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Republicans spar in Florida debate

U.S. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich spar in a heated Florida debate. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who earlier led the field, is now fighting for frontrunner status against Gingrich's recent gains. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MITT ROMNEY, SAYING: "I think it's about leadership, and the Speaker was given an opportunity to be a leader of our 1994 and at the end of four years he had to resign in disgrace. Now in the 1970's he came to Washington. I went to go work at my first job in the 1970's at the bottom level of a consulting firm. In the 1990's, he had to resign in disgrace from this job as Speaker. I had the opportunity to go off and run the Olympic Winter Games. In the 15 years after he left the speakership, the Speaker has been working as an influence peddler in Washington." Gingrich dismissed accusations that he is a Washington insider, and said he never engaged in lobbying. 4. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEWT GINGRICH, SAYING: "I'm not going to spend the evening trying to chase Governor Romney's misinformation. I will have a site - Newt.Org - by tomorrow morning, we'll list everything. He just said at least four things that are false. I don't want to waste the time on them. I think the American public deserve a discussion about how to beat Barack Obama. The American public deserves a discussion about what we would do about the economy, and I just think this is the worst kind of trivial politics." Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who are lagging behind, portrayed themselves as true conservatives, with Santorum likening Romney and Gingrich to President Barack Obama. After Gingrich's win in South Carolina Saturday, the Florida primary on January 31 is crucial to Romney's campaign. The Republican nominee will run against Obama in the November 6 general election. Lindsey Parietti, Reuters

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