GOP candidates come out swinging at South Carolina debate

Republican presidential candidates met to debate Monday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, just five days before the state votes in the first southern primary in the nation. The state is known for having successfully chosen the eventual GOP nominee since 1980.

Mitt Romney, the front runner with victories in both Iowa in New Hampshire, is cruising toward a victory in South Carolina. A recent poll put him over 10 points ahead of his next rival, Newt Gingrich. 

While questions came in a friendly state in front of a raucous audience, the candidates tackled a variety of controversial issues — racial disparity in drug convictions, tax policy, foreign policy, and wealth disparity. The moderators took input from Twitter, including one from a user who asked Mitt Romney to "convince me that you won't change again."

Ron Paul was asked about his controversial foreign policy views, Mitt Romney was tackled from several candidates on his refusal to release his tax returns, and Newt Gingrich was questioned about the killing of Al Qaeda terrorists. Invoking the memory of former US president Andrew Jackson, whose face was sliced by a British officer's sword during the American War of Independence, Gingrich said Jackson knew what to do with America's enemies: "kill them."

Mitt Romney said he feared President Obama was transforming America into "something we don't recognize," a "European entitlement society." 

Newt Gingrich had the most successful line of the night in an exchange with Fox moderator Juan Williams over welfare. Gingrich said he only hoped to help people get jobs, noting that the 99 weeks of federal unemployment insurance is enough time to get an associate degree. "They would be getting money," he said. "Which is a good thing if you're poor. Only the elites despise making money,"a statement which earned him an extended standing ovation.

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