Six U.S. Republican candidates Saturday night faced-off in a debate in Iowa, competing for a chance to challenge President Barack Obama on behalf of the Republican Party (GOP) in less than a month.
The candidates concentrated their attacks on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the two frontrunners in the race.
Gingrich was attacked on his record of flip-flops and the consulting gig for mortgage firm Freddie Mac, which, according to media reports, earned him over a million U.S. dollars.
The charges were led by Ron Paul, the Texas Representative whose campaign has been running ads against Gingrich, blasting him for frequently changing position on issues and the Freddie Mac gig.
Gingrich responded that consulting contracts with Freddie Mac was an issue in the private sector. Other candidates, however, seized the flaw and tried to make him hobbled. The Minnesota Representative, Michele Bachmann, nevertheless, attacked Gingrich and Romney on the position in healthcare, accusations of which Gingrich said weren't accurate.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, on the other hand, concentrated on Romney, accusing him of supporting individual mandate, an important part in Democrats healthcare overhaul that was fervently opposed by Republicans.
Romney, for his part, tried to distinguish Massachusetts' healthcare reform from Obama's last year, and touted his experience in the private sector, saying states should have the lead in healthcare reform to meet their needs and blasting Gingrich as a Washington insider and on his ideas such as exploiting minerals on the moon.
Gingrich retorted that Romney didn't become a career politician because he "lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994," referring to his failure in that year's senatorial race, which Romney said enabled him to become a business executive, and prepared him for the job he is seeking, the presidency.
The debate took place 24 days before that caucuses in Iowa kick start the Republican nomination process, before which all candidates are eager to leave a good impression.