Debate in Charleston gets personal as candidates fight to survive (AUDIO)

Posted January 19, 2012 10:52 pm | Filed under State/Regional News

Santorum went on attack in final SC debate (file photo)

Like in Monday’s Myrtle Beach debate, it was a rowdy South Carolina audience  for the last SC GOP primary debate to take place before Saturday’s vote.  And Newt Gingrich added to the energy by immediately going on the attack –against the media.

AUDIO: Gingrich gets angry (1:55)

Santorum said, “Those are things for everyone in this audience to look at. And they’ll look at me and look at what I’ve done in my personal and private life unfortunately and what I say is this country is a very forgiving country.”

The other two were eager to get beyond that question. During the debate, the Paul campaign released a statement saying “We agree with Newt Gingrich that opening the CNN debate tonight with questions about the former Speaker’s personal life is highly inappropriate given the many serious issues this country faces. Republicans regularly bear unfair media attacks, our campaign included.”

Mitt Romney responded, “Let’s get on to the real issues is all I’ve got to say.”

Tonight, there was one less candidate on the stage because Texas Gov. Rick Perry bowed out today.  All four seemed more at ease with the questions, yet more determined to unsettle each other.

CNN’s John King kept the topics to “the South Carolina experience” with questions of how Romney’s Bain Capital connections affected SC industry, employment for veterans,  repeal of the Obama health care law, release of tax returns, internet piracy.

AUDIO: Candidates spar on health care mandates

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was also on the offensive against Gingrich’s leadership style and accusing him of “grandiose thoughts” with no follow-up in Congress.

AUDIO: Santorum, Gingrich on grandiose thoughts vs. action

Romney said after Gingrich boasted of his work with President Ronald Reagan: “I read Reagan’s diary; he mentioned you once.”

Gingrich released his tax return via email during the debate, fueling more tension for Mitt Romney when an audience member asked when they would all release that information

AUDIO: Tax question creates more tension for Romney (1:58)

Santorum says he does his own taxes, and “it was very painful writing the check.”

At the end of the debate, John King asked all the candidates, “If you could do one thing over in your campaign, what would you do?

AUDIO: Listen to their answers