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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Live blogging CPAC Florida -- the presidential candidates



By Alex Leary and Michael C. Bender

2:20 p.m.: Jon Huntsman, the final candidate of the program, takes the speech speaking Chinese. "Just kidding," the former ambassador to China.

Huntsman shares a sentimental story about the night he and his wife learned they'd be able to adopt a Chinese baby girl. "In today's frenetic political environment, we sometimes forget there is something more important. And that's life," Huntsman said.

The former Utah governor says he is the only candidate to "unequivocally" support Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicaid reform plan.

Huntsman runs through his record in Utah, saying few taxes and regulations will help create jobs. "Rather than tinker around the edges, let's clean house," he said. "Let's get rid of carve-outs, get the rid of the loopholes, get rid of the deductions and get rid of the corporate welfare. Use that to lower the rate across the board for business and individuals."

2:05 p.m: Herman Cain: "Our greatest crisis is a severe crisis of leadership in Washington, D.C., in the White House. If you change the leadership, you change the outcome. ... So goes the economy so goes the solution to so many other problems."

Cain may be more popular than Paul with this crowd. Touts his 9-9-9 plan and urges crowd to "stay inspired." I believe that we can take this nation back. You believe that we can take this nation back."

His big closer: "Help me to put the united back in the United States of America."

2 p.m.: Ron Paul is well into his lecture on the woes of government regulation (they even tell us we can't drink raw milk!) the failed monetary system and the national debt. He criticized the entitlement system, saying a lot of people will be upset when the "goods are not forthcoming." Paul is a crowd favorite and got a standing ovation as he left the stage. He should do well in tomorrow's straw poll.

1:35 p.m.: Rick Santorum takes the stage to Rocky theme, makes a few college football quips and then plays up the importance of the Thursday night debate.

"These debates are about trying to find out who has the meddle to be able to go up against the Barack Obama and national media machine that is going to take them apart piece by piece, and be able to stand up, fight back and deliver the principles that our conservative parties believe in," Santorum said. "That's what this race is about, is finding that right person who can stand up and when times are tough and when the heat is on, deliver.

He uses underdog victories for a Democrat-majority U.S. House seat and a Pennsylvania U.S. Senate office to show he is electable.

"I fight and I win," Santorum said. "I've done it. No in on the panel last night has done what I've done."

1:25 p.m.: Gary Johnson gets big applause for his promise to push a national sales tax as president.

Johnson says he's fix Social Security by raising eligibility and means testing: If you meet a certain income level, then you only get back what you paid in.

The former New Mexico governor says he'd reduce military spending, give Congress a balanced budget and would never have established TSA. "I would have left that to the airlines," he said.

Johnson says he "the most Googled name on the planet" after his quote last night that his neighbor's dogs have created more "shovel ready projects" than Obama.

1:07 p.m.: The second half the presidential forum starts as Rick Perry takes the stage.

Perry spends the first few minutes hammering President Obama, comparing the country to a "ship without a rudder." "The great promiser of hope and change," Perry says about Obama. "He has delivered neither. What he has delivered Americans don't want."

"It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect," Perry said, transitioning to an attack on Romney. "We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision of this country."

Perry takes aim at Romney over health care, comparing Romney's healthcare plan for Massachusetts ObamaCare.

"The model for socialized medicine has already been tried," Perry said. "It failed. Not just in Western Europe, but in Massachusetts."

10:20 a.m: Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association: "Gun owners will be the difference in 2012." Says Obama made "political calculation" to avoid gun issue in first term but is ready to unleash war on 2nd Amendment. "The lying, conniving Oabma crown can kiss our constitution."

9:56 a.m.: Newt Gingrich walks on to the Rocky theme song. "I believe we are in so much trouble. I believe the scale of what we have to change is so much bigger than Barack Obama."

Calls Obama, a "European socialist administration" and pledged his first act would be an executive order abolishing all White House czars. Some stood to applause.

9:40 a.m.: Mitt Romney is now on stage. "I love legal immigration," he said. "I want the best and brightest and the freedom lovers to get in line ..."

Addressing a line Rick Perry used at last night's debate, he said, "If you’re opposed to illegal immigration is doesn't mean you don't have a hear. It means you have a heart and a brain."

Romney mainly focused on the economy, saying Obama "doesn't have a clue how the economy works."

9:15 a.m.: Michele Bachmann got CPAC FL started with a roaring call to make Barack Obama a "one term president," firing up a huge crowd at the Orange County Convention Center.

"We need a nominee that’s not ashamed of the tea party," she said. "This is our year. This is our time." She mainly railed against Obama and "Obamacare" while pledging to crack down on illegal immigration and restore constitutional values.

[Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 2:38pm]


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