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					Republican presidential candidates spar in TV debate

Author / Source : Independent Online/bbc
Friday, 27 January 2012 11:53

Republican front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have clashed at a debate in Florida,
the last before the key state's primary.

The fiercest exchange came as former House Speaker Mr Gingrich repeated his charge that Mr
Romney was the most anti-immigrant candidate.

The former Massachusetts governor aggressively fought back, labelling Mr Gingrich's claim

The candidates are vying to challenge Barack Obama for the White House.

Primaries and caucuses will be held in every US state to pick a Republican candidate until the
eventual winner is anointed at the party's convention in August, before taking on the Democratic
president in November's elections.

Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich are neck-and-neck in Florida's opinion polls following the latter's
upset win in South Carolina's primary last week.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul are trailing,
ahead of the Sunshine State's primary next Tuesday.

The stakes are high because a win in Florida has the potential to propel one of the contenders
to the nomination.

Thursday's debate was the last time the candidates appeared together on a national stage
ahead of the primary.

Immigration dominated the opening exchanges in a debate held in a state with a large
immigrant - especially Latino - population.

Mr Romney said Mr Gingrich should apologise for running ads calling him an anti-immigrant

"The idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive," Mr Romney said to audience cheers. "It's simply
the kind of over-the-top rhetoric that's characterised American politics too long.

"I think you should apologise for it and recognise that having differences of opinions does not

Republican presidential candidates spar in TV debate

Author / Source : Independent Online/bbc
Friday, 27 January 2012 11:53

justify labelling people with highly charged epithets."

But the former House Speaker said his rival's immigration policy would result in the deportation
of grandmothers who are in the country illegally.

Mr Gingrich's campaign withdrew a radio ad this week that made the anti-immigrant charge,
after Cuban-born Florida Senator Marco Rubio called on him to do so.

Mr Paul said US dollars should be spent on securing the nation's border with Mexico, rather
than in the Middle East.

Mr Romney also ridiculed Mr Gingrich's plans to establish a permanent base on the moon, an
idea of interest to those on Florida's Space Coast.

Mr Romney said: "If I had a business executive come to me and say I want to spend a few
hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I'd say, 'you're fired'."

Mr Gingrich raised questions about Mr Romney's wealth and his investments, saying: "I don't
know of any American president who's had a Swiss bank account."

During a discussion about housing, the two front-runners also clashed over federal mortgage
lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The former House Speaker said Mr Romney had been making money from investments in
funds that were "foreclosing on Floridians".

Florida accounts for almost a quarter of home foreclosures in the US and the state's
unemployment rate - at 9.9% - remains above the national average of 8.5%.

Mr Romney hit back that his rival, too, had invested in mutual funds with the two lenders, which
many Republicans blame for the housing crisis.
'Petty politics'

Mr Santorum said the discussion was getting sidetracked with "petty personal politics".

He called for the candidates to focus on more substantive issues, asking the moderator: "Can
we set aside that Newt was a member of Congress... and that Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy?"

Mr Romney, a wealthy businessman, has said his experience as the head of a private equity
firm equips him to create jobs in the sluggish US economy. But many conservatives view him as
too moderate and have misgivings about his Mormon faith.

He won a resounding victory in New Hampshire's primary, after a photo finish with Mr Santorum
in Iowa's caucuses, the first nominating contest of the campaign.

Mr Romney later looked vulnerable to a resurgent Mr Gingrich, who was buoyed by brash

Republican presidential candidates spar in TV debate

Author / Source : Independent Online/bbc
Friday, 27 January 2012 11:53

performances in live debates.

However, doubts over the thrice-married former House Speaker's personal life and and
business dealings have also unsettled conservatives.



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