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Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul (L), Rick Santorum (2nd L), Mitt Romney (2nd R) and Newt Gingrich during their debate on February 22, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona.
The men battling for the Republican presidential nomination knew how high the stakes were for last night's debate. The sparring was energetic and relentless with much of it targeted on Rick Santorum. For the first time, he had to defend his position as a climbing candidate. However, post-debate analysis says he did not hold up well.
Mitt Romney and Ron Paul launched tag-team attacks on Santorum's self-proclaimed status as the only true conservative. They took turns criticizing Santorum's record in Congress, his spending on earmarks, his support for the No Child Left Behind act. "I have to admit, I voted for that," he said. "It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team," he said referring to President George W. Bush's education plan. The audience replied with boos.
How will Santorum's performance affect his surge? Were any debate moments memorable enough to affect the wave of upcoming primaries?
Mark Barabak, Political Writer, Los Angeles Times; joining us from Mesa, AZ