Arizona GOP Presidential Debate: Arpaio, Immigration, Jokes, And Face-Palms

The Republican Presidential debate in Mesa just wrapped up a few minutes ago, and in the mid-debate words of Mitt Romney, "I didn't follow all of that, but I can tell you this..."

Among the few Arizona-related topics discussed included, unsurprisingly, immigration and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

CNN moderator John King noted that earlier in the week, Arpaio told him it was "political garbage" not to arrest illegal immigrants, and asked Romney if he's with the sheriff on that.

"Should they be aggressive, seek them out, find them, and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?" King asked.

As usual, Romney didn't answer the question directly, but he did say things about immigration.

"...[A]s a result of E-Verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent," Romney said. "So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing."

Note that in "going back to the question," Romney didn't answer the question.

Rick Santorum, on the other hand -- who met "privately" with Arpaio earlier this week -- made sure to name-drop the sheriff in his response.

"I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they're doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country -- to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they're found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment," Santorum said. "This is enforcing not just upon the employer, but on those who are here illegally and trying to do things that are against the law, like seeking employment here."

Aside from that, we've got some points of interest for you:

  • Ron Paul on why his campaign ad calls Santorum a "fake": "Because he's a fake."

  • Newt Gingrich describes himself as "cheerful." Santorum went with "courage," which isn't an adjective.

  • There were three distinct moments in the debate in which the audience booed as if it were offended by what was just said -- CNN moderator John King was apparently booed for asking a question about birth control, they gave it to Rick Santorum for voting for a bill that included Planned Parenthood funding, and Ron Paul heard it after saying he's not prepared to bomb anyone he doesn't like.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley