Politics

01.26.12

Best Moments From Thursday’s Debate Ahead of Florida Primary (Videos)

Mitt Romney came out fighting, flattening Newt Gingrich on investments and immigration. A look at the highlights from the GOP’s final four in Florida.

Newt and Mitt Spar Over Immigration

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Mitt Romney attempted to elaborate on his self-deportation theory to combat illegal immigration. He said that by blocking work opportunities for illegal immigrants, they would be encouraged to leave the country and self-deport. Newt Gingrich said it was unrealistic idea, arguing that grandmothers and grandfathers were not likely to “self-deport.” But Romney also got into a heated argument with Gingrich over his assertion that Romney was “anti-immigrant.” Romney disputed that notion and called it a “racially charged epithet.”

Fire Over Fannie & Freddie

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Newt Gingrich attempted to deflect Mitt Romney’s accusation that he was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by saying that Romney had invested in the companies. Romney said that his investments are handled by a blind trust and countered by saying that Gingrich has also invested in the companies. Gingrich then said that comparing their investments was like comparing “a tiny mouse with a giant elephant.” Wolf Blitzer then asked Ron Paul if Romney and Gingrich should return the money they made through those investments, to which Paul responded, “That question doesn’t interest me.”

Romney’s Swiss Bank Account

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Wolf Blitzer asked Newt Gingrich what he thought of Mitt Romney’s transparency in regard to his income. Gingrich called it “a nonsense question” and suggested Blitzer ask more substantive questions. But when Romney said he didn’t think people should make accusations that they were not comfortable defending at the debates. Gingrich explained that he thought Romney’s income was unusual and he did not know of any American president who had a Swiss bank account. Romney pointed again that his finances are handled by a trustee and held in a blind trust and that the Swiss bank account was reported in the U.S. with full taxes paid on it.

Ron Paul Challenges Them to Bike Ride

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Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul if he would release his medical records, given that, if elected, he would be the oldest U.S. president ever. Paul said he would happily release them because they are “only a page long.” He also said he is still in good shape and challenged any of the other candidates to a 25-mile bike ride. Gingrich chimed in saying that from watching Paul campaign, he can tell that the congressman is in “great shape.”

Gingrich's 'Balanced' Budget

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Ron Paul got feisty. He took issue with Newt Gingrich’s claim that he had balanced the federal budget four times. Paul said that after reviewing the record, he found the national debt went up $1 trillion during those four years, saying Gingrich wasn’t mentioning money that “he takes out of Social Security. So Reagan nor you had a truly balanced budget, because the national debt goes up and that’s what we pay the interest on. So I think you’ve stretched that a little bit more than you should have.” Gingrich suggested that he had indeed balanced the budget, but said he agreed that Social Security should be taken off the budget.

Santorum Jumps on RomneyCare

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Rick Santorum went on the attack over Mitt Romney's health-care legislation, saying that the law makes it so that people need to buy health insurance “as a condition of breathing in Massachusetts,” and that people are now paying a fine instead of buying insurance because it is so expensive. Romney brushed off the accusation and said that during a debate with Barack Obama he would be able to show passionate concern for people who need health insurance, but also point out that Obama’s health-care plan “is bad medicine, it’s bad for the economy, and I will repeal it.”

Rating the Possible First Ladies

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The candidates got sentimental when Wolf Blitzer asked them why their wives would make a good first lady. Ron Paul said his wife was the mother of their children and had also written a cookbook. Romney called his a wife “a real champion and a fighter,” having battled multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. Newt Gingrich said that any of the wives would make a great first lady, and that his wife was “not necessarily in any way better.” While Rick Santorum explained that his wife wrote a book about the couple’s deceased son, which “saved countless lives.”