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Republicans Rumble in Charleston

12:32 AM, Jan 20, 2012 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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 “The idea that someone, whether it's either of these two gentlemen, the idea that someone who came here and lived here 25 years has only broken one law—if they've worked for 25 years, they've been breaking the law for 25 years,” he said, his answer interrupted by applause.  

“If they've been working, they have probably stolen someone's Social Security number and they've committed Social Security fraud. They—this is not just a single occurrence. It's an ongoing issue. And if we treat people like that differently than we do with a mother who, out of a desperate situation, goes out and shoplifts or does something and gets thrown in jail, what are we saying, that we're going to treat people in this country who do things for their family differently than those who are here illegally?”

If you’re reading the transcript at home, Santorum might well have won the debate on points. But he often came off too hot and angry.

For the second debate in a row, Romney seemed off balance as he struggled to answer questions about his taxes. Romney, who began the debate with a gracious answer to a question about Gingrich’s divorce (calling for a discussion of “real issues”), committed to releasing his tax returns at some point, going beyond what he indicated he would do in the Fox debate Monday night. But, in a response that drew boos from the audience, Romney dodged a clever question from King about how many years of past returns he would make public. King noted that Romney’s father had released 12 years of back returns when he ran for president in 1968, saying that returns from just one year could be manipulated.

“When you release yours, will you follow your father’s example?” King asked.

“Maybe,” Romney responded, pointing out that he knows Democrats will attack him using the returns.

In the spin room afterwards, each candidate’s surrogates earnestly claimed his candidate had won. And Gingrich, in an interview on CNN, said he was quite pleased with the way the debate had gone. CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist captured Gingrich’s comments in a tweet: “I thought it was a great debate. I thought John King did a great job.” 

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