Last night’s Republican presidential debate broke little new ground, but the true takeaway couldn’t be any clearer: among the seven hopefuls on stage last night, not a single candidate can credibly be called “moderate.” On issue after issue, the positions staked out at the debate were far to the right of the average voter, and significantly more conservative even than previous Republican Presidents like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.
- Following the deadly tornados in the Midwest and the South, Romney expressed support for removing FEMA as a federal department. Even as the vast majority of states face immense budget challenges, Romney said that we should “send it back to the states” and even described spending on FEMA as “immoral” because it increased the debt.
- Romney endorsed a federal marriage amendment that would ban states, including his home state of Massachusetts, from granting equal rights to marry. Despite Romney’s constant talk of federalism on economic matters, by supporting a constitutional amendment he would not only not only take away the right of states to decide marriage laws for themselves but also enshrine discrimination into the Constitution.
- On health care reform, Mitt Romney repeated the lie that the reform law “takes $500 billion out of Medicare and funds Obamacare.” As PolitiFact notes , the law actually restrains the long-term growth of Medicare by fighting waste and altering the program’s structure and payment plans, “the $500 billion in ‘cuts’ is really the reduction in the future growth of Medicare over 10 years, and it’s intended to make the program more efficient. The law also includes new benefits for Medicare that would improve quality.”
- When asked about his position on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Pawlenty refused to say whether he would reinstate the recently-repealed policy, saying he would listen to military commanders. But in an interview with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, Pawlenty clearly promised to try to reinstate the discriminatory policy : “I have been a public supporter of maintaining Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and I would support reinstating it as well.”
- Pawlenty blamed the Constitutional right to birthright citizenship on the lack of conservative justices and the appointment of liberal justices, even though the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of birthright citizenship in 1898 . He said that birthright citizenship exists “because a U.S. Supreme Court determined that that right exists, notwithstanding language in the Constitution,” but the language of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment is plain, and its drafters were clear that the amendment guarantees birthright citizenship .
- When asked about a New Hampshire ‘right-to-work’ bill and federal legislation, Pawlenty said, “I support strongly right-to-work legislation.” Right-to-work laws are designed to cripple organized labor by allowing workers to opt-out of paying dues to the union that negotiates and polices their contract. A comprehensive study by the Economic Policy Institute found  that while so-called right-to-work laws hamper wage growth and curtail job benefits, they provide few economic gains. But the Corporate Right and the anti-worker ideology that has permeated the GOP will be pleased with Pawlenty’s commitment to blocking worker rights.
- Santorum said that allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly is “social experimentation” and that out members of the military should be held accountable in “a system of discipline.”
- Santorum said he “wholeheartedly support[s]” Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare, but then went on to oppose the Medicare cost-controls in the health care reform law, falsely  arguing that Obama supports “rationing of care.”
- When asked about how he would have handled the economic crisis and the devastated housing market, Paul said, “I would want to do much less, much sooner. The government shouldn’t be involved.” But economists, even Republican ones, agree  that the government needed to get involved to prevent an all-out economic catastrophe, and many believe that government intervention in the housing crisis didn’t go far enough .
- In an attempt to simultaneously pander to and scare senior citizens, Michele Bachmann claimed that the President’s health care plan would divert resources from seniors and direct it to young people: “Senior citizens . . . know in Obamacare, the President of the United States took away $500 billion, a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare, shifted it to Obamacare to pay for younger people.” Ironically, Bachmann endorsed  Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare.
- Bachmann jumped on the job-killing-regulation bandwagon, taking aim at the EPA: “What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills, but it's the repeal bill that will get at job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.” To Bachmann’s credit, the EPA probably does render unnecessary some healthcare sector jobs which would be required if industries were free to pollute  our air and dump toxic poisons in our drinking water.
- Newt Gingrich, in discussing treatment of Muslim Americans, advocated for a return to the McCarthy era: “We did this -- we did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.” That era in U.S. history – the era of the House Un-American Activities Committee  – remains a dark chapter in American history to which few Americans want to return. Gingrich absolutely ignored the Constitution’s strong protection of religious freedom for all people, including Muslims.
- Herman Cain’s plan to deal with people in the United States without documentation, after repealing constitutionally-protected birthright citizenship and enforcing laws already on the books, is to “empower the states to do what the federal government hasn't done.” He has endorsed laws like Arizona’s SB 1070—a profoundly discriminatory law that seriously infringes on the Bill of Rights .
- Cain also lied, once again, about his earlier statement  that he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet by claiming that he would merely be “uncomfortable” with doing so – despite a clear constitutional prohibition of a religious test for office. In the debate, he also claimed that “it is not a litmus test,” but in earlier statements, Cain said he would not subject  Christians or Jews to the same scrutiny.