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GOP candidates offer support for women in combat posts

WASHINGTON — Last night’s 20th debate of the Republican presidential hopefuls was the first since the Pentagon announced plans to open some combat jobs to female servicemembers. Rick Santorum, who caused a stir earlier this month by suggesting women might be too emotional for such roles, walked back those comments but said he still has some concerns over how the decision was made.

But the three other major candidates offered support for expanded battlefield roles for women, calling the separation of jobs moot in a war environment where everyone faces danger. Ron Paul did raise concerns over whether the move will change selective service rules, but Pentagon officials have already stated they don’t believe the new roles will force any such changes.

Here’s a look at their comments:

Mitt Romney: “I would look to the people who are serving in the military to give the best assessment of where women can serve. We've had over 100 women lose their lives in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. … I believe women have the capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility, as we do throughout our society.”

Newt Gingrich: “I think it's a misleading question in the modern era. You live in a world of total warfare. 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.”

Ron Paul: "The problem is the character of our wars. And I don't like to think of people in groups. Individuals have rights, not groups. You don't have women's rights or men's rights … We're involved in way too much … 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.”

Rick Santorum: “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. My concern that I expressed, I didn't say it was wrong. 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.”

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