Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor; Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; former Speaker Newt Gingrich; Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota; and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania also were looking for a breakout moment at the debate that could prompt Republicans to take a second look before the first voting begins in less than two months.
The nation's hurting economy, along with the deep financial uncertainty in Europe, provided a backdrop for the first debate of the season to be held in the industrial Midwest. The state's unemployment rate of 11.1 percent, after an extensive loss of manufacturing jobs, and an epidemic of home foreclosures have made Michigan a crucible for a discussion of whether the government should intervene to prevent an economic collapse.
Yet Michigan is experiencing a revival compared with many parts of the country, with at least some of the jobs in the auto industry returning. Obama has visited Michigan nine times since taking office, hoping to use the state as an example of economic progress.
On a day when the stock market plummeted amid fears that Greek and Italian debt might bring European financial institutions to collapse, the candidates each rejected the idea that the United States should intervene to help, arguing that U.S. taxpayers should not be responsible for the missteps of foreign countries and companies and that the Obama administration's bailouts of banks here two years ago amounted to government overreach.
"My view with regards to the bailout — whether it was by President Bush or President Obama — is it was the wrong way to go," said Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who grew up in Michigan.
Paul said European debt had to be "liquidated" to right the economy, while Huntsman said Europe's troubles presaged those that the United States would soon have if the president and Congress did not restrain government spending.
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