Students Attend GOP Debate in Myrtle Beach

Sophomore journalism major Angie Lovelace, freshman broadcast major Nick Ochsner and Colin Donohue, coordinator of student media in the School of Communications, traveled Thursday to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the GOP debate in a joint project between The Pendulum and Phoenix14News. Candidates in attendance at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Coming into Thursday’s debate, Huckabee, who has already claimed victory in the Iowa caucus, was ahead in South Carolina polls by about five percent. He was leading McCain, who won New Hampshire’s primary Jan. 8. Romney, seen as a GOP frontrunner entering election season, recently pulled his ads in South Carolina to focus his attention on the Michigan primary, which occurs Jan. 15.

Lovelace, photo editor at The Pendulum, and Ochsner, a reporter for Phoenix14, also reported from a Huckabee rally outside the convention center and from spin alley after the debate. Lovelace was able to photograph the candidates from the convention floor toward the end of the debate and in spin alley when they were on the set of Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes." Ochsner participated in a post-debate impromptu interview session with Romney and spoke to several campaign leaders and politicians, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and former Virginia Gov. George Allen (with Ochsner on the right.)

The candidates covered a range of topics during the 90-minute debate. The Republicans spoke at length about whether the United States economy is in an intractable recession because of the current administration’s insistence on reducing taxes while also increasing spending.

“I think (tax cuts) stimulate the economy, but we have to make these tax cuts permanent and give some certainty to families,” McCain said. “I believe they stimulate the economy, but you have to cut spending.”

Most candidates, though, all agreed that military spending should continue to be a major priority in order to maintain the welfare of the United States and to continue to fight terrorism abroad. They cited the recent engagement between Iranian speed boats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz earlier this week as evidence that Iran and al-Qaeda are still significant threats to the United States.

“They’re testing our resolve,” Thompson said. “It’s some insight into the way that they’re thinking. They’re getting a little bit more frisky.”

The Republicans also talked about how they are legitimate agents of change that can alter America’s course for the better.

“I’m convinced that you’re going to hear people say that if you send the same people back to Washington just to sit in different chairs, nothing will change,” Romney said. “I know how to bring change. I will take (Washington) apart and put it back together.”

South Carolina Republicans will vote in their state’s primary Jan. 19. The debate, which was sponsored by Fox News, took place just two days after the New Hampshire primary and five days before the Michigan primary. The Democrats will hold their debate in Myrtle Beach Jan. 21, and the state’s Democrats will vote Jan. 26.



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