Primed for a fight, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum swapped accusations about spending, taxes and congressional earmarks tonight in the 20th and possibly final debate of the roller-coaster race for the Republican presidential nomination.
With primaries in Arizona and Michigan six days distant, Romney said Santorum voted five times while in Congress to raise the government's ability to borrow, supported retention of a law that favors construction unions and supported increased spending for Planned Parenthood.
Santorum retorted that government spending declined as a percentage of the economy when he was in the Senate, and he noted that when Romney was asked last year if he would support a then-pending debt-limit increase, "he said yes."
When asked about their views of contraception, a subject that has risen as a point of contention in the GOP field, the audience booed and the candidates tried to dodge discussion that could prove problematic come the general election.
Newt Gingrich says he prefers to discuss Obama's support for "infanticide," and Romney says Obama is attacking"religious tolerance." Ron Paul, a physician, says immorality leads to the need for contraception, not the other way around.
Santorum says he opposes contraception and says the nation needs stronger families, not birth control.
On the subject of Iran, Romney said that re-electing President Obama would guarantee a nuclear war with Iran.
"We must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do the world changes, America will be at risk and someday nuclear weaponry will be used," he said during Wednesday night's GOP debate. "If I'm president that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama it will happen."
The crowd cheered his answer, and Santorum said that Romney's comments were "absolutely right on and well-spoken."
The Ed Show will be live at 11pET on MSNBC for full reaction and analysis with Terry O’Neill, President of The National Organization for Women, Karen Finney, MSNBC Political Analyst and former DNC Communications Director, Jimmy Williams, former Democratic Senate Staffer and MSNBC Contributor, and Richard Wolffe, MSNBC Political Analyst.