LAS VEGAS -- Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas was a chance for the primary candidates to answer questions pertinent to western voters.
Topics like illegal immigration and the housing crisis are prominent in the Southwest. Yet these complex topics can pose challenges to candidates trying to appeal to a broad audience.
The candidates were asked for the first time to explain how they would address home foreclosures. The responses left some Nevada voters wanting more.
Before the debate, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told the Las Vegas Review Journal that in order for housing prices to come back up, we must let the foreclosure process run its course and “hit the bottom.” At the debate, he stuck to his message that the government shouldn’t intervene, though his words were gentler.
“The right course is to let markets work,” he said during the debate. “And in order to get markets to work and to help people, the best we can do is to get the economy going.”
Businessman Herman Cain and former senator Rick Santorum also said the best solution was a free market.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman said President Barack Obama has failed on the foreclosure issue. She directed her comments to the mothers she has met who are at risk of losing their homes.
“I will not fail you on this issue. I will turn this country around. We will turn the economy around,” Bachman told the crowd. “We will create jobs. That's how you hold on to your house. Hold on, moms out there. It's not too late.”
But some Nevada voters were hoping for something more concrete from the candidates on the housing issue.
“What I wanted to hear was a specific program that they could go after to help homeowners save their homes,” said Joanne Levy, the legislative chair for the Nevada Association of Realtors, after the debate.
Levy, a long-time registered Republican, came to the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino to watch the candidates live.
“I don't want to hear market driven. I don't want to hear that we are going to let homes go into foreclosure anymore,” Levy said. “Enough is enough.”
Her colleague Lee Barrett was similarly disappointed.
“I don't think there was any response that they understood what Americans are going through right now,” Barrett said.
Darryl Ann Carter-Sulliman, the president of a local Republican women’s club, agreed that none of the candidates gave real specifics on how to keep Nevadans in their homes. But she had been hoping the foreclosure question would come up and was glad it did.
“At least it became an obvious issue,” Carter-Sulliman said. “It is affecting all of us, not just the people that lost their homes.”
The topic that drew some of the fieriest jabs of the evening was immigration.
Texas Governor Rick Perry went on the attack when he told Romney: “And Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year.”
Perry continued: “And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you're strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy.”
Romney denied the claims, and criticized Perry for giving in-state tuition to undocumented students in Texas. Romney also questioned Perry’s claim that his position as Texas governor meant he was experienced on border issues.
“It's a bit like saying that, you know, the college coach that has lost 40 games in a row has the experience to go to the NFL,” Romney told Perry.
Then the former Massachusetts Governor shifted the tone.
“I think it's important for us as Republicans on this stage to say something which hasn't been said,” Romney said. “And that is I think every single person here loves legal immigration. We respect people who come here legally.”
None of the candidates favored changing the 14th amendment of the Constitution, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. Some people are calling for a change to the amendment to discourage immigrants from having children in the U.S.