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Key moments from the SC GOP debate

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POSTED January 20, 2012 1:21 a.m.

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Some notable moments from Thursday’s debate, the last such forum before the South Carolina Republican presidential primary:

• • •

Newt Gingrich and ‘open marriage’ question:

The first question of the evening cited the allegation by Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, that he had sought an open marriage. That triggered any angry response from the former speaker of the House.

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” he scolded the host, CNN’s John King.

“Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things,” Gingrich continued. “To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”

After attacking the media one more time, Gingrich got down to his response to the story itself — and blamed the media again.

“The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period said the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican,” he finished. “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”

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Releasing tax returns:

Gingrich released his income tax returns during the debate. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he’ll release his around April, and added that he’d be “happy” to release more than one year. Former Sen. Rick Santorum said he does his own, they are on his home computer and when he gets back and finishes them, he’ll release them. Texas Rep. Ron Paul said he never considered releasing his in part because, as a congressman, he’s required to disclose his information yearly.

Romney’s taxes have drawn the most attention. “I want to make sure that I beat President Obama. And every time we release things drip by drip, the Democrats go out with another array of attacks. As has been done in the past, if I’m the nominee, I’ll put these out at one time so we have one discussion of all of this,” said Romney, who is worth as much as $250 million. “I obviously pay all full taxes. I’m honest in my dealings with people. People understand that. My taxes are carefully managed and I pay a lot of taxes. I’ve been very successful and when I have our — our taxes ready for this year, I’ll release them.”

• • •

Santorum on overturning the health care law:

He pointed out that Romney was governor when Massachusetts passed a health care overhaul on which Obama’s is based, and that Gingrich supports mandated health insurance. In contrast, Santorum said, he authored health care savings accounts as far back as 1991.

“These are two folks who don’t present the clear contrast (with Obama) that I do,” Santorum said. “I’ve been fighting for health reform, private sector, bottom up, the way America works best, for 20 years, while these two guys were playing footsie with the left.”

• • •

Santorum questions Gingrich’s dependability:

Gingrich, Santorum suggested, is running his campaign with something other than “cogent thoughts.”

If Gingrich becomes the Republican presidential candidate, Santorum said, “you sort of have that worrisome moment that something’s going to pop. And we can’t afford that in a nominee.”

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