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THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A look at key exchanges in the GOP debate

By Beth Fouhy and Steve Peoples
Associated Press / December 16, 2011
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WASHINGTON—PERRY TURNS TO TEBOW

The gaffe-prone Rick Perry sought strength from an unlikely source Thursday night: Tim Tebow.

The young Denver Broncos quarterback has captured the admiration of football fans across the country after a string of unlikely victories.

"There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn't going to be a very good NFL quarterback. There are people that stood up and said, `Well, he doesn't have the right throwing mechanisms,' or he doesn't -- you know, he is not playing the game right," Perry said. "Am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses."

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ROMNEY LINKS GINGRICH ATTACK TO OBAMA

Newt Gingrich jabbed at Mitt Romney's sometimes-controversial business career to score political points last week. But Romney was ready with an answer -- and a knock on President Barack Obama -- when asked about Gingrich's criticism that he shuttered American companies and laid off employees to make money in the private sector.

"I think the president is going to level the same attack," Romney said. "In the real world that the president has not lived in, I actually think he doesn't understand that not every business succeeds."

Romney said his successes and failures in business would make him a stronger president. And he suggested that Gingrich, like Obama, don't know how the "real economy" works.

"The president I'll look at and say, `Mr. President, how did you do when you were running General Motors as the president, took it over? Gee, you closed down factories. You closed down dealerships.' And he'll say, `Well, I did that to save the business.' Same thing with us, Mr. President. We did our very best to make those businesses succeed."

Expect to hear more of that from Romney on the campaign trail, especially as Democrats and his Republican rivals pour through his quarter-century business career.

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PAUL, BACHMANN GO TOE TO TOE ON IRAN

Michele Bachmann, in an aggressive exchange with Ron Paul, helped expose what may be his greatest vulnerability among conservative voters: a strongly isolationist foreign policy.

Asked what he would do as president if presented with intelligence that Iran was on its way to possessing a nuclear weapon, Paul questioned why the U.S. has military bases around the world and drones flying over countries like Iran. Bachmann insisted that Iran presents a grave threat to the U.S. and Israel.

"The problem would be the greatest under-reaction in world history if we have an avowed madman who uses that nuclear weapon to wipe nations off the face of the earth," Bachmann said of the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On Paul's position, Bachmann was unambiguous: "Nothing could be more dangerous than the comments that we just heard."

Paul got the last word. "You're trying to dramatize this that we have to go and treat Iran like we've treated Iraq and kill a million Iraqis and 8,000 some Americans have died since we've gone to war. You cannot solve these problems with war," he said.

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"PRETTY PLEASE" POLICY

Obama all but guaranteed an attack line this week when he asked Iran to return a drone that Iran claimed to have brought down in its territory. Romney seized the opportunity and hit it out of the park.

"A strong America is the best ally peace has ever known," Romney said in responding to a question about whether Obama's drone request had appeared timid and possible invited war.

"This is a president with the spy drone being brought down, he says, `Pretty please'? A foreign policy based on `pretty please'? You got to be kidding," Romney said.

Republicans have been eager to paint Obama as weak on foreign policy despite some obvious successes, such as ordering the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. With his answer, Romney guaranteed enthusiastic applause and an oft-repeated slogan, no matter who becomes the Republican nominee.

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GINGRICH LIKES HOUSES

Defending $1.6 million in payments he received from federal mortgage giant Freddie Mac, Gingrich surprised many observers by insisting that government has a role to play in helping people buy houses.

"I'm not going to step back from the idea that in fact we should have as a goal, helping as many Americans as possible be capable of buying homes," Gingrich said. "There are a lot of government sponsored enterprises that are awfully important and do an awfully good job."

Gingrich's position is anathema to many conservatives who believe Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae played a key role in creating the housing bubble and the 2008 mortgage meltdown. He pushed back at Bachmann's claim that Freddie Mac is a "grandiose scam" that needs to be shut down, saying her allegations about his relationship with Freddie Mac were "factually untrue."

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BACHMANN PUSHES BACK

Later in the evening, after Gingrich said a second time that Bachmann misstated facts, the Minnesota congresswoman pushed back hard.

"I think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over throughout the debate I don't have my facts right when, as a matter of fact, I do," Bachmann said. "I am a serious candidate for president of the United States. My facts are accurate."

Strong throughout the debate, the Minnesota congresswoman was particularly fearsome when she stood her ground and refused to be patronized. Her subtext was clear: Don't belittle the only woman on the stage.

Bachmann's declaration was impressive, but for one problem: She does misstate facts. Repeatedly.

Politifact, the award-winning, nonpartisan fact-checking website, has cited Bachmann 38 times for false statements.

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