In GOP Weekend Debates, Health Issues Take A Back Seat

News outlets covered the weekend's two Republican presidential debates in New Hampshire, which has its first-in-the-national primary on Tuesday. In both debates, health care issues, including Medicare and Medicaid, were barely discussed.

Here are some of the early reports on the Sunday debate.

MSNBC: Romney Faces Fire At NBC News-Facebook Debate
The second debate in 12 hours for the six GOP presidential hopefuls was bookended by moments of scrutiny for Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and prohibitive favorite to win New Hampshire's Tuesday primary (O'Brien, 1/8).

MSNBC: The debate transcript.

The New York Times: Romney Is The Main Target In A Caustic G.O.P. Debate
Beneath the flash of the clashes, important policy unity and distinctions emerged. All of the candidates appeared to agree that many large, federal social safety net programs need to be, in Mr. Romney’s words, "brought together and sent to the states." "Whether it's food stamps and housing vouchers, those are on the list, certainly Medicaid, home heating support," he said, programs that were on (former Sen. Rick) Santorum's and (former House Speaker Newt) Gingrich's lists as well (Rutenberg, 1/8). 

USA Today: Live blog: Another Republican Debate In N.H.
Republican presidential candidates met this morning for their second debate in less than 12 hours, just two days before the New Hampshire primary. Some highlights: ... Asked about balancing the budget by cutting programs that cause pain, Rick Santorum talks about means testing for Medicare and food stamps (Jackson, 1/8).

The New York Times: Republican Debate, Concord, New Hampshire
Mitt Romney repeated a claim he has made in past debates -- repealing the Obama health care law would save money -- that has been refuted by nonpartisan fact checkers and analyses like those of the Congressional Budget Office (Calmes, 1/8).

In Saturday's debate, candidates views on contraception and the right to privacy was a key question.

USA Today: The Republicans In New Hampshire 
Mitt Romney -- asked if states have the right to ban contraceptives -- says he can't imagine any state doing that, and calling the question "silly" (Jackson, 1/7).

Politico: Romney Swats At Contraception Question
Romney ended up responding on Roe v. Wade, saying it should be overturned, and then said, "Contraception? It's doing just fine. Leave it alone." (Haberman, 1/7).

The New York Times: Fact Check: Romney On Contraception And Personhood
What (moderator George) Stephanopoulos was trying to get Mr. Romney to respond to was the so-called "personhood" movement that seeks to legally define life as beginning at the moment of conception. It implies that certain common methods of contraception that stop implantation of a fertilized embryo, like birth control pills, would be illegal. ... Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Perry and Mr. Santorum have signed a pledge written by Personhood USA to support giving legal rights to embryos, but Mr. Romney has not (Gabriel, 1/7).

The Hill: GOP Debate: Romney: 'Contraception, It's Working Just Fine'
Mitt Romney bristled when pressed on a hypothetical question of whether he would support a state banning contraception. The former Massachusetts governor was asked by moderators at an ABC News/Yahoo! debate about the scenario, given that fellow GOP candidate Rick Santorum asserted a state had such a right. But Romney was reluctant to bite (Schroeder, 1/7).

The Washington Post: N.H. Debate Raises Variety Of Issues, But Romney's Lead Is Largely Untouched
Santorum, who got a major boost by his near-victory in Iowa, is striving to become the principal alternative to Romney. Late in the debate, he appealed for support by criticizing Romney for backing an individual mandate for health care in Massachusetts and the financial bailout. He said he would present a starker choice against Obama (Balz and Rucker, 1/7).  

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