Fighting for his political life, Mitt Romney came out swinging last night in his most aggressive performance yet in the Republican presidential debates.
Romney showed a deftness on the attack and a fiery determination that he has rarely displayed in the campaign, and that probably gave him a boost just when he needs it the most. He was relentless in his offensive against rival Newt Gingrich, whose campaign has surged since the former House speaker won the South Carolina presidential primary last weekend. Now the two are locked in a close battle for supremacy in both national polls and Florida, which holds a key primary election Tuesday.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, would not relent even when Gingrich seemed to offer a momentary truce in their duel of charge and counter-charge over their financial histories. He attacked Gingrich on his ties to lobbyists and his record as former speaker of the House, for pandering to voters in different parts of the country, and on many other issues.
At one particularly dramatic point, he derided Gingrich for calling him "anti-immigrant."
"The idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive," Romney said indignantly.
Perhaps Romney's most memorable moment of the night was his dismissal of Gingrich's proposal for a lunar colony, which Romney said would cost a vast amount of money that would be better spent on programs at home. Conceding that the proposal might be a hit among voters near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Romney said it was highly impractical and added: "I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I'd say, 'You're fired.'"
The debate was held in Jacksonville, Florida and was sponsored by CNN.