Jan 27 - Republican primary candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich trade barbs on immigration in Florida debate hosted by CNN. Rough Cut (No reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Republican presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich clashed bitterly on Thursday night (January 26) at a contentious debate that will set the stage for Florida's primary vote in five days. The neck-and-neck nature of the race for Florida and its crucial implications for the Republican presidential nomination added a level of tension in the CNN debate arena at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville as the candidates sparred. The candidates traded barbs over the issue of immigration. Gingrich, who has offered a softer version of immigration policy than most Republican conservatives, insisted the United States cannot rationally deport millions of people and that some who have lived here for decades should be allowed to stay. Gingrich dismissed as a fantasy Romney's belief that illegal immigrants could be induced to "self-deport," and defended his description of Romney as "anti-immigrant." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE NEWT GINGRICH SAYING: "Why do I describe him that way? Because in the original conversations about deportation, the position I took which he attacked pretty ferociously was that grandmothers and grandfathers aren't going to be successfully deported. We as a nation are not going to walk into some family - by the way they're going to end up in a church which will declare them a sanctuary - we're not going to walk in there and grab a grandmother out and kick them out. I think you have to be realistic in your indignation. I want to control the border. I want English to be the official language of government. I want us to have a lot of changes." Romney, a former Massachusetts governor whose father was born in Mexico, took umbrage at Gingrich's description of him as "anti-immigrant." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY SAYING: "Mr. Speaker, I'm not anti-immigrant. My father was born in Mexico. My wife's father was born in Wales. They came to this country. The idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive. Don't use a term like that. You can say we disagree on certain policies, but to say that enforcing the U.S. law to protect our borders, to welcome people here legally, to expand legal immigration, as I approve, that that's somehow anti-immigrant is simply the kind of over-the-top rhetoric that has characterized American politics for too long." Texas congressman Ron Paul said the U.S. spends too much time "worrying about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE RON PAUL SAYING: "I think that we spend way too much time worrying about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Use some of those resources on our own border." If Gingrich pulls off a second straight victory in the Florida primary after his decisive triumph in last Saturday's primary in South Carolina, he would be seen as the front-runner in the race despite Romney's advantages in fundraising and organization. It would be another improbable turn for Gingrich, whose campaign collapsed last summer only to come back to life on the strength of strong performances in debates. A Romney victory could resurrect his status as the man to beat in the Republican field, which also includes Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.