- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sen. Lindsey Graham implied fellow GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum was being anti-Hispanic when he said immigrants are taking jobs from Americans, as the lower-tier candidates sparred over Republicans’ messaging in the undercard debate Wednesday, and tried to make a big enough splash to earn their way into the top tier.

Mr. Santorum, a former two-term senator who also ran for president in 2012, said Republicans write off 90 percent of voters when they refuse to contemplate raising the minimum wage, and when they support mass immigration they are forcing Americans to face more job-competition.

“In my world, Hispanics are Americans,” retorted Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, who was one of the architects of the 2013 Senate bill that would have legalized most illegal immigrants and offered a place to millions of additional legal immigrants in the future.

Mr. Santorum replied that it’s Hispanic Americans who “are hurt the most” by illegal immigration.

Joined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former New York Gov. George Pataki, the four men spent nearly two hours at the Reagan Presidential Library drawing distinctions with each other and attacking Donald Trump, the headliner in Wednesday night’s main debate, featuring the top 11 candidates in the field.

Mr. Jindal said Mr. Santorum and Mr. Graham made a mistake when they voted to confirm Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, saying his two majority opinions upholding the constitutionality and legality of Obamacare prove he wasn’t fit for the office.

Mr. Graham and Mr. Santorum didn’t back away from their vote for the chief justice, saying he was one of the best-qualified nominees to come before the Senate, and most of his rulings have been praiseworthy.

Mr. Jindal, who served in Congress before winning two terms as governor, said Mr. Graham was part of the problem by continuing to vote for spending bills that fund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, a major provider of abortions.

“I wish the Senate Republicans had half the fight in them Senate Democrats had,” Mr. Jindal said.

Mr. Graham, who as the only one of the four still in Washington, took on the role of defending the GOP establishment. He said as long as President Obama is in the White House, taking those kinds of stances would mean a government shutdown, and he said he’s not willing to do that. He said GOP voters need to hear his tough, honest talk, rather than the strident demands for fights coming from some parts of the conservative movement.

“I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear,” Mr. Graham said.

Mr. Graham delivered some of the more memorable lines of the afternoon, including saying that unless Americans are willing to have more children — citing former Sen. Strom Thurmond, who had four kids after age 67 — then they will have to rely on immigration.

He also quipped that despite being a lawyer, Wednesday was the most time he’d ever spent in a library.

And Mr. Graham repeatedly brought the discussion back to the role of president as commander in chief at a time when the country is still fighting terrorists across the Middle East.

“I’m running for president to destroy radical Islam, to win the war on terror, to protect you and your family,” he said.

CNN hosted five hours of debate coverage Wednesday — nearly two hours with the four second-tier candidates, followed by three hours with 11 candidates in the top tier — and seemed intent on producing fireworks, leading off the first round of the debate by demanding the candidates explain their thoughts on Mr. Trump.

“Let’s stop treating Donald Trump like a Republican,” said Mr. Jindal, who went into the debate with the goal of mixing it up with the front-runner. “If he were really a conservative and 30 points a head, I would endorse him. He is not a conservative. He is not a liberal. He is not a Democrat. He is not an independent. He believes in Donald Trump.”

Among them, the four men in the undercard debate have amassed a combined 70 years in elected office, debate moderator Jake Tapper said — but he questioned why that wasn’t resonating with voters, who are embracing Mr. Trump and political newcomer Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, instead.

One question that sparked intense division was support for Kim Davis, the county clerk who defied orders from a federal court and the Kentucky governor and went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Mr. Jindal and Mr. Santorum defended her as a hero of religious liberty.

“I’d like the left to give us a list of jobs that Christians aren’t allowed to have,” Mr. Jindal said, while Mr. Santorum compared Mrs. Davis to Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil disobedience.

But Mr. Graham and Mr. Pataki said Mrs. Davis was doing wrong by breaking the law.

“I don’t agree with it, but that is the law of the land,” Mr. Graham said.

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this article.

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