GOP Candidates Tackle Faith, Immigration, Economy

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The GOP took its case to the important swing state of Florida Thursday night, tackling hot-button issues like faith, the economy and immigration.

Once again, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was ganged up on by his GOP rivals.

This time the governor came under fire for a law he signed allowing children of illegal immigrants to get a $100,000 discount for in-state college tuition.

"That doesn't make sense to me," Romney said of the measure. "And that kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break."

"If you say we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason -- that they've been brought there by no fault of their own -- I don't think you have a heart," Perry responded.

Rick Santorum didn't appear to buy that argument.

"Why should they get preferential treatment as an illegal [immigrant] in this country?" he asked.

On the economy, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain plugged their business experience.

"Unlike Gov. Romney's plan, my plan throws out the old one," Cain said. "He's still hooked on the current tax code. That dog won't hunt."

But it was the unfamiliar face of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson who delivered the line of the night.
 
"My next door neighbors' two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration," Johnson said.

The Faith Vote

Before Thursday's big Fox News/Google debate, almost all the candidates stopped in one place -- the Faith and Freedom Forum.

More than 3,000 activists showed up for the event to hear from all the presidential contenders.

The presidential hopefuls talked about the economy, but they also talked about social issues and pro-family values.

"I believe in America," Romney told the evangelical audience. "I believe that the values and principles that lifted our great nation in the past are the values that will preserve our greatness in the future."

Perry also flashed his faith credentials.

"Our precious freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights not only guarantees the right to freedom, but it ensures that men and women of faith do not have to abandon their values or their faith at the steps of the public square," the Texas governor said.

The Economy

The candidates then turned their focus to the economy.

"Our economy is on life support," Perry said. "It is not understood by this administration that the business sector is the economic engine of economic growth. That's where you start."

Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized President Obama's economic policies, essentially calling him a "food stamp" president.

"President Obama is the best food stamp president in American history. With your help, I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history," Gingrich said.

Gideon's Army

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., talked about Gideon's army and about how the audience themselves were Gideon's army.
 
"What I talked about here was Gideon's army, meaning, literally, it takes very few people to change the world, and we have a committed group of people today here in Florida and they are enough," Bachmann told CBN News after the debate.

"We need to consider that it doesn't take that many if we put our influence on the line and we trust in God, we can see miracles in our country," she said.

Ron Paul Pro-Life

When most people think of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, they likely think about Tea Party libertarianism.

But he was actually cheered quite a biy at the Faith and Freedom Coalition event. It wasn't that he was just talking about liberty. It was that he was talking about the issue of life.

"If we don't have such strict understanding of the value of all life, it's hard to defend free markets, homeschooling, and a sound economic system," Paul said.

Santorum on P.A. Statehood

The big issue in the headlines right now is the quest for Palestinian statehood and how that might affect Israel.

"The United States should be an ally of Israel," Santorum told CBN News.

"We should be an honest broker in this process, and we should not be dictating terms as to what the solution is," he said.

The next Faith and Freedom event is scheduled to take place in Iowa next month.

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