South Carolina debate: Mitt Romney rattled by rivals (VIDEO)

The South Carolina debate resulted in Mitt Romney’s rivals successfully rattling the front-runner, according to many political observers, but not enough to knock him from the lead.

The Fox News debate in Myrtle Beach, second to last of the ones scheduled for the Republican candidates, was Romney’s chance to consolidate his lead and also his rivals’ last chance to appeal to voters as viable alternatives to the seemingly inevitable choice for the Republican nomination.

Politico said, “Romney was under siege from almost the beginning of the debate.” He faced tough questioning over his involvement with Bain Capital, his tax returns, the Super PAC sponsored negative ads against his rivals and his Massachusetts governorship.

The New York Times’ The Caucus noted that Romney’s rivals piled on him “criticizing his business background, his positions on social issues and his character.”

More on GlobalPost: In tonight's GOP debate, Romney will try to cement his lead

Romney failed to adequately respond to the question of releasing his tax returns, and NPR reported that, “his resistance could spring from the very real possibility that the super wealthy Romney's effective tax rate could be 15 percent, far lower than the rate at which middle class Americans pay their taxes.”

Rick Santorum got into a pointed exchange with Romney over pro-Romney Super PAC ads attacking Santorum’s vote for a bill that would restore voting rights to convicted felons after they finished their sentencing, The Times reported. Surprisingly, Santorum was on the left of this particular debate, and successfully caught Romney in a trap over his past record while serving as governor of Massachusetts. Having the backing of the evangelical vote in South Carolina, Santorum could put pressure on Romney’s lead in the polls.

The Atlantic declared Newt Gingrich the winner of the debate, for his “fiery crescendo of righteous indignation” on a question about race. Romney, meanwhile was “caught flat-footed with surprising frequency,” though he did not collapse.

The last debate for the Republican stable of candidates comes on the eve of voting, with little time to fix any stumbles.

More on GlobalPost: GOP candidates come out swinging at South Carolina debate

Here are some clips from the debate last night:

Romney Deflects Rival Attacks on Bain in Debate

US News Video by NewsLook

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