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GOP Hopefuls Debate Abortion, Tax Cuts

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By LIZ SIDOTI
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; 12:29 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Under pressure from their rivals, the leading Republican presidential contenders defended their conservative credentials on abortion, gun control and tax cuts in a feisty debate Tuesday night.

"Republicans should be uniting" to defeat the Democrats, implored former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, rather than stressing their differences with one another.

Giuliani, pressed repeatedly on his support for abortion rights, wasn't the only contender to field pointed questions.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney conceded he had signed legislation banning assault weapons but said, "Let's get the record straight." He said he is a supporter of the rights of gun owners under the Second Amendment.

Arizona Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he would make sure that President Bush's tax cuts are made permanent, even though he said he had voted against them because they were not accompanied by spending cuts.

"If we don't make them permanent then every business farm and family will have to adjust their budgets to what is in effect a tax increase," he said.

All three men sought to stand their ground _ and protect their standing in the presidential race _ in a 90-minute debate at the University of South Carolina.

The 10 men on the debate stage differed only by degree when it came to the familiar Republican themes of tax cuts, reduced spending and a smaller federal bureaucracy.

Giuliani called for "Reagan-like budget cuts across the board" of between 5 percent and 20 percent, and Tommy Thompson said he had cast many vetoes while governor of Wisconsin to hold down spending.

In a change from the campaign's first debate, on May 3, some of the contenders who lag in the polls jabbed at the front-runners.

Asked whether he believes McCain, Romney and Giuliani were soft on immigration, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado said, "I do."

That wasn't all, he added quickly, saying his rivals had undergone recent conversions on abortion and other issues.


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