The first question at Monday's GOP debate was directed at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was asked why he was directing so many attacks at former Gov. Mitt Romney's business record -- which sounded like criticisms being put forward by Democrats.
"Well, first of all, I think that the staying positive through Iowa -- through three and a half million dollars of negative attacks -- prove you either have to unilaterally disarm and leave the race, or bring up your competitors' record," said Gingrich, reminding the audience that Romney and the independent super PAC backing him aggressively went after Gingrich during the Iowa caucuses.
Gingrich pointed out that Romney is the one who brought up his record at Bain Capital, and therefore, "if that's a part of your campaign, then questioning it has to be equally legitimate."
"It struck me raising those questions, giving me an opportunity to answer them is exactly what campaigns ought to be about," he added. "And we need to satisfy the country that whoever we nominate has a record that can stand up to Barack Obama in a very effective way."
Moderator Bret Baier pointed out that some Republicans have criticized Gingrich's attacks, saying that he is providing fodder for Democrats and embarrassing himself by parroting lines used by the Obama campaign.
First of all, I don't think raising questions is a prerogative only of Barack Obama, and I don't think Republicans should automatically be intimidated because every time you raise a question somebody yells you are doing something the Democrats do. I raise questions that I think are legitimate questions -- some of which came out of Wall Street Journal articles. The governor has every opportunity to answer those questions and give us facts and data and that's part of his responsibility as a candidate, and I think that's part of what a campaign is about, is to raise questions and see whether your competitor can answer them effectively, before you get to a general election where you know those questions are going to be asked.
"My record is out there, proud of it, and I think if people want to have someone who understands how the economy works, having worked in the real economy, that I'm the guy that can best post up against Barack Obama," Romney replied.