Heated Charges, Counter-Charges in Florida Debate

By: Streve Peoples. Associated Press
By: Streve Peoples. Associated Press

Heated Charges, Counter-charges in Florida Debate

Tampa, FL (AP) - Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich clashed repeatedly in heated, personal terms Monday night in a crackling campaign debate, the former Massachusetts governor tagging his rival as an "influence peddler" in Washington, only to be accused in turn of spreading falsehoods over many years in politics.

"You've been walking around the state saying things that are untrue," Gingrich said to his rival in a two-hour debate marked by interruptions and finger pointing.

The debate marked the first encounter among the four remaining GOP contenders - former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul shared the stage - since Gingrich won the South Carolina primary in an upset last weekend, a double-digit victory that reset the race to pick a rival to challenge President Barack Obama this fall.

Romney was the aggressor from the opening moments Monday night, saying Gingrich had "resigned in disgrace" from Congress after four years as speaker and then had spent the next 15 years "working as an influence peddler" in Washington.

In particular, he referred to the contract Gingrich's consulting firm had with Freddie Mac, a government-backed mortgage giant that he said "did a lot of bad for a lot of people and you were working there."

Romney also said Gingrich had lobbied lawmakers to approve legislation creating a new prescription drug benefit under Medicare.

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Paul Says No Intention of Third-party Bid

Tampa, FL (AP) - Ron Paul says he has no intention of running for president as a third-party candidate, though he's continuing to keep the door open a crack.

The Texas congressman is stopping short of saying no -- because he says he's not an absolutist. Paul notes that he once left Congress vowing not to return, only to run again.

But Paul says he doesn't have any plans to run outside the GOP and that he might even be able to endorse rival Newt Gingrich if he's the nominee. Paul says he is happy that Gingrich keeps hinting at attacking the Federal Reserve and jokes that if he could get Gingrich to listen to him on foreign policy, as Paul puts it, "we might just be able to talk business."

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Romney Says His Taxes Are Entirely Legal and Fair

Tampa, FL (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says his tax returns will show he pays all taxes that are legally required and, in his words, "not a dollar more."

Romney is set to release his tax returns Tuesday morning. Asked during Monday night's debate what the returns will show, Romney says they will outline his total income, total taxes and significant charitable contributions.

Romney won't say what he thinks will be the most politically problematic part of the returns. He says the returns will show the returns are "entirely legal and fair."

Gingrich says he wants to allow Americans to be able to choose a flat tax of 15 percent. That's the tax rate Romney says he pays.

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Gingrich Says DREAM Act with Military Aspect OK

Tampa, FL (AP) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he would allow illegal immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship if they serve America in uniform.

Gingrich said during Monday's GOP debate that if president he would veto a version of the proposed DREAM Act that would allow a path to citizenship for children who come to the United States with their undocumented parents if they complete college.

Gingrich says college graduation alone is not enough.

Gingrich says citizens of other countries already have the opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship by wearing a uniform. He says that children of undocumented immigrants too should have that option.

Rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum say they would veto any version of the DREAM Act that gives citizenship for college graduates.


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