Heated Debate As Candidates Prep For South Carolina Primary

Fireworks flew in the final GOP debate leading up to the South Carolina primary.


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South Carolina voters cast their ballots Saturday in the state's all-important primary.

Thursday night, the four remaining GOP candidates took to the stage for the final debate leading up to the primary.

The fireworks flew from the very beginning: Newt Gingrich fumed after being asked about allegations from his ex-wife that he had asked her for an open marriage while having an affair.

Gingrich slammed CNN--and the media in general--for "protecting Barack Obama" by attacking Republicans.

Mitt Romney, who has been locked in an increasingly ugly back-and-forth with Gingrich, backed his rival up, telling moderator John King to "get on with the real issues."

Romney faced an unfriendly audience when he continued to hedge on releasing his tax returns.

"Maybe," the former Massachusetts governor said when asked if he would follow his father's example and make his tax returns public. "I don't know how many years I'll release." Romney's father, also a governor and presidential candidate, made 12 years of returns public.

Romney's answer was met with boos and jeers from the crowd.

Gingrich said that it was ultimately Romney's decision, but he thought voters should be able to see if there was anything in a candidate's background that could hurt them in the general election.

Rick Santorum threw a few punches of his own Thursday night, delivering what CNN called "the sharpest and most detailed takedown to date" of Gingrich's time as Speaker of the House.

"Four years into his speakership, he was thrown out by the conservatives," Santorum said. "It was a coup against him in three. I served with him. I was there. I knew what the problems were going on in the House of Representatives when Newt Gingrich was leading this -- leading there. It was an idea a minute, no discipline, no ability to be able to pull things together."

Santorum also pointed to his newly minted victory out of Iowa--the final tally of votes showed Santorum, not Romney, the unofficial victor--as reason he still belonged in the race.

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