be a lifetime politician, and everyone knows

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CONCORD, N.H. -- Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney responded to attacks that he is a career politician with long-standing political ambitions by relaying some advice given to him by his father.

"I happened to see my dad run for governor when he was 54 years old," said Romney. "He said, 'Mitt, never get involved in politics if you have to win election to pay a mortgage.' If you find yourself in a position when you can serve, you ought to have a responsibility to do so if you think you can make a difference. He said also don't get involved in politics when your kids are still young because it may turn their heads."

Romney's advice was meant to warn against the idea of a career politician who is simply interested in staying in office no matter what. But it also seems to mean that less-affluent members of the public, who might not be as financially secure and wealthy as most of the people running for president, should also be excluded from being candidates.

Romney then told a story about when he was running to unseat the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), saying he was glad Kennedy suffered financially during their race.

"When I saw Ted Kennedy running virtually unopposed, a man who I thought by virtue of the policies of the liberal welfare state had created a permanent underclass in America, I thought somebody has to run against him," said Romney. "I happened to have been wise enough to realize I did not have a ghost of a chance of beating him. ... I told my partners in my firm, I will be back in six months, don't take my chair. I was happy that he had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me. I am very proud of the fact that I have stood up as a citizen to battle where I felt it was best for the nation, and we're talking about running for president. I am in the race because I care about the country."

-- Amanda Terkel

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David Gregory, pivoting to "substance" ten minutes after Ron Paul suggested he should, asked Jon Huntsman to suggest three areas in which Americans would feel "real pain" under his budget cutting regime.

Huntsman responded: "I agree with the Ryan plan, I think I'm the only one on the stage who's embraced the Ryan Plan." Most of his fellow candidates have danced around in their support for the plan, because it's seen as something akin to electoral poison. (Ryan himself is now backing a plan he's cooked up with Ron Wyden.)

Of course, while the original Ryan plan would definitively inflict pain (it would solve the problem of Medicare spending by providing Medicare recipients with a voucher designed to grow less valuable over time), Gregory wasn't satisfied with Huntsman's answer, and pressed for "three areas." Huntsman, after prompting, offered Social Security, Medicare, and Defense.

Santorum agreed with Huntsman on Social Security means testing, but went further, offering a plan to turn food stamps and housing assistance into block grants for states, where work was required for recipents and time limits imposed. This allowed Santorum to remind everyone of his role in the welfare reform fights of the 1990s.

-- Jason Linkins

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