Candidate Fred Thompson Makes Debate Debut

Months of polite sparring ended at the Oct. 9 Republican candidate debate.

The main event during the evening in Michigan was candidate Fred Thompson, who made his debate debut.

For former TV and movie star Fred Thompson, this was a different kind of premiere.

Though at one point, it seemed he almost forgot his line.

"I see no reason to believe we're headed for.... economic downturn," Thompson said.

The two-hour debate, aired on CNBC, focused on the economy, trade, tax cuts and spending.

For voters, it was a first chance to hear the former Tennessee senator's stance and a first chance to hear frontrunner Rudy Guliani go after a rival.

"Under Governor Romney, spending went up in Massachusetts eight-percent per capita, under me it went down by seven-percent," Guliani said.

"But it's baloney mayor, you've got to check your facts. I didn't increase taxes in Mass., I lowered them," Mitt Romney responded.

Also at issue, energy, the environment, Iraq and a hypothetical--whether the president should have to get permission from Congress before attacking Iran's nuclear facilities to keep that country from developing a bomb.

"You do what's best for the American people, and suffer the consequences. But what you don't do, what you never do, is let the American people one day get hit with a nuclear device, because you had politics going on in Washington," candidate Mike Huckabee said.

Still, the substance of this debate will likely be overshadowed by the arrival of the newcomer.

"Do you regret waiting so long? No I don't think I waited too long. Seems about right to me," Thompson assured.

The latest ABC News poll shows Thompson in second place among GOP candidates, behind Rudy Guliani.

Both Florida and Michigan could play critical roles in the next presidential election.

Some political analysts say Michigan is a large state Democrats may need in the presidential election, and they can't take it for granted.

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