- Associated Press - Thursday, February 23, 2012

WASHINGTON — Twenty Republican presidential debates later, the head-scratching claims kept coming.

Did Mitt Romney really cut taxes as Massachusetts governor, as he asserted yet again? Or did he raise them by hundreds of millions of dollars, as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum alleged? And how could Newt Gingrich have given the nation four balanced budgets when he was only in Congress for two of them?

There was something old, something new in the misstatements of the candidates Wednesday in what was possibly the last GOP debate.

A look at some of the claims and how they compare with the facts:

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ROMNEY to Santorum: “You voted to raise the debt ceiling five times without compensating cuts in spending.”

THE FACTS: Maybe so, but increases in the debt ceiling were not politically charged in the past as they are now. They just allow the government to pay bills run up by previous Congresses. To not pay them would be like deciding to stop paying a car loan or mortgage. In fact, President Ronald Reagan, an icon to most conservatives, supported increases in the debt limit 12 times over his two terms. The idea of insisting on offsetting spending cuts when raising the debt ceiling is relatively new.

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ROMNEY: “They finally realized I was right.” — On the government ushering the auto industry into and out of bankruptcy.

THE FACTS: Romney did propose a bankruptcy process for the automakers before the government opted for that course. But there was a tremendous difference between the course he advocated and the one that was taken. GM and Chrysler went into bankruptcy on the strength of a massive bailout that Romney opposed. Neither Republican President George W. Bush nor Democratic President Barack Obama believed the automakers would have survived without that backup from taxpayers. Romney held out the possibility at the time of the government giving certain loan and warranty guarantees that would not have approached the nearly $85 billion bailout.

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SANTORUM: “Gov. Romney even today suggested raising taxes on the top 1 percent.”

THE FACTS: Romney’s new proposal actually would lower tax rates across the board. The rate for the wealthiest Americans would drop to 28 percent from 35 percent. However, Romney’s call for unspecified new limits on tax deductions for higher-income taxpayers makes it impossible, absent more details, to assess the impact on any individual.

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