A look at key exchanges in the GOP debate

Published: Saturday, Jan. 7 2012 10:00 p.m. MST

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Here's a look at some of the key exchanges in Saturday's Republican presidential debate.

ROMNEY STAYS FOCUSED ON OBAMA: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney fended off criticism from several of his opponents and kept his focus on President Barack Obama.

Romney assailed Obama's handling of the economy at several turns during the debate, arguing that the president had made the economic recession worse and wanted to turn the nation into a "European welfare state." A day after the government reported the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in December, Romney wouldn't give Obama any credit.

"The president is going to try and take responsibility for things getting better. You know, it's like the rooster taking responsibility for the sunrise. He didn't do it," Romney said. "In fact, what he did was make things harder for America to get going again."

PAUL-SANTORUM EXCHANGE: Texas Rep. Ron Paul stood by a tough ad that his campaign is airing in South Carolina that calls former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum a big Washington spender.

Paul questioned Santorum's conservative principles, calling him a "big government, big spending individual" who quickly pivoted from the Senate to become a "high-powered lobbyist."

Santorum defended his record, saying he made sure that residents of his home state got their fair share of federal spending. He said Paul's information was based on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, which he called a "left-wing organization."

"It's a ridiculous charge. And you should know better than to cite George Soros-like organizations to say that they're corrupt."

GAY MARRIAGE: Asked about gay marriage, both Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said they wanted gay couple to have legal rights but they were against gay marriage.

The GOP presidential contenders said they opposed a New Hampshire law allowing same-sex marriage but said gay couples should have basic legal rights.

"To say that marriage is something other than the relationship between ... a man and a woman, I think, is a mistake," Romney said.

Gingrich said gay couples should be able to visit each other during hospital visitation hours but the "sacrament of marriage was based on a man and a woman, has been for 3,000 years. Is at the core of our civilization. And it's something worth protecting and upholding."

ANOTHER WAY TO SPEND SATURDAY NIGHT: If you weren't running for president, how would you spend your Saturday night?

Gingrich said he'd be watching the "college championship basketball game," but quickly corrected himself and said the "football game." Santorum and Romney both agreed they'd be watching football.

Perry said he'd probably be at the shooting range, prompting Santorum to quip: "Instead of being shot at." Paul joked he'd be home with his family but if they went to bed, "I'd probably read an economics text book." Huntsman said he'd call his two sons who serve in the Navy, "because they're a constant reminder about what's great about this nation."

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