Rivals target Santorum in debate

GOP hopefuls criticize Obama on contraceptives mandate, illegals

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In one light moment, the candidates were asked to sum themselves up in one word. Mr. Paul labeled himself “consistent,” Mr. Santorum used the word “courage,” Mr. Romney called himself “resolute” and Mr. Gingrich described himself as “cheerful” — drawing chuckles and a nod of approval from Mr. Romney.

There have been 20 debates so far, but this is the last one scheduled until March 19, when The Washington Times, Oregon Public Radio, PBS and NPR co-sponsor a final one scheduled in Portland, Ore.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Romney released an updated version of his tax plan to compete with Mr. Obama, whose administration this week proposed eliminating a number of corporate tax breaks and subsidies in exchange for lowering the overall corporate income-tax rate to 28 percent.

Mr. Romney said the government needs to go further and reduce rates for individuals as well, arguing that 55 percent of workers are employed by small businesses that pay their taxes as individual income, not as corporate taxes.

He proposed reducing the top individual tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, with cuts at the lower levels as well, and proposed reducing the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

“More jobs, less debt, smaller government,” he said at a morning speech in Chandler, Ariz.

In the overall race for the nomination, Mr. Romney is the closest thing the field has to a front-runner. He has the most raw votes cast for him and has the lead in actual delegates earned, thanks to his wins in New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada and Maine.

Mr. Santorum has wins in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and a nonbinding primary victory in Missouri. Mr. Gingrich won South Carolina, while Mr. Paul has yet to notch a victory.

After several upheavals last year and again after Iowa and New Hampshire, the GOP’s field has been set for the past month, and all four major candidates say they will compete deep into the calendar.

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney are the major players in Tuesday’s primaries, according to polls that show Mr. Romney leading in Arizona and showing the race tight in Michigan.

Mr. Paul plans to spend much of the weekend campaigning in Michigan, though his strength has been in caucus states.

Mr. Gingrich has not done much campaigning in either Arizona or Michigan, but is focusing on later battles, such as Washington state’s March 3 caucuses and Super Tuesday contests in Georgia, Idaho and elsewhere on March 6.

Earlier on Wednesday, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who had been trying to compete as a Republican but had gained no traction, announced that he would seek the Reform Party’s nomination as well as run in the online nonpartisan primary for a group calling itself Americans Elect.

Mr. Roemer took a parting shot at the debates, from which he has been excluded, saying they have “turned their backs on the democratic process.”

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