The following is a full transcript of the Republican presidential debate sponsored by ABC News, Facebook, and ABC affiliate WMUR. The debate took place on January 5, 2008, at St. Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
GIBSON: Good evening. I am Charlie Gibson from ABC News. And along with our partners in tonight's debate, our station here in New Hampshire, WMUR, and the popular Facebook Web site, I welcome you to what is a unique occasion. This is going to be a chance to hear from all the leading presidential candidates in both parties in one night.
We have two debates -- the Republican debate, then the Democratic
debate -- coming within moments of one another. And tonight we have one mission. That is to give voters a better idea of the candidates, their principles, their characters, their positions on the issues.
Now, we set some criteria for these debates which we felt were highly inclusive. The top four finishers in Iowa, plus any candidate with 5 percent support in an established New Hampshire or national poll. They only had to have 5 percent support in any one of eight polls.
Now, that resulted in invitations being issued yesterday to six Republicans -- Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson -- as well as four Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson -- all of whom will join us tonight.
GIBSON: Now, the candidates have debated often, and they have taken an awful lot of questions. So we have tried to fashion a format in which they will talk more to one another.
We're going to take the first 45 minutes of each debate, and for 15 minutes each, I will put three topics on the table and then, to the extent possible, sort of stay out of the way.
There are no lights that will limit the length the candidates can speak for that portion of the debate, but I will keep them move on, interrupting, I hope not impolitely.
It is my hope -- and I've expressed this to the candidates' camps -- that their discussion will be lively, informative, will point out the differences they have on the issues being discussed, and that they will talk to one another.
For the second half of each debate, I'll be joined by Scott Spradling. He's political director of WMUR, and we will have questions in a more traditional format.
GIBSON: We have an audience here at St. Anselm of about 500 people. And I've asked them to refrain from applause to keep the discussions going without interruption.
So with that, we will spend a few minutes getting ready for the first debate.
And I will turn things over, for the moment, to my colleagues Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos.
SAWYER: And good evening to you, Charlie.
It is so exciting just to see the high stakes arena where the candidates are about to appear. They're waiting off-stage. They'll be getting their microphones checked.
And George Stephanopoulos and I were talking about the human endurance that it takes to come to this pivotal moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Diane, these guys must be running on fumes right now. They have been going for 10, 15 days straight, on three, four hours of sleep a night.
Yet, because this debate is so important, only three days before New Hampshire, they have to be at the top of their game tonight.