All 4 GOP Candidates OK With Women in Combat

By Susan Jones | February 23, 2012 | 7:16 AM EST

Break time for the Republican presidential candidates at the CNN-hosted debate in Mesa, Arizona, on Feb. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

( - What do the Republican presidential hopefuls think about women moving closer to the front lines of combat, the four men were asked at Wednesday's CNN-hosted debate in Arizona.

All indicated varying degrees of support.

"I would look to the people who are serving in the military to give the best assessment of where women can serve," former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney responded.

After noting that 100 women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, Romney said he believes women "have the capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility, as we do throughout our society."

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"Misleading question," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said. In a world of "total warfare," he said, "anybody serving our country in uniform virtually anywhere in the world could be in danger at virtually any minute. A truck driver can get blown up by a bomb as readily as the infantrymen. So I would say that you ought to ask the combat leaders what they think is an appropriate step, as opposed to the social engineers of the Obama administration."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said he agreed with Romney and Gingrich -- "that there are different roles of women in combat. They are on the front line right now. Their combat zone is, as Newt said, everywhere, unfortunately, in that environment."

Santorum said he has "concerns about certain roles" for women in the military -- "particularly in infantry."

"I still have those concerns, but I would defer to at least hearing the recommendations of those involved. But I think we have civilian control of the military, and these are things that should be decided not just by the generals, but we should not have social engineering, as I think we've seen from this president. We should have sober minds looking at what is in fact the best, proper -- proper roles for everybody in combat."

Rep. Ron Paul said he fears the return of the draft, when "we're going to be registering young women, and because of this, they're going to be equal" with men.

Paul said war -- particularly "offensive" war -- is a problem: "So I don't want even the men to be over there. I don't want women being killed, but I don't want the men being killed in these wars."

However, Paul drew a distinction between undeclared, "aggressive" wars and defensive wars:

"Now, if we're defending our country -- and we need to defend, believe me -- with men and women will be in combat and defending our country, and that's the way it should be. But when it's an offensive war, going where we shouldn't be, that's quite a bit different."