CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)-- The four remaining candidates took the debate stage and with the very first question, one of them came out swinging.
CNN moderator John King asked Newt Gingrich if he would like to address his ex-wife's claims that he wanted an open marriage. Gingrich's answer? NO. Gingrich then calls King and CNN out for starting the debate with trash, saying that "is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."
King blames ABC for airing the report and says that it's what the country is talking about. Newt blasts back saying King is trying to blame someone else and then declares the story is false. The crowd's response was explosive with support for Gingrich and while the other candidates will attack him later on, on this, they sided with their opponent. "Let's get on with the issues," says Romney
Okay, Romney...the first issue? Bain.
Newt Gingrich attacks Romney and accuses Bain of stripping down companies, including ones in South Carolina. Romney says his company built businesses, created some 100,000 jobs, and practiced capitalism. "My view is that capitalism works," he says. He adds, "there's nothing wrong with making profits." He then attacks Obama calling him "the biggest impediment to job growth in this country."
Rick Santorum says too many government programs are hurting working people and says there's a need to rebuild the manufacturing sector of the economy. He gets a big cheer from the crowd when he says South Carolina can compete with anyone in this world in manufacturing.
Ron Paul says we need to first create a healthy environment then says the government should help everybody, but notes that veterans need special medical help.
Rick Santorum says he backs preferences for veterans because they have sacrificed for the country, and blasts President Obama for military cuts.
Mitt Romney says the help for veterans should come from the state level, saying the Federal government doesn't need to spread its tentacles into everything.
Newt Gingrich talks about the success of the GI Bill after World War II, and says we another "transition" system for veterans and improved economy for all Americans.
A question from the audience: Can we repeal Obamacare?
Romney says we need to go after a complete repeal. He wants a bill that covers those with pre-existing conditions. "He's wrong, we're right, that's how we're gonna win," he says.
Santorum attacks Romney's"Romneycare" which he called a failure. He then says he was working hard while the others were "playing footsie with the left."
Romney says he was in the front lines and has compassion for those who don't have insurance. He then says we need to return the power to the states, that the federal government should get their hands out of Medicaid and healthcare.
Paul says he's more concerned with the bigger picture: government involvement in medicine. He says things were better in the 60's. "We keep fighting these wars that don't need to be fought."
Then the gloves come off.
Rick Santorum is asked what he thinks about Newt Gingrich's suggestion that Santorum leave the race so that conservatives can unite against Mitt Romney. Santorum reminds everyone that he beat Gingrich in Iowa and was ahead of him in New Hampshire. Santorum attacks Gingrich and his time as speaker. He says there was an idea a minute with no discipline.
Gingrich says we need leadership to be prepared to take on big projects and alludes that leader is not Santorum. He says long before Santorum came to Congress he (Gingrich) was busy being a rebel and worked to create the GOP nationally.
Romney accuses Gingrich of exaggerating his accomplishments, saying "you're mentioned once in Ronald Reagan's diary."
Romney then says we need to elect a Washington outsider, someone who has lived on "the streets of America" and not someone who spent all of their time in the birthing room (referring to Dr. Paul)
Mitt Romney say he will release his tax return in April only if he is nominated. He says criticizing his refusal to release his returns is an "attack" on his business success. "I'm not going to apologize for being successful."
Ron Paul says he doesn't plan to release his returns, that he would be embarrassed by them.
Gingrich says that he has released his tax returns since the debate started and that if Romney has a problem with his taxes, Republicans need to know before he gets the nomination.
Santorum says jobs need to stay in the U.S. He wants to cut corporate taxes to keep those companies in America. He also wants to repeal regulations Obama put into place.
Ron Paul says we have to look at the reasons manufacturers are moving out of the U.S. in the first place. He then says that our greatest export is money (referring to overseas spending).
Gingrich says he needs time to think about it, but that he favors freedom. He thinks that if a company finds they've been infringed upon they should be able to sue.
Ron Paul is against SOPA and PIPA. He says Republicans have been on the wrong side of this issue and that he was one of the first to oppose the bill. "This bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one."
Santorum says property rights should be respected. He says that the bills before Congress "go too far" but does agree that Internet piracy is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Ron Paul says "We're all against illegal immigration," but also says the U.S. should have "a more generous immigration policy." He also says churches shouldn't be penalized for helping illegals. He then suggests we take our troops out of other countries and put them on our own borders.
Romney says his immigration views hasn't changed since he ran for president in 2008. He says border control is not tough enough. We need to build a fence, man the fence, and make sure employees have proper paperwork. He wants to sanction employers who hire illegals. immigrants
Gingrich says it is unrealistic to deport all illegal aliens and that we have to first control the border. He also favors a guest worker program. He says that he doesn't think grandmothers and grandfathers who have been here for 25 years should be deported.
Santorum blasts Romney and Gingrich for supporting "a pathway to citizenship". He says that illegal immigrants have broken the law, and if you want to be an American, then you need to follow our laws.
Romney says the courts in new Hampshire made the rulings on abortion, not him. He says "I am Pro-Life." The other candidates attack him for having health care plans in his businesses that provide coverage for abortions.
Santorum says Romney could have made adjustments in New Hampshire to the abortion bill. He says he has fought in the trenches of pro-life issues.
Gingrich stands up for his pro life voting record, touting his time spent as Speaker of the House.
Ron Paul says it's as much an issue of morality as of law but Santorum then points out that Paul has often voted against the pro-life measures. Paul says he wants to make pro life battle a state issue.