GOP candidates start taking shots at each other

Though the gloves did not come all the way off in the second Republican presidential debate, GOP candidates began attacking each other Tuesday night in South Carolina.

The most significant showdown took place between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), two of the heavyweights in the fight for the nomination.

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Romney reveled in tying McCain to two of the more liberal members of the Senate, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), with whom McCain is working on comprehensive immigration reform, and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), with whom McCain has reformed the campaign finance system.

“My fear is that McCain-Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics, and that’s bad,” Romney said.

McCain immediately shot back, taking a shot at Romney, who has been accused of flip-flopping on several issues.    

“I take and kept a consistent position on campaign finance reform,” McCain said. “Is there anyone who believes there’s not enough money washing around, money in politics, which has corrupted our own party?

“I have kept a consistent position on right to life,” he added. “And I haven’t changed my position on even-numbered years or have changed because of the different offices that I may be running for.”

The Fox News-sponsored debate saw more attacks of candidates than the first GOP debate last month, and the moderators were encouraging the GOP presidential hopefuls to point out with which of their rivals they disagreed.

Apart from the exchange between McCain and Romney and an attack from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), it was the second-tier candidates that took shots at the frontrunners.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) accused McCain, Giuliani and Romney of being soft on immigration.
Former Virginia Governor James Gilmore criticized Giuliani for his stance on immigration.    

But the Republicans did not forget to also take shots at the Democrats. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee delivered the line that drew the most laughs of the evening when he made a reference to former Democratic Sen. John Edwards and his widely reported expensive haircuts.

Asked a question on the deficit, Huckabee quipped: “We’ve had a Congress that’s spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop.”