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November 09, 2011

Republican Candidates Decry Intervention in Debt Crises Abroad

Wednesday night's Republican debate, at Oakland University in Michigan, focused on the economy.  Candidates largely agreed that the United States needed to cut spending and focus on domestic actions that they say could spur job growth and improve the economy.

The federal deficit and high unemployment are major issues of concern among U.S. voters, but the first question of the evening was about the global economy - namely, how the United States should respond to economic troubles abroad, such as those in Italy.

Georgia businessman Herman Cain told the debate audience on the CNBC television network that the United States needs to concentrate on issues at home if it wants to avoid the massive debt that is plaguing Italy.

"Focus on the domestic economy or we will fail," he said. "So, yes, focus on the domestic economy first."

Cain says there is not much that the United States can directly do for Europe's third largest economy because Italy's debt is simply too huge.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said during the CNBC debate that Europe is able to take care of its own problems.  

"My view is no, no, no.  We do not need to step in to bail out banks either in Europe or banks here in the U.S. that may have Italian debt," he said.  

Romney did say that the United States should continue to play a role in global financial bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul says the United States will most likely bail out Europe, which he said would "be a real tragedy."

Candidates, including former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, spoke of the need for job growth and greater competition in the marketplace.  They generally agree that the United States needs to overhaul regulations and tax codes, and reduce the size and scope of government.  They also spoke of their opposition to government bailouts of private industries.

Back on the international economic front, Romney took aim at China.  During the CNBC debate, Romney accused China of "playing by different rules."

"One, they're stealing intellectual property.  Number two, they're hacking into our computer systems, both government and corporate, and they're stealing by virtue of that, as well, from us.  And finally, they're manipulating their currency, and by doing so holding down the price of Chinese goods and making sure their products are artificially low priced," said Romney. "It's predatory pricing. It's killing jobs in America."

Romney says, if he is elected president, he will take the issue of currency manipulation to the World Trade Organization and also apply tariffs to Chinese goods.  

During the CNBC debate, former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman characterized the Sino-American relationship  as troublesome, problematic and complicated.  

"You start a trade war if you start slapping tariffs randomly on Chinese products based upon currency manipulation," said Hunstman. "That's not a good idea."   

Overall, the candidates did not spar with one another, but, on occasion, took issue with moderators for asking questions about complex topics that had to be answered in 30 to 60 seconds.

It was businessman Cain's first debate since accusations of sexual harassment against him  surfaced. The audience booed when moderator Maria Bartiromo raised the subject and linked it to questions of character and judgment.  Cain again said the allegations were unfounded and that Americans deserved better than to be tried in the court of public opinion.  

A moment of the debate that is likely to stick out in viewers' minds came when candidate Perry proposed eliminating three government agencies, but found himself unable to recall the third agency he would cut.  During the course of the debate, he remembered that he would abolish the Department of Energy, along with the Departments of Commerce and Education.   

A Gallup poll conducted last week and released on the day of the debate says Republicans predict Romney is most likely to be the party's presidential nominee, with 45 percent of Republicans polled predicting his nomination.  In second place is Cain, with 13 percent.