GOP Rivals Clash In Crucial Showdown - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

GOP Rivals Clash In Crucial Showdown

MESA, Ariz. (AP) Primed for a fight, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum traded fiery accusations about health care, spending earmarks and federal bailouts Wednesday night in the 20th and possibly final debate of the roller-coaster race for the Republican presidential nomination.

With pivotal primaries in Arizona and Michigan just six days distant, Romney and Santorum sparred more aggressively than in past debates, sometimes talking over each other's answers.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul chimed in from the side, saying with a smile that Santorum was a fake conservative who had voted for programs that he now says he wants to repeal. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acted almost as a referee at times.

The most animated clash of the evening focused on health care.

Santorum, surging in the presidential race, said that Romney had used government funds to "fund a federal takeover of health care in Massachusetts," a reference to the state law that was enacted during Romney's term as governor. The law includes a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage that is similar to the one in President Barack Obama's landmark federal law that Romney and other Republicans have vowed to repeal.

In rebuttal, Romney said Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, bore responsibility for passage of the health care law that Obama won from a Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010, even though he wasn't in office at the time. He said that in a primary battle in 2004, Santorum had supported then-Sen. Arlen Specter, who later switched parties and voted for the law Obama wanted. click here to read more

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