Perry Addresses HPV Vaccine, Death Penalty at Debate
Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry squared off over their jobs records at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night. The two frontrunners for the nomination took center stage at the GOP debate that kept most of its focus on economy.
The debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California was also Perry's debate debut. Perry, who announced his candidacy last month, has edged ahead of Romney this week in nationwide polls. Most questions at the debate, even though posed to the other six candidates, focused on Romney's and Perry's positions.
Perry reaffirmed previous statements he's made on the campaign trail regarding climate change, capital punishment and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
Although Perry said last month that his decision to issue an executive order mandating a vaccine against the sexually transmitted HPV was a "mistake," at the debate he stood by his reasons for the decision. "At the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives," Perry said, adding that he "probably" should have let the Texas state government legislate the decision rather than ordering it as governor.
Perry said he felt like "a pinata at the party" after receiving criticism for his decision from Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
When asked about Texas' death penalty, referring to the 234 executions during Perry's three terms as governor of the state, Perry paused for applause from the audience. "I think Americans understand justice," Perry said. "In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."
Perry, a strong believer in states' rights to legislate most laws on a state-by-state basis, said other states did not have to implement a death penalty. He defended Texas' "thoughtful" process which he said he trusted prevented the justice system from sentencing anyone innocent."I've never struggled with [sleeping at night] at all," he said in response to the question posed to him.
Perry also made headlines last month when he indicated he has doubts that climate change is partially manmade. "The science is not settled," Perry said. "As I recall, Galileo got out-voted for a spell."
Romney, who gave a speech laying out his plan to create jobs growth earlier this week, pushed back on Perry's ability to take credit for job creation and a lower unemployment rate in Texas.
Romney also criticized Perry for suggesting that Social Security is a flawed institution, or as Perry put it, "a Ponzi scheme" that steals from young Americans without giving much back. Romney said a Republican candidate needs to be committed to "saving" Social Security, not abolishing it. Herman Cain addressed the federal tax rate, saying, "If 10% is good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for the federal government."
President Obama will deliver a speech before a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening, where he plans to suggest both tax cuts and federal spending programs that will stimulate job growth. Economic issues have so far overshadowed much of the primary debate questions, with the August jobs report indicating that no new jobs have been created in the past month and the nation still faces a 9.1 percent unemployment rating.