ABC News and Yahoo!: 1 Day, 8 Major GOP Candidate Interviews

Nov 8, 2011 11:10am

Herman Cain shot back against allegations of sexual harassment even as chief rival Mitt Romney said accusations made publicly in New York raise serious questions about Cain.

ABC News and Yahoo! interviewed every major Republican candidate Tuesday, one year out from election day 2012 and two months before the Iowa Caucus-goers become the first to state their preference in the primary.

It was Cain’s first opportunity to respond in a live interview to the allegations made by Sharon Bialek, a former employee of a foundation run by the National Restaurant Association. Cain said he didn’t remember Bialek. Romney took the opportunity to issue his strongest attack on Cain, while the rest of the Republican field tread lightly around the issue.

The interviews, conducted across the country throughout the day,  highlighted the many policy and personality differences between the candidates.

Below is a rundown of what each had to say. Click here for analysis from ABC News’ Political Director Amy Walter on what we learned from the interviews.

And read more about the candidates’ personalities, which showed through during a “lightning round” of personal questions.

Herman Cain

“I have had nothing but the utmost respect for any and all women as well as those who have worked under my leadership,” Cain told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in the ABC News/Yahoo Newsmakers interview. “I can categorically say I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period. And as far as these latest charges… I reject all of those.”

Cain said the charges are “baseless” and “bogus” and that the accusations are an attempt from his opponents to derail his candidacy.

“When I first saw her [Bialek]… I didn’t even recognize her,” Cain said.

When asked if Bialek was lying, Cain replied, “Yes, I’m saying that as nice a way as I can.”

Read more about allegations against Cain.

Cain also talked about his unconventional campaign, and suggested that his status as an outsider is threatening to Washington Republicans.

Read more about Jonathan Karl’s interview with Herman Cain.

Mitt Romney

But Romney said any accusations need to be taken seriously.

“Anytime there is an accuser that comes forward with charges of this nature you recognize this is a very serious matter and it should be taken seriously,” said Romney.

In addition to raising questions about the allegations against Cain, Romney defended his own record on abortion and other issues. Democrats have accused him of having “no core” for evolving his stance on abortion and other things. Romney said that’s a diversionary tactic.

“I’ll let the slings and arrows come, as they may.  And continue talking about the failure of this presidency.  And I know, of course, the last thing the president wants to do and his team wants to do is to talk about their record,” he said. “But I’ll keep bringing it back to it.  They failed.”

Romney also said he thinks Presidents Obama and Bush were wrong in their approach to saving the auto industry through a managed bankruptcy. And he answered some personal questions, including recalling his worst job — bailing hay despite a hay allegy – and saying he’d choose Academy Award winner Gene Hackman to play him in a movie.

Read more about George Stephanopoulos’ interview of Mitt Romney.


Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said individuals should not be questioned on their “decision about their sexuality” and said he would be “comfortable”  returning to the military policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Perry said DADT worked well before President Obama  repealed it  in what Perry described as a response to president’s political base.

“I think you go back to commanders in the field and have that conversation. I think Don’t Ask Don’t Tell worked very well,” Perry told Christiane Amanpour. “I think the idea that the president of the United States wanted to make a political statement using our men and women in the military as the tool for that was irresponsible.”

Perry said he would not rule out a preemptive strike against Iran to ensure the country does not develop nuclear weapons, and said Obama should have taken measures to overthrow the current regime.

“I think the United States needed to be actively involved in taking that oppressive regime out of control of Iran. We had an opportunity and we missed it.”

Asked what Democrat on Capitol Hill he could work with, Perry pointed to a higher Democrat – Joe Biden – saying he “gets it” compared to the president, who he said is “dividing this country.”

“I think it would be very helpful if we had a president of the United States that is not about dividing this country, and I think President Obama is about dividing this country with frankly no thought about what it does to the future of this country,” Perry said.

“I could sit down and talk to Joe Biden.  I think Joe Biden gets it.

Read more of Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Rick Perry.


Ron Paul

Ron Paul called Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren “a socialist” and suggested the federal highway system was a mistake.

ABC’s Terry Moran read to Paul a widely cited viral video defense of government by Warren, the consumer advocate who is running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat.

He responded to Warren’s argument that a wealthy person who has benefited from government in areas like security and roads and should give back.

“She’s a socialist,” Paul said. “She wants the government to do all this.”

“When the state runs things that is a socialist idea that it should be collective,” he said. “I preach home schooling and private schooling and competition in schools.”

Paul said he believe none other Republican candidates represents the small government ethos than he does.

And it wasn’t surprising that the Texas congressman said his favorite song was “Born Free.”

Read more of Ron Paul’s Interview with Terry Moran.

Rick Santorum
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorm, who attended Penn State University, said he is devastated by the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the school and its storied football team in recent days. Santorum said coach Joe Paterno is a friend and he wants to hear his side of the story.

“Look, I pray and hope that he didn’t do anything he shouldn’t have done, but it certainly looks horrible for the university, horrible for the football program and obviously people were fired, should be fired,” said Santorum.

Santorum spoke with ABC News’ John Berman during the ABCNews/Yahoo “Newsmaker” interview today in the first primary state of New Hampshire.

The former Pennsylvania senator said running for president wasn’t “a life long dream,” but he’s “in the best position” to win the election.

“I think America is looking for someone they can trust,” Santorum said. He dismissed his low poll numbers saying it’s “still early” and he’s running a different campaign that’s “grassroots,” but he believes he has a “path to success.”

Jon Huntsman

While Romney said the allegations against Cain were serious, most other candidates chose not to comment.

“Herman Cain can deal with it however he chooses to deal with it, but I’m worried about the 13 or 14 million unemployed, I’m concerned about those who are worried we’re losing our position in the world,” the former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador said in an interview with Sharyn Alfonsi from Coral Gables, Fla..

“It takes all of the oxygen out of the room,” Huntsman said of Cain. “Far be it from me to give Herman Cain any advice, but eventually he’ll address these issues.”

In a lightning round of personal questions, Huntsman said his worst job ever was as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant because he also had to clean toilets. And on who would play him in a movie, Huntsman, known for his dry wit, said, “I’m not going to say Lloyd Christmas from ‘Dumb and Dumber,’” although that was clearly the first thing that popped into his mind.

Watch the Huntsman interview and learn about his New Hampshire -focused strategy here.


Michele Bachmann

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann struggled to find anything on which she agreed with President Obama.

“I agree with the fact that he didn’t have a new Marine One helicopter made,” Bachmann told ABC’s Ron Claiborne from Charleston, S.C., referring to the presidential helicopter. Obama did purchase a new limousine, she said, but decided to forego having a new “outrageously expensive” helicopter made.

Preliminary contracts for an updated Marine One fleet in 2009 put the price tag for each chopper at $400 million, roughly the same price as the president’s Boeing 747 jetliner, Air Force One. “That was a good move that he made,” she said.

Bachmann discussed a range of issues, including Iran and Israel, where she sounded hawkish.

“I will not do as this president has done and put daylight between the United States and Israel. That was a foolish decision. I also will put every military option we have on the table to deal with an Iran that seeks a nuclear weapon,” she said.

During her lightning round, Bachmann said that if it were up to her, she might put Ronald Reagan on Mt. Rushmore. But some other contenders in her mind: James Garfield, who was only in office for a short while, but was the last president to come from the House of Representatives, and Calvin Coolidge, who served during the roaring ’20s.

Read more about Michele Bachmann’s interview.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich has experienced a recent rise in the polls, placing fourth with 12 percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last Friday.  The former speaker of the House acknowledged Romney will make it to the final two in the race for the GOP nomination, but Gingrich said his eye isn’t on the Massachusetts governor but instead he’s focusing on snatching the undecided voters.

“There’s a big opportunity for an alternative candidate. That doesn’t mean that Romney can’t get the nomination. He’s smart. He’s working hard. He has a lot of money, access to large amounts of money, and  he may be able to beat whoever ends up as the alternative.  In the end it comes down to sort of which of the guys do you want. He’s clearly one of the last two because of the sheer scale of his resources,” Gingrich said.  “My job I think is to reach out to the 75 or 80 percent who aren’t currently committed to Romney and say here’s a set of solutions that would actually get us back on the right track. If it succeeds, then Romney will have the problem of stopping me. I’m not worried about stopping Romney.  I’m worried about reaching that 75 or 80 percent who aren’t committed to him.”

Newt Gingrich painted himself as an alternative to Obama based on his commitment to enhance opportunities and incentives for those aiming to create jobs in this country.

Read more of Jake Tapper’s interview with Newt Gingrich.


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