GOP Nevada debate: No marriage fight

Openly gay Democratic activist and political commentator Hilary Rosen predicted social issues, including those involving gays, would be a focus of the Nevada debate.

There was reason to expect so –Herman Cain, on Sunday’s Meet the Press, said he would not seek a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage but would leave the issue to the states. Mitt Romney was pressed on the issue of same-sex marriage repeatedly in New Hampshire and finally said he would support allowing same-sex partners to form “partnership agreements.” And several of the Republican presidential hopefuls reassured a conservative forum in Washington this month that they oppose legal recognition for same-sex marriages.

But gay social issues were not part of the discussion during Tuesday night’s debate in Nevada. Instead, seven Republican presidential candidates went after each other on the economy, immigration, health care, and religion.

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper did surprisingly little to control the debate and, as candidates pointedly attacked each other, the debate often became heated and caustic, with candidates trying to talk over each other.

Texas Governor Rick Perry repeatedly accused former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney of knowingly hiring people who were not legally in this country. (In fact, Romney hired a lawn care company and that company employed people who were not in this country legally.)

Rep. Ron Paul urged that the party not view people as groups, but rather as individuals with liberties. But former Senator Rick Santorum disagreed, saying the basic building block of society is not the individual but the family. He patted himself on the back for being the “one candidate” on the stage that stands up for and fights for “traditional values.”

The latest debate was sponsored by CNN in Las Vegas. Nevada’s Republican Party is contemplating moving its caucus date to January 14, making it one of the earliest in the nation and putting it ahead of New Hampshire, which is currently scheduled for January 10. The Iowa caucuses are slated for January 3.

Only seven Republican candidates participated: Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann. Jon Huntsman boycotted the Nevada debate because the state party might reschedule its caucuses to compete with New Hampshire.

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