Kudos go to Wolf Blitzer who moderated the 13th GOP Debate. Blitzer allowed free answers, did not act like he was a candidate and attempt to debate the actual candidates with his personal opinions, and allowed the time needed for candidates to debate each other.
As always I encourage anyone who did not see the debate on CNN, to read the transcript, found here, for yourself.
The major blogosphere and media buzz seems to be surrounding the question on Illegal Immigration and Newt Gingrich's answer.
Transcript of the exchange below video of it.
BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, let me let you broaden out this conversation. Back in the '80s -- and you remember this well. I was covering you then. Ronald Reagan and you -- you voted for legislation that had a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as you well remember. There were, what, maybe 12 million, 10 million -- 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States right now.
Some called it amnesty then; they still call it amnesty now. What would you do if you were President of the United States, with these millions of illegal immigrants, many of whom have been in this country for a long time?
GINGRICH: Let me start and just say I think that we ought to have an H-1 visa that goes with every graduate degree in math, science and engineering so that people stay here.
GINGRICH: You know, about five blocks down the street, you'll see a statue of Einstein. Einstein came here as an immigrant. So let's be clear how much the United States has drawn upon the world to be richer, better and more inclusive.
I did vote for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. Ronald Reagan, in his diary, says he signed it -- and we were supposed to have 300,000 people get amnesty. There were 3 million. But he signed it because we were going to get two things in return. We were going to get control of the border and we were going to get a guest worker program with employer enforcement.
We got neither. So I think you've got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border, as the governor said. I believe ultimately you have to find some system -- once you've put every piece in place, which includes the guest worker program, you need something like a World War II Selective Service Board that, frankly, reviews the people who are here.
If you're here -- if you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. period. If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.
The Creeble Foundation is a very good red card program that says you get to be legal, but you don't get a pass to citizenship. And so there's a way to ultimately end up with a country where there's no more illegality, but you haven't automatically given amnesty to anyone.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you agree with the speaker?
BACHMANN: Well, I don't agree that you would make 11 million workers legal, because that, in effect, is amnesty. And I also don't agree that you would give the DREAM Act on a federal level. And those are two things that I believe that the speaker had been for, and he can speak for himself.
But those are two areas that I don't agree with. What I do think, though, is what Steve -- what Steve Jobs said to President Obama. He had said to President Obama that he had to move a great deal of his operation over to China because he couldn't find 30,000 engineers to be able to do the work that needed to be done.
That's what we want to do. We do want to have people. And I agree with the speaker, people like chemists and engineers, and people who are highly skilled.
We think about the United States and what's in the best interests of the United States. If we can utilize these workers, like Steve jobs wanted to, then we need to offer those visas. That will help the United States. But I don't agree that we should make 11 million workers who are here illegally legal.
BLITZER: Let me let the speaker respond to that.
GINGRICH: Well, I mean, two things, first of all, in the DREAM Act, the one part that I like is the one which allows people who came here with their parents to join the U.S. military, which they could have done if they were back home, and if they serve on it with the U.S. military to acquire citizenship, which is something any foreigner can do.
And I don't see any reason to punish somebody who came here at three years of age, but who wants to serve the United States of America. I specifically did not say we'd make the 11 million people legal.
I do suggest if you go back to your district, and you find people who have been here 25 years and have two generations of family and have been paying taxes and are in a local church, as somebody who believes strongly in family, you'll have a hard time explaining why that particular subset is being broken up and forced to leave, given the fact that they've been law-abiding citizens for 25 years.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you want to respond?
BACHMANN: If I understood correctly, I think the speaker just said that that would make 11 people -- 11 million people who are here illegally now legal. That's really the issue that we're dealing with. And also, it would be the DREAM Act, the federal DREAM Act, which would offer taxpayer-subsidized benefits to illegal aliens. We need to move away from magnets (ph), not offer more.
BLITZER: Let's broaden it out.
Governor Romney, where do you stand? Are you with the speaker, that some of those illegal immigrants -- I think -- he didn't say all -- some of them, if they have roots, they belong to a church, for example, should be allowed to stay in this country?
ROMNEY: Look, amnesty is a magnet. What when we have had in the past, programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that's going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.
The right course for our immigration system is to say we welcome people who want to come here legally. We're going to have a system that makes that easier and more transparent. But to make sure we're able to bring in the best and brightest -- and, by the way, I agree with the speaker in terms of -- I'd staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who's got a degree of math, science, a Masters degree, Ph.D.
We want those brains in our country. But in order to bring people in legally we've got to stop illegal immigration. That means turning off the magnets of amnesty, in-state tuition for illegal aliens, employers that knowingly hire people that have come here illegally.
We welcome legal immigration. This is a party, this is a party that loves legal immigration. But we have to stop illegal immigration for all the reasons the questioner raised, which is, it is bringing in people who in some cases can be terrorists, in other cases they become burdens on our society.
And we have to finally have immigration laws that protect our border, secure the border, turn off the magnets, and make sure we have people come to this country legally to build our economy.
BLITZER: Just to precise, and I'll give Speaker Gingrich a chance to respond. Are you saying that what he's proposing, giving amnesty in effect, or allowing some of these illegal immigrants to stay, is a magnet that would entice others to come to this country illegally?
ROMNEY: There's no question. But to say that we're going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you're all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing.
People respond to incentives. And if you can become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you'll do so. What I want to do is bring people into this country legally, particularly those that have education and skill that allows us to compete globally.
GINGRICH: I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them.
I do believe if you've been here recently and have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties for employers, but I would urge all of you to look at the Krieble Foundation Plan.
I don't see how the -- the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.
That exchange led to Team Romney immediately attempting to make the case that Gingrich was calling for amnesty for all illegal immigrants.
Gingrich is leading the GOP candidates in poll averages according to RCP.
FiveThirtyEight takes note of a recent Quinnipiac University national poll which provides a revealing chart in which when Republican voters are asked what candidates has the necessary "knowledge and experience necessary to be a good president," Gingrich more than doubles Romney by a 48 percent to 22 percent margin.
This is notable for me personally because while watching these debates the past few months and even being a Rick Perry supporter, I have noticed Gingrich's ability to answer questions clearly showing a vast amount of knowledge, he cuts to the heart of the issues and I have mentioned here on the blog previously his ability to keep his eye on the endgame which is removing Barack Obama from the White House in 2012, instead of indulging in the endless bickering among GOP candidates.
Gingrich may not have the "likability" factor that others have but his rock solid performances in every debate to date has given me reason to give him a second, long look.