Mike Huckabee’s presidential forum Saturday was certainly unique, featuring a slate of ultra-conservative state Attorney Generals grilling the candidates on issues like regulation, health care, and judicial philosophy.
The candidates were asked to refrain from attacking each other, but Newt Gingrich drew e-mailed attacks from rival Rick Perry for his answer regarding a 2007 ad with Nancy Pelosi endorsing climate change legislation.
“I’ve said publicly, sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi is the dumbest single thing I’ve done in the last few years - but if you notice, I’ve never favored cap and trade, and in fact I actively testified against it,” Gingrich said in the forum.
In fact, Gingrich talked up a cap on carbon in interviews at the time.
“I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good,” he said in a PBS interview. “And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.”
Mitt Romney offered up a largely fireworks-free conversation, but said he would block grant not just Medicaid but most aid to the poor. He told Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli (R) that he would not make it a priority to repeal all federal labor laws, instead focusing on reducing the role of, or even eliminating, the National Labor Relations Board.
“At this stage, Ken, I would not propose getting rid of all federal labor law,” he said.
Cuccinelli, who joined Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt and Florida AG Pam Bondi, stole the show with his follow up questions, however. He pressed Michele Bachmann on how states would settle disputes over pollution that crossed border without the EPA, prompting her to imagine a similar institution on the fly.
At first, she said such issues would be handled on a “case by case” basis by the federal government and courts. Cuccinelli followed up by saying he didn’t understand how such a system would be legal.
“You cannot just negotiate without a legal foundation and thereby compel both sides to participate,” he said.
“Well, you’re making a very good point,” she said. Bachmann added: “I’m not opposed to the federal government, it’s certainly reasonable that the federal government would have to deal with some of these issues.”
Rick Perry, still lagging in the polls after his hot start in August, openly pleaded with voters to give him another chance.
“I hope everyone will give me a second look and take a look at my plan,” he said.
He added that “my purpose was never to be president of the United States, but our country is in trouble. “
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.