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01.23.12

Best Moments From the NBC Republican Debate in Tampa (VIDEO)

As the four remaining candidates face off in Tampa ahead of Florida's Jan. 31 primary, Mitt Romney calls Newt Gingrich an 'influence peddler' who had to resign as House speaker ‘in disgrace.’ WATCH VIDEO.

So Long, Mild-Mannered Mitt?

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The GOP slapfest continues. After Mitt Romney said he would pledge to keep his campaign focused on bringing down President Obama, the former Massachusetts governor opened his debate with a fierce attack on current frontrunner Newt Gingrich. Romney dumped as many negative points as he could on Gingrich in his first reply of the evening, calling him an “influence peddler” and accusing the former speaker of the House of having to “resign in disgrace.” Romney’s learned a thing or two from the beating he took in South Carolina, and perhaps has finally ditched his mild-mannered persona. “I’m not going to sit back and get attacked day in and day out without returning fire,” he said. Gingrich shrugged off Romney’s attacks: “I’m not going to waste time on Governor Romney’s misinformation.”

Romney Deflects Tax Question ... Again

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It was bound to come up, and Romney managed to deflect scrutiny again, saying he was “proud” of his tax records and is confident that Tuesday’s release will “satisfy the American people.” In a slightly clever move, he found a way to shift the focus of the conversation away from his taxes to his proposals to lower tax rates, eliminate the tax on savings for middle-income Americans, and lower corporate taxes.

Gingrich Left Tongue-Tied

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Romney went straight for Gingrich’s jugular here, and while he didn’t exactly deliver any zingers, he accused Newt (again) of being an “influence peddler,” of being paid by Freddie Mac, and of lobbying on health issues while getting paid by health-care companies. “We have congressmen that say you came and lobbied them with regards to Medicare, part D,” Romney spat at Gingrich. The attacks left the former speaker tongue-tied. After an incredibly awkward silence in which Gingrich looked a bit like Rick Perry in some of his stumped “oops” moments, he denied he had been a lobbyist and defended his health-care advocacy.

Romney Goes After Obama—and His Golf Game

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Things quieted down after that one heated exchange between Newt and Mitt, with Romney taking a moment to “step back for a second and talk about what’s really going on in Florida right now.” Cue the Obama attacks the former governor has vowed to focus on: according to Romney, Obama is directly to blame for all of Florida’s problems, particularly its unemployment rates. Actually, make that all of America’s problems, because Obama is too busy perfecting his golf swing to turn the economy around. “He plays 90 rounds of golf when there are 25 million people out of work.”

Romney’s Answer to Illegal Immigration: 'Self-Deportation'

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Mitt Romney says his immigration plan is really quite simple, thanks to a new Romneyism: “self-deportation.” Under his plan, illegal immigrants wouldn’t be deported—rather, they would leave … of their own free will? They would have a card indicating whether they could work legally. After a transition period, illegal immigrants wouldn’t get a card allowing them to get work. “If they can’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport.” Hmmm.

Santorum: Romney and Gingrich Are Just Like Obama!

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Santorum might have had the best line of the night when he said in reference to bailouts, mandates, and climate change, “When push comes to shove, [Gingrich and Romney] got pushed!” Santorum argued that Romney’s health-care plan as Massachusetts governor was the “basis for ‘Obamacare,’” while Gingrich supported mandates at the heart of Obama's health-care plan “for 20 years!” Not something we haven’t heard from the former Pennsylvania senator before, but well delivered at the end of the Tampa debate. In short, Santorum said, they’re just like Obama—so vote for me instead.