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Romney, McCain butt heads at debate

Posted: Updated: and the Associated Press

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- Mitt Romney and John McCain exchange accusations at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night.

Sparks flew between the front-runners at the debate. Romney said McCain was out of the party's conservative mainstream.

Romney also said McCain made a statement that was "simply wrong" and "reprehensible." McCain said Romney had never supported a specific timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

On the other side of the stage, McCain defended himself against criticism he'd twice voted against Bush tax cuts, saying they'd been tilted toward the rich. And also he said he was proud of his conservative record on government spending. He accused Romney of leaving Massachusetts with high taxes and a large debt when he left the governor's office. Romney rejected that charge.

Mike Huckabee says he's still the candidate for conservatives. And Ron Paul repeated his criticism of the war and government fiscal policy.

Rudy Giuliani pulled out of the debate and threw his support to McCain. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's aides said he'll endorse McCain on Thursday.

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