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Romney, Gingrich exchange barbs on immigration

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 26 2012 6:51 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidates former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012.

Matt Rourke, Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Newt Gingrich cast Mitt Romney as the most anti-immigrant candidate of the four contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in campaign debate Thursday night in Hispanic-heavy Florida. "That's simply inexcusable," the former Massachusetts governor shot back, heatedly denying the accusation.

Romney quickly added that Gingrich's campaign had stopped running a radio ad that made the "anti-immigrant charge" after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called on him to do so. Romney said to Gingrich concerning the ad, "I think you should apologize for it."

The exchange came near the beginning of the second debate in four days in advance of next Tuesday's Florida primary. Opinion polls make the race a close one, with two other contenders, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, trailing far behind.

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