27 Jan 2012

Romney and Gingrich clash in Florida debate

9:55 pm on 27 January 2012

The front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination in the United States have clashed in their last television debate before the Florida primary on Tuesday.

The subject of immigration dominated the early part of the debate held in Jacksonville, with Newt Gingrich repeating his charge that Mitt Romney was the most anti-immigrant candidate.

Mr Romney hit back, calling the idea that he was anti-immigrant "repulsive" and demanding an apology.

For his part, Mr Romney ridiculed Mr Gingrich for his plans to establish a permanent base on the moon by the end of the decade, saying he would rather be rebuilding housing in the US.

CNN points out that, with the space coast just 50 miles south of Jacksonville, the future of NASA is of considerable interest to the voters of Florida.

The NASA workforce in Florida has been halved with the closing of the space shuttle programme.

The two men also exchanged accusations about each other's personal finances, and on Mr Romney's healthcare system when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and the Texas congressman Ron Paul also took part in the debate.