Candidates Play It Safe In Fox News' Iowa Debate

December 16, 2011 9:30 am ET — Media Matters Action Network

Last night's Fox News GOP presidential primary debate in Sioux City, Iowa was the candidates' last chance to show their stuff before the Iowa caucuses on January 3, 2012. For the most part, the seven candidates played it safe, taking advantage of questions rather light on policy specifics to try to reassure Iowa voters that they're electable.

Nevertheless, each had his or her turn at throwing out a notable line or an outright falsehood. Newt Gingrich claimed again that he had balanced the budget for four straight years while Speaker of the House, a statement PolitiFact has rated "False." Jon Huntsman got in a customary dig at his more ideologically conservative cohorts, scoffing that he won't sign "silly pledges" or "show up at a Donald Trump debate." Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) tried to tap into the national obsession with Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, saying, "I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses." Mitt Romney attacked President Obama's strength, attacking him over the handling of a drone downed in Iran and claiming Obama "fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century." He also scrambled to defend himself against the charge that he had changed his positions on gay rights and gun control since running for Senate in 1994.

Factually speaking, Rep. Michele Bachmann was perhaps the worst performer on stage last night, repeating several outright lies. She blamed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the housing crisis, and reiterated her nonsensical claim that Iran has threatened to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. Ironically, while defending an attack she made on Gingrich, she made the utterly false statement that PolitiFact "came out and said that everything I said was true" after last week's debate, earning herself a brand new "Pants on Fire" from the fact-checking organization.

Watch highlights of the debate after the jump.

Newt Gingrich Again Claims He Balanced The Budget "For Four Straight Years" While Speaker

Huntsman Says He Won't Sign "Silly Pledges" Or "Show Up At A Donald Trump Debate"

Gov. Perry: "I Hope I Am The Tim Tebow Of The Iowa Caucuses"

Rep. Bachmann: After Last Week's Debate, PolitiFact Said "That Everything I Said Was True"

Rep. Bachmann Blames Fannie And Freddie For Housing Crisis

Rep. Bachmann Repeats Claim That Iran Has Threatened U.S. With Nuclear Weapons

Romney Claims President Obama "Fundamentally Believes That This Next Century Is The Post-American Century"

Romney Scrambles To Defend Flips on Gay Rights, Gun Control