Tags: Newt Gingrich | gingrich | romney | debate | santorum | paul

Gingrich, Rivals Hit Romney Hard in GOP Debate

By    |   Monday, 16 January 2012 11:02 PM

With only a handful of days to go before the do-or-die South Carolina primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared to score big points in Monday night’s two-hour Republican debate, according to an analysis by Fox News, which hosted the event.

Asked by Fox’s Sean Hannity who won, author and political analyst Dick Morris proclaimed "Newt, Newt, Newt” the winner. "He was always one good debate performance away from getting back in this race and boy he had it tonight," said Morris.

More importantly, Gingrich’s response to questions on the economy, foreign policy, and race in particular appeared to resonate well with the national viewing audience, who were invited to assess whether they felt candidates had answered questions — or attempted to dodge them — using the Twitter social media website to register their responses.

With respect to the economy, Fox’s John Roberts reported that most people felt Gingrich had answered the questions while Romney was thought to be dodging them. The other candidates all gave fairly good — or at least satisfactory — responses.

“As we’re looking at foreign policy. Newt Gingrich did very well on foreign policy. Mitt Romney, as you can see, below the line,” explained Roberts, adding, “I’ve got to tell you, he spent most of the night below the line.”

Editor's Note: Can Gingrich win the South Carolina primary?  Tell us what you think. Vote here!

Roberts noted that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Rep. Ron Paul — whose overall responses resonated well on Twitter — were viewed as giving good answers with respect to foreign policy.

“On the issue of race, look at this — Mitt Romney way down again while Newt Gingrich is way up,” declared Roberts. “Those were some of his biggest spikes of the night. Rick Santorum — a kind of middling performance on that. The same with Rick Perry. Ron Paul again, very, very strong support.”

At the outset of Monday’s debate, host Bret Baier noted the absence of Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China, who suspended his campaign on Monday hours before the event at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Huntsman endorsed Romney, saying that he now believes the former Massachusetts governor to be the mostly likely candidate to defeat President Barack Obama in the general election. Huntsman also decried the negative tone that the campaign has taken.

His five remaining former GOP rivals wasted little time in trying to score final points with Palmetto State voters and distinguish themselves in the 15th debate of this contentious campaign season.

Front and center was Romney’s record at Bain Capital, Super PACs, taxes, foreign policy, unemployment compensation and race.

Gingrich scored one of his biggest victories of the night with his response to how he might react if given intelligence about an enemy of the United States that was hiding inside Pakistan, much like the scenario that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“Bin laden plotted deliberately, bombing American embassies, bombing the USS Cole and killing 3,100 Americans and his only regret is he didn't kill more,” said Gingrich. “Now He's not a Chinese dissident . . .

A Chinese dissident who comes here seeking freedom is not the same as a terrorist who goes to Pakistan seeking asylum. Furthermore, when you give a country $20 billion, and you learn that they had been hiding — I mean nobody believes that bin Laden was sitting in a compound in a military city one mile from the national defense university and the Pakistanis didn't know it.”

Gingrich went on to draw a comparison to the then 13-year-old Andrew Jackson of South Carolina who fought in the American Revolution. “He was sabered by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life,” said Gingrich. “Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America's enemies — kill them.”

Like Gingrich, Perry was pressed to defend his recent attacks on Romney’s record as CEO of Bain Capital, particularly his description on Romney’s business dealings as “vulture capitalism.”

“Bain swept in. they picked that company over. And there were a lot of people lost jobs there,” said Perry, who then pressed Romney to disclose his income tax records.

“Mitt we need for you to release your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money and I think that’s a fair thing,” he said, gesturing to Romney. “Listen, here’s the real issue for us: As republicans, we cannot fire our nominee in September. We need to know now so I hope you’ll put your tax records out there this week so the people of South Carolina can take a look and decide if we got a flawed candidate or not.”

Romney defended his decisions at Bain saying that the company invested in more than 100 different businesses and helped create some 120,000 jobs as of today. “Some of the businesses we invested in weren’t successful and lost jobs. And I’m very proud of the fact we learned from the experience,” he said.

With respect to his income taxes, Romney appeared to say that he would consider disclosing his taxes in April — but did not commit to do so during the debate. “I’m not opposed to doing that, time will tell, but I anticipate that most likely I’m going to get asked to do that around the April time period and I’ll keep that open,” he said.

Paul drew chuckles from the audience when he responded to a question about his attacks on the other candidates by the Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Evans.

“If you’re exposing a voting record, I think it’s quite proper,” snapped Paul. “There was one ad that we used against Sen. Santorum. And I only had one problem is I couldn’t get in all the things I wanted to say in one minute.”

Santorum countered that Paul cited left-wing sources such as CREW in his attacks. “Well of course left-wing organizations say a lot of bad things about me. I would expect them,” declared Santorum. “I wear that as a badge of honor, not something that I’m ashamed of.”

Santorum had a particularly effective exchange with Romney over an attack ad by a Romney Super PAC, which appeared to question Santorum’s support of the Martin Luther King Voting Rights Bill.

“I voted to allow them to have their voting rights back once they completed their sentence. Do you agree with that,” asked Santorum on Martin Luther King day.

Romney countered that he does not believe that people convicted of violent crimes should be allowed to vote once they serve out their sentences, a particular concern to African-American communities, which tend to have higher rates of incarceration than the general population, according to Santorum.

“So if in fact . . . you felt so passionately about this that you are now going to out and have somebody criticize me for restoring voting rights to people who have exhausted their sentence — and served their time, and paid their debt to society — then why didn’t you try to change that when you were governor of Massachusetts?”

Romney pointed to an 85 percent Democrat majority in the Massachusetts legislature during his term as governor. He also attempted to distance himself from the Super PAC ad that targeted Santorum.

“My view was people who committed violent crimes should not be able to vote,” he said, going on to say, “Secondly I did not have a Super PAC run an against you. . . . As you know, that’s something which is completely out of the control of candidates. One of the things I decry in the current financial system that gets behind campaigns is that we have these voting requirements that put these Super PACs in power, that say things we disagree with.”

Editor's Note: Can Gingrich win the South Carolina primary?  Tell us what you think. Vote here!

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