Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Republican Presidential Debate Winners and Losers
Aired November 28, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you are just joining us, hello from Saint Petersburg, Florida, where the smoke is clearing, and they ought to be hosing down the stage any moment now.
If you have been watching the CNN/YouTube Republican debate this evening, you know what I'm talking about. We hope that you will stick around. If you do, we will show you some angles that you won't see anywhere else.
But we're not going to do one thing in particular. We're not going to focus on the horse race. Instead, tonight, we're looking at the issues, immigration, Iraq, taxes, and how the candidates addressed them tonight. They tackled all of it tonight and took more than a few shots at each other along the way.
We're also going to bring you the viewers' moment-by-moment take on what happened up here on the stage. It started with a bang on immigration, specifically whether or not, as mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani provided official sanctuary for illegal immigrants, and how it compares with Governor Romney's record.
Things got very heated very quickly. They got personal. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's unfortunate, but Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he's had far the worse record.
For example, in his case, there were six sanctuary cities. He did nothing about them. There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed...
GIULIANI: ... not -- not -- not being turned into anybody or by anyone.
And then, when he deputized the police, he did it two weeks before he was going to leave office, and they never even seemed to catch the illegal immigrants that were working at his mansion. So, I would say he had sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city.
COOPER: All right. I have got to allow Governor Romney just to respond, and then we will move on.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mayor, you know better than that.
ROMNEY: OK, then listen. All right? Then listen. First of all...
GIULIANI: You did have illegal immigrants working at your mansion, didn't you?
ROMNEY: No, I did not, so let's just talk about that.
Are you suggesting, Mr. Mayor -- because I think it is really kind of offensive actually to suggest, to say look, you know what, if you are a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home -- paint the home, put on the roof, if you hear someone that is working out there, not that you have employed, but that the company has, if you hear someone with a funny accent, you, as a homeowner, are supposed to go out there and say, "I want to see your papers."
Is that what you're suggesting?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, CNN's John King watched the debate with us. He joins us now.
John, the -- what -- what jumped out at you?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, that exchange there between Romney and Giuliani right at the top of the debate, one of several crackling exchanging over immigration policy.
And that is the defining debate, the most emotional debate in the Republican primary right now. The number-one issue for voters in Iowa, they say, is immigration. It is also a prominent issue in New Hampshire and other states around the country, not only Romney and Giuliani going after it -- Senator McCain saying he learned the lessons of being among the leaders pushing to give illegal immigrants in this country legal status, if not citizenship.
He said he has learned the lesson. He would do border security first. Governor Huckabee forced to defend his support, as governor of Arkansas, for allowing the children of illegal immigrants to get college scholarships to state universities. So, that is a defining issue in the Republican debate.
Another big question, Anderson, we have been waiting and watching over the months of this campaign for the first attack ad, watching TV in Iowa, watching TV in New Hampshire. Well, the first attack ad came tonight during out YouTube debate from one of the struggling candidates in the Republican field, former Senator Fred Thompson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that, since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Others have suggested a surcharge on the income tax. That's acceptable. I'm fine with that. Others have suggested, perhaps, a sales tax. That's fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I'm not sure who that young guy was at the beginning of that film. But I can tell you this, which is -- I don't know how many times I can tell it -- I was wrong. All right? I was effectively pro-choice when I ran for office.
ROMNEY: If people in this country are looking for someone who's never made a mistake on a policy issue and is not willing to admit they're ever wrong, why, then they're going to have to find somebody else, because, on abortion, I was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It was particularly interesting, John, to see that video. We asked the campaigns to submit a YouTube-style video or a campaign-style video. But it was up to them, whatever they wanted. I don't think anyone expected what some would I guess consider to be an attack ad.
KING: Anderson, it is remarkable.
Already, the other campaigns saying they view this as a sign of the desperation of the Thompson campaign. But look at the two issues he highlighted in that attack video, abortion and taxes. Those are traditionally the defining fights of a Republican primary.
This year, immigration is taking a very prominent role. But, on going after Romney and Huckabee on abortion and taxes, what is Fred Thompson doing? He's trying to say to voters in Iowa and other states where he's struggling right now that he is the true conservative.
And that reflects this fascinating struggle in the Republican primary to see who is the conservative candidate, who will get the support of the evangelical and the fiscal conservative base. And then those candidates hope to get one-on-one with Governor Romney -- Mayor Giuliani -- excuse me -- who still leads in the national polls. But it is a reflection of Senator Thompson's struggles to build support among the constituency in the Republican Party that he thought -- he thought -- would be his greatest support -- Anderson.
COOPER: It was a fascinating night.
Turning now to David Gergen, adviser to presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, as well as scholar, author and CNN contributor Bill Bennett is with us. Mr. Bennett served in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations. CNN's Campbell Brown is joining us as well. Her special report, "Broken Government: Campaign Killers," that runs tonight at 11:00 p.m. East Coast time. And also joining us, CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, and Jamal Simmons, president of New Future Communications. He worked in the Gore 2000 and Wesley Clark '04 campaigns.
It is good to see you all.
David, let me start off with you.
With almost six weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, this was really one of the last opportunities for the candidates to deliver the message to such a large audience. Who stood out tonight?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, on style, I think that the most presidential tonight were John McCain, who has found his voice again. He's way behind, but he did find his voice, especially, I thought, on the -- on the issues of Iraq and on torture. And I thought Rudy Giuliani.
But the candidate I think that the spotlight was shining on tonight and who really emerged as the most authentic and human was Mike Huckabee. Huckabee continually responded to questions with a -- with a compassionate, sort of human quality that I think will appeal to a lot of people in their homes.
And he also had a sense of humor. You know, when the question came up what would Jesus do on the death penalty, and he responded, I think to you, Anderson, that Jesus would have been -- was too smart to run for public office, got the best laugh of the night.
And I think it underscored the fact that Mike Huckabee is -- not only on the issues, but in terms of personal style, is beginning to attract attention that simply wasn't there a few months ago, or a few weeks ago.
COOPER: A Rasmussen poll puts him out in the lead right now in Iowa.
Every campaign I have talked to, Democrat and Republican, privately, they all say Mike Huckabee is, on the campaign trail, far and away one of the best campaigners out there.
Bill Bennett, there was a contentious exchange between Romney and McCain over water-boarding and torture. Let's play that. And I want to have you talk about it afterward. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I do not believe that, as a presidential candidate, it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people.
I oppose torture. I would not be in favor of torture in any way, shape or form.
COOPER: Is water-boarding torture?
ROMNEY: And, as I just said, as a presidential candidate, I don't think it's wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use.
And that is something which I would want to receive the counsel not only of Senator McCain, but of a lot of other people. And there are people who, for many, many years get the information we need to make sure that we protect our country.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am astonished that you would think such a -- such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our -- who we are held captive and anyone could believe that that's not torture. It's in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Bill, how does this play out among conservatives?
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, my guess is, Romney probably felt like he was being submitted to torture with McCain. He was going into -- right into McCain's wheelhouse. John McCain has probably the most moral authority of anybody on the panel.
But I think -- and I guess this is why you have a panel -- I -- I don't agree with my esteemed colleague Dave Gergen. I think that Romney stood out tonight. I think he was loud and clear, conservative. He was all in, as you would say in Texas hold 'em, whether it was the Bible, or on abortion, or on guns, on anything else, even taking McCain on, saying, look, I'm going to reserve the right to do something that you may not approve of, Senator McCain.
I thought he came across very strong.
I think you guys are absolutely right. That opening debate between Romney and Giuliani was, I think, the pivotal moment of the evening. And I think points to Romney. I think Giuliani came across badly. It looked personal, going after -- going after Romney on the people at his house, whom he did not personally hire.
And I don't know buy Giuliani wants to bring things back to house and home and what you're doing around the house. That's not a good place for him to go.
COOPER: Campbell, John McCain took on Ron Paul about the war in Iraq and his desire to bring home the troops now.
Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: We allowed Hitler to come to power with that kind of attitude of isolationism and appeasement.
MCCAIN: And I want to tell you something, sir. I just -- I just finished having Thanksgiving with the troops, and their message to you is -- the message of these brave men and women who are serving over there is, "Let us win. Let us..."
MCCAIN: That's what they want.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What John is saying is just totally distorted. He doesn't even understand the difference between non- intervention and isolationism.
I am talking isolationism -- isolationist. I want to trade with people, talk with people, travel. But I don't want to send...
COOPER: Time is up, and we're going to talk about this later.
PAUL: ... our troops overseas using force to tell them how to live. We would object to it here and they're going to object to us over there.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Campbell Brown, your thoughts on this exchange?
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Anderson, that McCain used that exchange very effectively.
I mean, Ron Paul is essentially where Democrats are on the war. And McCain used him, in a way, as a foil on this to -- to show how he would go after Democrats if he gets the nomination. And I think he did it pretty effectively, making his case for a strong military and an interventionist foreign policy.
I think I'm going to play contrarian a little bit with the other two panelists, since we are a panel, on -- on some of the other issues. I did think the opening exchange, you know, immigration seems to be the dominant issue, not only among Republicans, but, frankly, Democrats now.
I have heard a couple of people say it's the new third rail of American politics. And it certainly felt that way tonight. But I don't think, in that exchange between Romney and Rudy, that there was a winner, per se. I think you would have to concede that both of those candidates were hardly...
BROWN: ... the anti-immigration guys that they seem to be now when they held their previous positions. So, there's a sort of lack of authenticity coming from both of them when they try to make their case.
COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel just after a short break.
Want to talk more about Iraq tonight and hit some of the other issues as well.
Also tonight, digging deeper into what viewers thought of what the candidates said tonight. We actually have wired them up, in a manner of speak -- tonight on this special edition of 360.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: What I believe is, the Second Amendment gives people an individual right to keep and to bear arms. Government can impose reasonable regulations. Generally, those reasonable regulations would be about...
COOPER: Let him answer. Come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Mayor Giuliani -- Mayor Giuliani going against the grain there.
He also tangled with John McCain on another constitutional question, the line-item veto -- that was right at the end of the program -- with Mitt Romney on -- well, on quite a few things, actually, including the New York Yankees.
It has been a remarkable evening, to say the least, a lot more to talk about with our panel.
Former presidential adviser David Gergen is with us -- with us. Conservative thinker and CNN contributor Bill Bennett joins us, CNN's Campbell Brown and Jeffrey Toobin as well, along with blogger Jamal Simmons, a veteran of Democratic campaigns going back to 1992.
Appreciate all of you being with us.
Bill, Thompson and Paul got into it over Iraq and how much progress is actually being made there. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to do what's necessary. We have to take the opportunity that we have now.
John's absolutely right. What's going on there is progress; it's called progress. Too many people in this country are vested in a scenario of defeat. I'm vested in a scenario of victory. And I see it happening there in Iraq today.
PAUL: The best commitment we can make to the Iraqi people is to give them their country back. That's the most important thing that we can do.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: Already -- already, part of their country has been taken back. In the south, they claim the surge has worked, but the surge really hasn't worked. There's less violence, but al-Sadr has essentially won in the south.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Bill Bennett, how do you think, on Iraq, the various candidates did tonight? Did anyone stand out?
BENNETT: Well, again, Paul stands out because he's the lone man there.
You know, what struck me about this debate -- and we want to focus on this one -- is, you know, it's going to be interesting when we get to the general, because there was virtual unanimity on almost all of the issues among the candidates -- except for Ron Paul, who is -- who is kind of the odd man out -- on issues like war, immigration, taxes, abortion, guns.
And there is close as the same unanimity on the Democrat side, taking a different position. So, there was some competition there.
I think, on the war, it is clear -- clearly the platform of the guy who's going to run for president of the United States and be the nominee that we should stay in Iraq, win in Iraq. McCain, again, carries the authority on that, and probably was the most impressive.
COOPER: He also just got back from Iraq. He spent...
BENNETT: Sure did.
COOPER: ... Thanksgiving there.
Jamal, one of the questions that we asked was, what would Jesus do -- or, I should say, one of the YouTube viewers asked -- is, what would Jesus do on capital punishment? Here's what Mike Huckabee said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYLER OVERMAN, RESIDENT OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Hi. This is Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee. And I have a quick question for those of you who would call yourselves Christian conservatives.
The death penalty, what would Jesus do?
HUCKABEE: You know, one of the toughest challenges that I ever faced as a governor was carrying out the death penalty.
COOPER: The question was, from the viewer was, what would Jesus do? Would Jesus support the death penalty?
HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson.
HUCKABEE: That's what Jesus would do.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jamal, certainly, probably one of the best answers you could possibly come up to, to that question.
How do you think Mike Huckabee did tonight?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I thought Mike Huckabee was good.
I mean, he's one of these candidates that really has jumped off the page and impressed everyone up and down the field. And you see that reflected in the numbers right now.
What was -- I thought the ones who really fell apart right now, I didn't think Fred Thompson did a good job at all. It was like he was lost without his cue cards.
And, at the same time, you take a look at Romney, you know, his -- his hair never fell, but his voice faltered. He -- you know, on issues like abortion, gays in the military, he just seemed like, if you -- if you had style points, he just was not a commanding presence, I thought, tonight at all.
So, I thought Huckabee did a good job. I thought Ron Paul made himself seem very clear and direct. And I thought that John McCain clearly won this thing.
COOPER: Jeffrey, I want to play an exchange that I had with Governor Romney on gays in the military.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Governor Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve -- and I quote -- "openly and honestly in our nation's military."
Do you stand by that?
ROMNEY: This isn't that time. This is not that time. We're in the middle of a war. The people who have watched...
COOPER: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?
ROMNEY: I'm going to listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like. And my view is that, at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of...
COOPER: Is that a change in your position from...
ROMNEY: Yes, I didn't think it would work. I didn't think "don't ask/don't tell" would work. That was my -- I didn't think that would work. I thought that was a policy -- when I heard about it, I laughed. I said that doesn't make any sense to me.
And you know what? It's been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.
COOPER: So, just so I'm clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military, or no longer?
ROMNEY: I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops and I listen to what they have to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jeffrey, the audience, I think, feeling that he really wasn't answering the question.
TOOBIN: Well, I think his answer was the status quo is fine on this issue.
And I think it's worth pointing out that one word you almost never heard tonight -- I think you heard it twice -- was Bush. There is actually a Republican president of the United States, and he was almost never mentioned.
Yet at the same time, on almost every issue -- on Iraq, on guns, on taxes, on abortion, and on gay rights and that question virtually all the candidates except Ron Paul agreed with President Bush. So I think the problem the Republican Party has is they are trying to pretend George Bush doesn't exist, but they agree with him on basically everything. And that, I think, may be a problem in November.
COOPER: Bill Bennett, Jeffrey does bring up an important point. I mean, you did not hear the president's name mentioned here on this stage. In past debates, rarely do you hear his name mentioned. You hear "Hillary Clinton," certainly, a lot. Is that something that -- are they running away from him as much as anything else?
BENNETT: That's an interesting observation. I didn't hear the word "Bush," though, mentioned in any of the questions. So, that's one reason -- that's one reason, too.
On that "don't ask, don't tell," I'm getting a ton of e-mails saying that this guy who asked the question was part of Hillary Clinton's gay steering committee. I don't know if that's true or not, but if he is, that certainly should have been disclosed.
I'm just -- maybe as the conservative Republican here, I'm out of whack with the others. But again, it seems to me Romney had a very strong night. I predict that that's what you'll read tomorrow from the conservatives in the country, most Republicans.
His problem is that Huckabee had a very strong night: loads of charm and loads of wit.
Running away from Bush, they are running away from Bush on immigration, mostly. And by the way, I don't think it's a third rail, in their view, for a lot of these guys. I think they want to touch it. They want to touch it in a direction different from George Bush.
COOPER: That's interesting. I've not heard the possibility that he is on some sort of steering committee for a Democratic campaign.
BENNETT: I don't know. I'm just getting e-mails to that effect.
COOPER: But no, it's something that we should follow up on, because certainly, I had not heard that and had no knowledge of, nor do I think anyone here. And if so, that should have been, certainly, disclosed, and we would have disclosed that.
I do know that he's an activist of some sort, but I had not heard he's actually working for a campaign. And if so, that would certainly be an issue that should be addressed immediately.
We're going to have more from our panel in just a bit. Later on in the program, just ahead, though, tonight while the Republicans were debating, some of you were giving instant feedback on what they had to say.
When we come back, the issues and the answers that sent the dials off the charts. That's next on this special edition of 360.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back.
In this hour we are digging deeper, looking at the substance of what was said, not just the spin.
While the candidates were answering your video questions, we were getting instant feedback from a group of undisputed voters watching in Tampa. It's called dial testing, and it's a way for political campaigns and reporters to actually get inside voters' heads while they're watching a debate like this.
CNN's Joe Johns joins me now.
Joe, how did the dial testing go?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, as you said, while America was watching tonight's debate in St. Petersburg, we here at CNN were also watching a couple dozen people at the University of Tampa. They were registering their reactions to the debate with meters.
We're talking about a group of 24 undecided Republicans, 12 men, 12 women, people likely to vote, watching on TV just like we were. Now, take a look at the lines in the middle of the screen. The men in the group were blue, the women were yellow. The higher those lines spiked or went up toward the top of the screen, that's approval. If the lines bottomed out, that's disapproval.
JOHNS (voice-over): The first big spike of the debate came on a line delivered by former Senator Fred Thompson on the issue of immigration, one of the few times he scored.
FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A nation that cannot and will not defend its own borders will not forever remain a sovereign nation. And it's unfair...
JOHNS: In fact, most any tough talk on immigration seemed to pay off, though bickering between the candidates didn't work that well.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I'm suggesting is -- if you were going to...
JOHNS: On the other hand, messages on some tried and true issues resonated.
Take tax cuts. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's proposal to scrap the Internal Revenue Service got one of the highest marks of the night.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Most people in this country are more afraid of an audit than they are a mugging, and there's a reason why.
COOPER: More questions on this topic. JOHNS: The issue that has propelled Rudy Giuliani so far, responding to terror, scored big for him, especially among men, even when he was preaching tolerance.
GIULIANI: We shouldn't do the thing that we're being attacked for. We shouldn't -- we shouldn't blame an entire group of people for the horrible acts of a few people who have distorted a great religion, and they've turned it into an ideology of hatred.
JOHNS: On his strong suit, defense, John McCain invoked his own war experience.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We never lost a battle in Vietnam. It was American public opinion that forced us to lose that conflict. And if you...
JOHNS: The message: stay strong on Iraq. Through the two hours, the graph rarely dipped below four, and the group responded well to humor. Asked what would Jesus do about the death penalty, Huckabee had one of the night's best lines?
COOPER: The question was -- from the viewer was what would Jesus do? Would Jesus support the death penalty?
HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.
JOHNS: Now, this was not a scientific poll, and we are not calling that. It was just a small group of people selected, of course, because they were undecided Republicans -- Anderson.
COOPER: Joe, thanks very much for that.
Now, Erica Hill was in the same room in Tampa with those undecided voters that we just -- that Joe was just talking about. She -- the ones with the meters in their hands, doing the dial testing. She joins me now.
Erica, did anything they heard tonight actually help them make up their minds?
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Well, let's get a show of hands. Of -- for our 24 undecided Republican voters, are you leaving here tonight as a decided voter for January 29? Anyone?
So no hands raised and a lot of head shaking, Anderson. And some interesting answers when we asked that question a little bit earlier.
Sharon, you said you may have decided but probably not a choice that people expect. Who was that maybe? Do you have your...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have my mike. I'm sorry.
Well, I think if the Democrats have John Edwards, I'd vote for John Edwards.
HILL: So you would consider -- because nothing you heard tonight convinced you that any of these eight men are the right choice for you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's maybe three that could possibly be the right choice. But I'm really going to have to look a little closer at the three that -- I had thought about -- I had thought about Giuliani. I'd thought about Mitt Romney. Also Fred Thompson. I don't care for his TV shows, but you know, I thought maybe him being an actor, that was just a facade, and it's not.
HILL: OK. So none of them really worked out for you tonight. So it will be interesting so see what you actually do on January 29.
Fernando, when we first got here tonight, you told us what you really wanted to find tonight was a candidate who could beat Hillary Clinton. A lot of you echoed that sentiment. Did you find your man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Giuliani maybe is the one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But...
HILL: And there's a "but" in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The debate. I have two that I like. I don't know if they can beat her, but I like...
HILL: You like Huckabee. In fact, overall you all had very positive responses to Governor Huckabee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very, very much. I like him very much. And the one from California, Hunter?
HILL: Duncan Hunter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He also impressed me.
HILL: OK. So those are the two you liked.
And just a real quick note to you, Anderson. Everybody really liked the YouTube format. They said they would submit a question. But things that they did not like, that they didn't see tonight: no questions on health care, education and Iran. Also energy.
Those are some topics that they really thought they would have liked to have heard some answers from candidates on, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Well, maybe next time. We'll try to get those in. Up next, we are keeping the candidates honest. You heard what they said during tonight's debate. Hear now how it matches up to their records, next on this special edition of 360.
COOPER: Welcome back to our coverage, our post-debate coverage. We've been watching what happened over the last two hours. A fascinating night. We heard a lot of people talking tonight. A lot of different positions addressed, their stand on the issues that matter to you.
That's our focus right now, the issues, not the horserace, necessarily. We want to make sure they're telling the truth on what they're saying. A fact check, "Keeping Them Honest." The best way to do that is by comparing their comments tonight to their record.
"Keeping Them Honest" for us is CNN's Tom Foreman -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, an interesting night for "Keeping Them Honest."
Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani accused each other, right off the bat, of providing safe havens for illegal immigrants while they were, respectively, the governor of Massachusetts and the mayor of New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The mayor said, and I quote almost verbatim, which is if you happen to be in this country in an undocumented status, and that means you're here illegally, then we welcome you here. We want you here. We'll protect you here.
GIULIANI: In his case, there were six sanctuary cities.
ROMNEY: The policies of the mayor of pursuing a sanctuary nation or pursuing a sanctuary city are frankly wrong.
GIULIANI: He had a sanctuary mansion, not just a sanctuary city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Well, they got their facts generally right, but they fudged them just a bit.
New York never officially called itself a sanctuary city. But in 1998, under Giuliani, the city adopted a policy to let illegal immigrants report crimes, attend schools, go to hospitals, things like that, without being turned in. And the city fought federal efforts to make city workers report illegals.
Massachusetts did have four towns with similar policies under Governor Mitt Romney. Two of them did call themselves sanctuaries, and he did not try to stop them.
We cannot find evidence of six towns, as Giuliani claims. That story that illegal immigrants were part of the work crew at the governor's home, that appears true. Romney has not denied it, but he does say he did not know that they were there.
There's some other items we looked at, too. Romney said as governor he expanded services without raising taxes. Technically, that's true. But he did increase state fees and closed a lot of corporate tax loopholes, bringing hundreds of millions of additional dollars into the state accounts.
Mike Huckabee said as governor he cut taxes 90 times, and he does get credit for one of the largest income tax cuts in Arkansas's history. But he also raised taxes 21 times, and the net effect was a tax increase of more than a half billion dollars.
John McCain said water-boarding is against the Geneva Conventions. It's true, the conventions forbid torture. But the whole debate right now is just how we define torture and does water- boarding fit? And the administration says the Geneva Conventions do not apply to terrorists.
And Ron Paul said he had 5,000 supporters at his rally in Philadelphia. This is an easy one. We were there. It was more like 2,000 at best. But now we're torturing all the words.
So that's "Keeping Them Honest," Anderson.
COOPER: Hey, Tom. Thanks very much, Tom.
More now from our panel. It is coming up. And also, at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown goes inside the intrigue and ruthless world of political attack ads.
We actually saw one pretty aggressive ad tonight. We all -- everyone says they hate these attack ads. The question is why do they work so well? "Broken Government: Campaign Killers," Campbell Brown's hour special, coming up at 11 p.m. Eastern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I tell you this has been wonderful. Senator McCain may not be happy with the spirit of this debate.
As for a guy who usually stands on the bookend here, the side, and just listens all the time, that's kind of frustrating, you know, in other debates. I have to tell you, so far it's been wonderful, because -- because all I've heard is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Congressman Tom Tancredo. They're getting -- getting a word in on the hot topic of immigration. Let's get some final thoughts on the debate from our panel: David Gergen, Bill Bennett, CNN's Campbell Brown, Jeffrey Toobin, Jamal Simmons, joined by, as well, by "American Morning's" John Roberts is just joining us.
John, you got a chance to try to talk to some of the candidates afterward. What did you take away?
JOHN ROBERTS, HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Well, I talked with Giuliani for a little while, probably for about five or six minutes after the debate. He really seemed to be in good spirits.
I think it's pretty clear that he handled the debate well, and he was in very friendly territory here in Florida. This is one of the places where he is doing the best of all of the early primary states, a place that he hopes can be a firewall for him. And it's a place that's much more in tune with his ideas and his policies than, say, an Iowa or a New Hampshire.
They don't so much take offense to the nuance of his positions on abortion and gun control, as some of these other states do. But he did seem to be in a bit of a sticky spot on a couple of occasions when he was asked about gun control, to try to lay out his position here.
And it seems that he has shifted somewhat away from this idea of licensing guns that he was promoting when he was mayor, Anderson. So perhaps that's a real recognition that he knows the number of people here who are gun owners in Florida, and he has to temper his ideas just a little bit on that front.
But all in all, Giuliani thought it was a good night. I also talked with Mike Huckabee, who happened to be here with Chuck Norris. He was doing some campaigning for him as they try to push ahead in Iowa. And I can really see Huckabee, perhaps, setting up as a running-mate to Rudy Giuliani. He brings to the table some things that he does not have.
That's really important for a running-mate. What can the running-mate do to augment your campaign?
With Huckabee, he brings Christian conservatives in the door, values voters. And that's something that Giuliani still has some problem with. So I wouldn't be surprised if Giuliani did become the nominee, that there's a good chance he could pick Mike Huckabee to be his running-mate.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Anderson...
COOPER: Bill, if this -- go ahead.
SIMMONS: Anderson, talking about Giuliani, there's something that can't go unaddressed. He was asked a question what would happen or why African-Americans don't vote for Republicans.
I think what he left without is, well, the response to Katrina or the lack of a response to Katrina is the reason why African-Americans don't vote for Republicans. He left out his own city, situations like Abner Louima and Diallo, who were beaten and killed by police officers. And he defended the police officers versus the innocent citizens who were hurt.
So I think those are the reasons why Republicans have a tough time with African-Americans.
At the same time, we don't see any plans out of this group about Iraq or health care of education. The Democrats launched Flipper TV today, and I think they're getting a lot of -- a lot of ammunition to use for their Web site.
BENNETT: All right. If we're getting into partisan stuff, can I get a response here?
COOPER: Sure, go ahead, Bill.
BENNETT: I mean, for Pete's sake. Look...
SIMMONS: Is it now true, Bill?
BENNETT: What she said is not true. Mitt Romney talked about education as the next civil right. There weren't any more questions on -- on education. As for Louisiana, they just elected a dark- skinned Republican as their governor. So...
SIMMONS: And that forgives them for leaving citizens on the roofs?
COOPER: Let him answer. Let him answer.
BENNETT: Of course it doesn't. And there's a lot more to say on the Republican side.
Liberals have failed inner city blacks overwhelmingly in the last 30 years. That's why the question from that father and son, I think, was so pertinent, and I thought Romney did a good job on it.
If this is my last comment, let me just come back to what Campbell was saying about immigration. I think this is the big issue. Let's go back to the big issue.
On Iraq, if things continue to go well, as they seem to be going, do the Democrats still want to make this the No. 1 issue? I think that's an open question. If not, what becomes the No. 1 issue? And I think it could very well be immigration. There's real fire in this country on that issue, unlike any I've ever seen.
COOPER: Bill -- Bill, let me ask you about Mike Huckabee in Iowa. There's this Rasmussen poll out right now, showing him in first place. Is it difficult for the other candidates to go after a Mike Huckabee, as they would -- you know, as certainly Rudy Giuliani is doing to Mitt Romney or vice versa? BENNETT: Well, as you saw tonight, the first -- the first shot was fired in that Thompson ad. You go after Mike Huckabee on his record. The word that's going around in a lot of journals and blogs is that Mike Huckabee did not govern as a conservative. And a lot of this -- a lot of this will come out.
But he's going to do well in Iowa. He could very well win Iowa. The question is what happens in New Hampshire?
Giuliani, I will say to my colleague here, I do think he did have a good night. But I think it was for different reasons. I think he lost ground with the conservative base he needs on abortion, on immigration and on guns. I think he was way too hedged on those issues.
COOPER: Jeffrey, who do you think had a good night?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I think Mike Huckabee is clearly the best debater in this group. I mean, he is someone who is very charming and funny and articulate.
But, you know, if he's going to be a serious candidate, he's going to have to start answering serious questions, like calling for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service. Well, no one likes to pay taxes. But I mean, what serious person thinks you can get rid of the Internal Revenue Service? What's the government going to make its money on?
I mean, just -- you know, that's -- I think if you want to be a serious candidate, I think you've got to say serious things. And you can't sound like Ron Paul, who is still on national television, talking about a trans-international highway that some secret forces are planning between Mexico and Canada, that is a figment of his imagination.
I mean, I think, you know, people need to address the facts of what they say. And Huckabee's got to explain what he -- what he means to do by getting rid of the IRS.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, can I ask -- just Jeffrey's point, I agree with him. I think we all agree Huckabee did have a good night, but -- but he was -- I mean, he got a lot of lay-up questions. You asked a preacher to talk about the Bible, and he's going to hit it out of the ballpark.
He is extremely likable. I mean, that's his gift. But he does have to get beyond that, beyond the charm, and get deeper into the issues. And -- and I don't think the other candidates really pressed him that hard for reasons that he is so likable. It's hard to go after him. And if you go after him too much, do you then elevate him even further at a time when he does seem to be taking off in terms of the polls?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Anderson, can I just add a couple words?
COOPER: And his core group -- to be honest, we're out -- we're out of time. I wish we did have more time.
You can see John Roberts's post-debate interviews with the candidates on "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6 a.m. Eastern Time here on CNN.
Coming up, we're going to be right back with more "360." Also, stay tuned for Campbell Brown's special, "Broken Government: Campaign Killers." That's at the top of the hours, 11 p.m. East Coast Time. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Bill Bennett earlier mentioned that he was getting some reports from friends of his on the Internet that Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who asked a question about gays in the military during this debate, was on a steering committee for Senator Hillary Clinton. That was certainly something unknown to us and, had we known that, would have been disclosed by us.
It turns out we have just looked at it. Apparently, there was a press release from some six months ago, Hillary Clinton office saying that he had been named to some steering committee. We don't know if he's still on it. We're trying to find out that information.
But certainly, had we had that information, we would have acknowledged that in using his question, if we had used it at all.
That does it for us tonight from St. Petersburg, Florida. Appreciate you watching again. We want to thank all of you who submitted questions for the candidates via YouTube. And thanks to all of those who made tonight's debate possible.
For our international viewers, "CNN Today" is next. Here in America, "Broken Government: Campaign Killers," hosted by CNN's Campbell Brown, starts right now.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com