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Inside Politics

Highlights from the GOP debate

Story Highlights

• Front-running candidates differ on interrogating terror suspects
• Giuliani on abortion: You can oppose things but respect other people's views
• Romney smacks McCain on immigration, McCain smacks back on flip-flopping
• Gilmore says there needs to be "serious discussions" over Iran's nuke program
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COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) -- The 10 active candidates for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination debated Tuesday night at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Here are some highlights:

Terrorist interrogations

Presented with a hypothetical situation in which a terror suspect had been captured who had information about an imminent attack on the United States, both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said they would back the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" that stopped short of torture, in order to obtain the information.

But Arizona Sen. John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said using those techniques would be counterproductive.

"It's not about the terrorists; it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are," McCain said. "The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to know."

But Giuliani said that if he knew an attack was imminent, "I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. (It) shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of."

"I would support them in doing that, because I've seen what can happen when you make a mistake about this, and I don't want to see another 3,000 people dead in New York or anyplace else," Giuliani said, drawing applause.

Romney said that in the case "where you have the ticking bomb, that the president of the United States -- not the CIA interrogator, the president of the United States -- has to make the call and enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used. Not torture, but enhanced interrogation techniques."

Giuliani on abortion

Defending his position in favor of abortion rights, despite his personal opposition to the procedure, Giuliani said, "There are things that you can oppose, things you can be against, and then you can come to the conclusion, in the kind of democracy we have ... the kind of society we have where we want to keep government out of people's personal lives, that you can respect other people's view on this."

GOP political woes

McCain said that Republicans "didn't lose the 2006 election because of the war in Iraq. We lost it because we in the Republican Party came to Washington to change government, and government changed us. ... We spent money like a drunken sailor, although I never knew a sailor, drunk or sober, with the imagination of my colleagues."

McCain vs. Romney

Romney hit McCain for an immigration reform bill he co-sponsored with Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, saying that "McCain-Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics, and that's bad."

McCain shot back by alluding to Romney's changes in position on abortion rights and other issues.

"I take and kept a consistent position on campaign finance reform. ... I have kept a consistent position on right-to-life. And I haven't changed my position on even-numbered years, or have changed because of the different offices that I may be running for," McCain said.

Giuliani's conservative credentials

When Giuliani was challenged on whether his moderate positions on social issues were really the stands of a true conservative, he turned the answer into a contrast with the Democratic frontrunner, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

"I think that we can respond to all that and discuss all that, but there's something I think really big at stake here. We're looking at a race here in which the leading Democratic candidate ... has said that the unfettered free market is the most disastrous thing in modern America ... that's a quote she agreed with. She's also said with regard to taxes that we have to take money from you in order to give it to the common good."

"There's such a stark difference there that this election in 2008 is going to make a very big difference about whether we go in that direction."

Iran's nuclear program

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore said there needs to be an "honest discussion" with the American people about the consequences of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which he said could touch off a nuclear arms race in the region.

"I think the American people have to, at some point, come to a real, serious conclusion about the tough decision that has to be made, when we may have to, in fact, strike," he said.

Federal payroll

Both Giuliani and Romney said they would use the expected retirements of federal employees over the next decade to chop the federal payroll.

"Just about 50 percent of the federal employees are going to retire in the next 10 years, during the term of maybe one of us," Giuliani said. "We have the opportunity of not refilling all those positions. And I would pledge not to refill 50 percent of them."

Romney said, "We're going to have to have leadership that can reorganize the government. We're going to have about 40 percent of the government employees turn over in the next couple of terms, and we could reduce the employment there."

Quotable

From former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: "We've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop."

From Giuliani, referring to a nickname bestowed on the GOP frontrunners by Gilmore: "I think 'Rudy McRomney' wouldn't make a bad ticket. And I kind of like the order."


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