DES MOINES, Iowa — The Republican candidates for president did what was expected: They ganged up on Newt Gingrich, the new front-runner, at Saturday night’s debate.
“What, places where we disagree?” former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney said when asked to differentiate himself from Gingrich. “Let’s see. We can start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon.”
“I’m not in favor of spending that kind of money to do that,” Romney said.
In addition to discussing differences on capital gains, Romney also said “the real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector.”
Gingrich, the former House speaker, shot back at Romney: “The only reason you didn’t become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.”
Responding to Romney’s comment about the “lunar colony,” Gingrich said, “I’m proud of trying to find things that give young people a reason to study science and math and technology, and telling them that someday in their lifetime, they could dream of going to the moon, they could dream of going to Mars.”
Texas Rep. Ron Paul hit Gingrich for taking money from Freddie Mac.
“While he was earning a lot of money from Freddie Mac, I was fighting over a decade to try to explain to people where the housing bubble was coming from. So Freddie Mac is bailed out by the taxpayers. So in a way, Newt, I think you probably got some of our taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Gingrich responded, “I was never a spokesman for any agency, I never did any lobbying for any agency. I offered strategic advice.”
Minn. Rep. Michele Bachmann said of Gingrich: “When your office is on the Rodeo Drive of Washington D.C., which is K Street, and you’re taking money to influence the outcome of legislation in Washington, that’s the epitome of the establishment, that’s the epitome of a consummate insider.”
Also, in what was obviously a discussion about Gingrich, the candidates debated whether infidelity should be disqualifying.
“If you will cheat on your wife,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, “if you will cheat on your spouse, then why wouldn’t you cheat on your business partner? Or why wouldn’t you cheat on anybody for that matter?”
Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum said, “I would not say it’s a disqualifier. I wouldn’t go that far. I think people make mistakes … but certainly it’s a factor and it should be a factor.”
Gingrich said, “It’s a real issue” and people have the right to ask those questions.
“In my case, I’ve said up front openly, I’ve made mistakes at times. I’ve had to ask God for forgiveness, I’ve had to seek reconciliation. I’m also a 68-year-old grandfather. And I think people have to measure who I am now, and whether I’m a person they can trust.”
Six Republicans participated in the debate, held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.