Fiorina, Santorum, Huckabee debate gun control, immigration

With Sen. Rand Paul's promise to skip Thursday's GOP undercard debate, only three other low-polling candidates were left to duke it out.
By Ann Marie Awad  |  Updated Jan. 14, 2016 at 9:05 PM
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- With the State of the Union and President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on gun control, the thee candidates in the GOP undercard debate Thursday had no shortage of ammunition.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee met again onstage at North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, S.C.

The candidates were asked about Obama's executive action on guns, over boos from the audience. Fiorina dismissed polls that show a majority of Americans support stronger background checks for gun buyers.

"We all believe the poll data all the time, don't we?" Fiorina scoffed. Earlier this week in an interview with NPR she similarly slammed the polling data that relegated her to the undercard stage.

Huckabee similarly slammed the executive actions, citing the recent shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. He compared the actions to the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

"Now the latest is 'if you like your gun you can keep it, too,' and frankly we don't buy it," he said. Huckabee also said "there is no gun-show loophole," referring to the exemption from background checks enjoyed by vendors at gun shows.

Huckabee also weighed in on Social Security, at one point saying, "Social Security is not the government's money, it's the money of people who've had it taken out of their checks involuntarily." He proposed a complicated solution that involved eliminating payroll tax deductions.

Santorum took an aggressive approach to the debate. He slammed the Iran nuclear deal, saying he originally put sanctions on Iran when he served in the Senate. Asked at one point about illegal immigration, Santorum said he would give undocumented immigrants "the gift" of mass deportation.

In response to a question about the economy, Fiorina rattled off a long list of complaints, such as low male employment. Fiorina also kept with her strategy of positioning herself as the natural foil to Hillary Clinton.

"You cannot wait to see the debate between me and HillaryClinton," she said. "You would pay to see that fight."

Fiorina also mocked GOP front-runner Donald Trump, calling his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin a "bromance."

Due to more stringent debate qualification requirements this time around, Paul and Fiorina were edged out of prime time debate featuring the top-polling candidates.

In an average of recent national polls, Fiorina is down to 2.8 percent, according to RealClear Politics. Paul is at 2.3 percent, and Huckabee at 1.8. Santorum brings up the rear, polling at zero percent.

Less than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee's strategy remains unclear. He had promised to drop out of the race if he did not place in the top three in Iowa. The decision is likely based on Huckabee's strong showing in Iowa during the 2008 election. Santorum won the state in 2012.

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