In early May 2007, 10 candidates gathered for the first Republican debate. The questions they faced afford an interesting look back.
When the Republican Party's primary season kicks off tonight with its first official debate, five candidates will take the stage: Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former CEO Herman Cain, former N.M. governor Gary Johnson, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. Most front-runners will be absent.
It's quite a contrast from four years ago. During Election 2008, the initial GOP debate was held around the same time -- May 3, 2007, to be exact. But back then, 10 candidates faced voters, including eventual winner John McCain, runners up Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, and Rudy Giuliani, widely thought to be a strong contender for the nomination. Also present were Sam Brownback, James S. Gilmore, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, and Tommy Thompson.
Those forgotten names got me wondering if I remembered the questions posed during that era. It turns out that If you're a political junkie, the whole transcript is an interesting read. Below I've condensed just the questions posed by the moderators. Perusing them now affords interesting perspective on how the country has changed, and the ways in which it remains the same. The War in Iraq and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons were both big issues. America's poor performance in global popularity surveys came up. Tax cuts were discussed more often than deficits, as was immigration. And the candidates were asked whether they'd retain Karl Rove, or pardon Scooter Libby.