Front-runner Newt Gingrich took a few licks but stood his ground tonight at the GOP presidential debate in Iowa, Politico reports. After Romney described himself as a businessman—not a politician like Gingrich—Newt fired back: "Let's be candid. The only reason you didn't become a career politician is because you lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994." After the audience "ooohed," Romney returned fire: "Losing to Teddy Kennedy was probably the best thing I could have done for preparing me for the job I’m seeking," the New York Times reports.
In other highlights:
- Gingrich repeated his position that Washington should let illegals stay in the US under certain strict conditions. "That's not amnesty," he said. Romney countered that Gingrich's plan "will then create another magnet that draws people into our country illegally"—but didn't say he would try to deport illegal immigrants.
- Gingrich defended his remark that Palestinians are an "invented people," and said it's time people admit that Israel is a nation under fire from "terrorists." Countered Romney: "You don't speak for Israel. If Bibi Netanyahu wants to say what you said, let him say it."
- Bachmann called Gingrich part of the problem and referred to him and Romney as "Newt Romney"—meaning their policies are basically the same. "If you want a difference, Michele Bachmann is the proven conservative," Bachmann said. "It's not Newt Romney."
- Rick Perry attacked Gingrich's character by saying that "if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner." Gingrich has been married three times, and admitted to cheating on his second wife. Replied Newt: "It is a real issue. People have to look at the person to whom they are going to loan the presidency."
- Fact Check: Gingrich said he has never supported cap and trade to curb pollution, but he did favor it in 2007 on PBS' "Frontline."
- Romney and Michele Bachmann almost agreed on the payroll tax cut. Bachmann said she opposes extending the tax for another year, and Romney agreed, calling it a "little Band-Aid." But he also supported a one-year extension: "It's a temporary tax cut and it will help people in a very difficult time."
- Romney actually challenged Perry to a $10,000 bet, Mediaite reports. Perry accused Romney of supporting individual insurance mandates, and Romney denied it: "Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet," he said, and offered a hand. Perry retorted, “I’m not in the betting business."
- All the candidates except Romney talked about economic setbacks they had endured in life. Gingrich mentioned growing up "above a gas station" and referred to the struggles of his family business, Gingrich Productions. (He didn't mention the $500,000 line of credit he and his wife had at Tiffany's.)
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