GOP candidates face off in high-stakes debate in Arizona

Mitt Romney went on offense against Rick Santorum’s record of spending while in the U.S. Senate, accusing his latest Republican arch-rival Wednesday of raising the debt ceiling five times, funding Planned Parenthood and expanding the Department of Education.

In a searing first shot, the Republican presidential primary frontrunner said during Santorum’s watch, spending grew 80 percent of the federal government.

But in a quick retort, Santorum, sitting next to Romney at a debate in Phoenix, Ariz., one week before they and candidates Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul hear from voters in that state and in Michigan, said that while he was in office in Washington, the debt as a percentage of GDP went down from 68 percent to 64 percent.

Responding to a question about the debt, Santorum added that if he were president, he would cut the budget by $5 trillion over five years but it wouldn’t come from defense spending, but from means-testing entitlement programs..

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