Surging in the latest polls, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich found himself under attack at a Republican Presidential debate in Washington, D.C., as he staked out a more moderate position on illegal immigration when it comes to pushing out those already here illegally.
"If you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. period," said Gingrich, who then publicly moved away from Republican orthodoxy on the immigration issue.
"If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out," said the former U.S. House Speaker.
That immediately drew jabs from both Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney, as they immediately reached for the A-word.
"I don't agree that you would make 11 million workers legal, because that, in effect, is amnesty," said Bachmann.
"Look, amnesty is a magnet," said Romney, who finds himself on the more conservative side of the immigration issue than both Gingrich and Rick Perry.
"The real issue is securing the border," said Perry, who joined Gingrich in saying that families should be allowed to stay together if they've been in the U.S. for a lengthy period of time.
"I do suggest if you go back to your district, and you find people who have been here 25 years and have two generations of family and have been paying taxes and are in a local church, as somebody who believes strongly in family, you'll have a hard time explaining why that particular subset is being broken up and forced to leave, given the fact that they've been law-abiding citizens for 25 years," Gingrich said.
Gingrich's position has been well known, but now that he has jumped into the top slot of many polls, it drew quick attacks from anti-illegal immigrant groups.
"Newt Gingrich is finished!" proclaimed William Gheen, the head of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.
"Newt Gingrich's campaign will now take the 'Perry Plunge' due to his support for Dream Act Amnesty," said Gheen.
Gingrich also was part of another divide on defense spending, and whether there should be billions in cuts in part because of the inability of the Super Committee to cut a deal on deficit reduction.
"They're cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget, which just happens to equal the trillion dollars we're putting into "Obama- care," said Romney, who sparred with Ron Paul over budget cuts at the Pentagon.
"I mean, we're in big trouble - and nobody wants to cut anything," Paul complained, arguing that stories of major defense cuts was really a reduction in the rate of growth in the Pentagon budget.
When Gingrich was Speaker, he took flak for saying that the Pentagon should be turned into a Triangle - arguing that even the military could find places to save money.
"It's clear, if it takes 15 to 20 years to build a weapons system at a time when Apple changes technology every nine months, there's something profoundly wrong with this system," Gingrich argued.
"Everything's got to be on the table," said Jon Huntsman, who had an especially strong debate. "The Defense Department's got to be on the table, for heavens sake."
While Huntsman looks to move away from the bottom of the polls, the top two GOP frontrunners - Gingrich and Romney - spent most of the evening maneuvering around each other, saving any jabs for the campaign trail.
While most of the candidates start thinking about Thanksgiving, Romney is in Iowa for a pair of stops today - maybe an indication that his team thinks they might have a chance to win in the Hawkeye State.
Six weeks from today, we'll know the winners - and losers - in Iowa.
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