Romney fights for frontrunner status in Arizona GOP debate
Mitt Romney fought for frontrunner status in front of a live national audience Wednesday night in the last debate before the crucial primaries on Feb. 28 in Michigan and Arizona.
In his opening statement at the CNN GOP debate, Romney said "I want to restore America's promise, and I'm going to do that --" prompting immediate applause from the audience in the Mesa Arts Center in Arizona. Instead of continuing, he stopped mid-sentence, adding: "That's good enough. As George Costanza would say, 'when they're applauding, stop.' Right?"
The former Massachusetts governor, who was born and raised in Michigan where his father served as governor, challenged former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in his first answer of the evening, stating that Santorum voted in Congress to fund Planned Parenthood, the Department of Education, voted to raise the debt ceiling "five times," and to maintain the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires prevailing wages to be paid for public works projects. "Senator, during your term in Congress, the years you've been there, the government's doubled in size," Romney said.
Santorum defended his record, especially on spending, noting his positive rankings from the American Conservative Union.
The back-and-forth between Santorum and Romney was a public display of the battle that has been playing out in campaign ads and stump speeches issued by each candidate in the preceding weeks.
In one heated exchange, Santorum charged that Romney's healthcare plan in Massachusetts was a model for Obamacare. Romney hit back at Santorum saying "the reason we have Obamacare is... that you supported the pro-choice Senator of Pennsylvania and he voted for Obamacare." Santorum endorsed Arlen Specter for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in 2004 against a more conservative Republican challenger-- Rep. Patrick J. Toomey. Specter in 2009 announced his decision to run as a Democrat in the 2010 election.