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Restore Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, slams rival Newt Gingrich in a new ad for (repeatedly) claiming a connection to Ronald Reagan.

"From debates, you'd think Newt Gingrich was Ronald Reagan's vice president," a narrator says. "Gingrich exaggerates, dropping Reagan's name 50 times."

"In his diaries, Reagan mentioned Gingrich only once. Reagan criticized Gingrich, saying Newt's ideas 'would cripple our defense program.' Reagan rejected Newt's ideas."

"On leadership and character, Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan."

The question: Is Mitt questioning Newt's claims and credentials going to be enough to overcome his own conservative shortcomings in the eyes of voters?

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"Well, number one, I've raised a family," Mitt Romney said during Monday night's Florida GOP debate when asked what he'd done to further the conservative movement.

"And I've - I've, with my wife, we've raised five wonderful sons, and we have 16 wonderful grandkids," he awkwardly continued, before finally answering the question.

He went on to mention his private sector and gubernatorial experience, but the reference to his family stuck, highlighting his inability to connect to many voters.

Mitt, Newt

It's a problem evident in his defeat in South Carolina last week. He's skilled at detailing the X's and O's of policy, but falls short in efforts to prove he's authentic.

Newt, meanwhile, talked about helping Barry Goldwater's campaign in 1964 and later Ronald Reagan's successful 1980 bid, as well as his own efforts as Speaker.

The Gingrich campaign certainly reveled in Romney's non-answer. Minutes after the debate, it sent an e-mail titled "Mitt Romney's Top Conservative Achievements."

It was blank.

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Florida played host to the latest Republican presidential debate Monday night, and Mitt Romney came out swinging against newly-anointed co-frontrunner Newt Gingrich.

After Gingrich routed him in South Carolina, Romney was forced to change course from his usual try-not-to-lose strategy of appearing competent, inoffensive and vanilla.

Mitt apparently got the memo that in order to stop Florida (which holds its primary January 31) from becoming South Carolina redux, he actually has to show some fight.

As such, he blasted  as an influence peddler and disgraced politician in the debate, which marked the GOP race's most heated and personal exchanges to date.

Gingrich, the grand master of the 18 debates to date, and who pulled off a stunning upset in S.C. in large part due to some debate highlights, was, for once, thrown off.

The most shocking moment of last night may have been when Newt said nothing at all, briefly falling into a frustrated silence at one point amid Romney's barrage.

The night epitomized the direction of the race. It's the insurgents vs. the establishment, with Newt hoping to mobilize the former and Mitt looking to swat him down.

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Mitt Romney was likely never as much of a lock as the mainstream media seems to believe, but Saturday's South Carolina primary results still came as a surprise.

Newt Gingrich rose from the political ashes for the second time with two strong debate performances this week and pulled off an unlikely win in the Palmetto State.

With 40 percent of the vote to Mitt's 27, and nearly all precincts reporting, Newt won big and turned the fluid Republican presidential race on its head once again.

Newt Gingrich Photo

Only a week ago, Romney seemed likely to win all three of the initial contests, a scenario that would have put him on a relatively clear path to the nomination.

But with Thursday’s announcement that Rick Santorum actually won Iowa, followed by today's results, Romney is now a front-runner who has lost two of three.

The result marked a swift, extraordinary turnaround in Gingrich’s fortunes, after he finished well out of the top three in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

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Another Republican debate has come and gone, and as usual there was no shortage of fireworks as Newt Gingrich clashed with his rivals ... and CNN's John King.

Amid reports that Newt asked Marianne Gingrich for an open marriage while cheating on her with Callista Bisek in 1999, King led off the GOP debate with that topic.

Newt was not happy, and he let King know it ...

Reaming out the “destructive, vicious, negative” media rather than his ex-wife, who raised these accusations yesterday, Gingrich said he was appalled by CNN.

Newt, who went on to divorce Marianne and marry Callista in 2000 (they are still married), punctuated his lengthy answer by saying, “The story is false.”

Some other highlights of the second South Carolina debate this week, and the last before Saturday's critical primary in the Palmetto State included:

  • Rick Santorum saying Barack Obama stands for “economic squalor”
  • Mitt Romney saying "maybe" he'll release his tax returns sometime
  • Santorum repeatedly criticizing Newt's grandiosity and stability
  • Gingrich and Santorum claiming Romney is not really pro-life
  • Ron Paul fans yelling for their man to get more screen time

With time running out for all candidates not named Mitt Romney to post a win and halt his march toward the Republican nomination, the tension was high.

Can any of them do it? We'll find out by tomorrow night. We've posted the entire GOP debate, and invite you to share your feedback with us, after the jump:

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Just 48 hours before the critical South Carolina primary, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's ex-wife Marianne is criticizing the former House Speaker's character.

Marianne Gingrich says, in an interview airing tonight on Nightline, that Newt's professed positions on marriage and family values do not line up with his actions.

Their 18-year marriage ended in 1999, and during that span, Marianne says Newt Gingrich admitted to her about a six-year affair with a Congressional aide.

That woman is now Newt's third wife, Callista Gingrich. This is well documented, but it's a comment Newt allegedly made about it that's raising eyebrows:

He asked his wife if she would share him with Callista, according to Marianne.

Marianne Gingrich Picture

"I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do.' He wanted an open marriage and I refused," Marianne Gingrich tells ABC News.

Marianne also details how Newt was conducting this affair while publicly condemning the unfaithful President Clinton for his lack of moral leadership.

“How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?” she said.

“Truthfully, my whole purpose is to get out there about who I am, so Newt couldn’t create me as an evil, awful person, which was starting to happen.”

It gets worse. Newt divorced Marianne months after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she says, and began dating her almost as scandalously.

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Texas Governor Rick Perry will drop out of the GOP presidential race and endorse rival Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination, according to news reports.

He will make the announcement shortly in North Charleston, S.C.

The move by Perry to end his flailing campaign was inevitable, yet came a few days sooner than expected, with the South Carolina primary looming this Saturday.

Perry hoped the state's evangelicals and social conservatives would revive his candidacy. Instead, it was Newt who surged after Monday's Republican debate.

Perry and Gingrich

Rick Perry was mired in the low single digits in the Palmetto State and nationally, while a revitalized Gingrich has shown an upward trajectory in recent polls.

Perry weighed dropping out of the race after a dismal finish in the Iowa caucuses, only to decide to stay in and make one last stand in South Carolina.

It was not to be. In hindsight, a campaign that began with such promise actually peaked on its first day, after which Perry sank like a stone in popularity.

Clearly not ready for prime time, Perry's substance never equaled his swagger. Amazing debate gaffes came early and often. Other candidates surged past him.

By dropping out now, he may provide a modest boost to Gingrich, who's trying to present himself as a more ideologically potent conservative than Mitt Romney.

Perry said in officially suspending his candidacy today:

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Sarah Palin hasn't endorsed Newt Gingrich in the GOP presidential race, but says she would vote for the former House Speaker if she were a South Carolinian.

Way to really put yourself out there.

"If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going I'd vote for Newt and I would want this to continue," the 2008 V.P. nominee told Fox News.

"These guys are getting better in their debates, they are getting more concise, more grounded in what their beliefs are and articulating what their ideas are."

"If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going I'd vote for Newt and I would want this to continue. More debates, more vetting of candidates."

"I want to see that taking place this time because America is on this precipice, it's that important. We need this process to continue on," she added.

Todd Palin, Sarah's husband, recently endorsed Gingrich, and Sarah's comments show she thinks of him favorably despite a lack of overt endorsement.

Whether it does him any good in Saturday's primary remains to be seen. Newt's showing at the first South Carolina debate was strong, with another coming up tonight.

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Jon Huntsman may have gotten out just in time.

In front of by FAR the most raucous crowd of any Republican debate held thus far, the five remaining GOP hopefuls squared off in South Carolina last night.

Ostensibly, everybody not named Mitt Romney angled to knock the frontrunner off his pedestal. In reality, it became a game of rhetorical one-upmanship.

The crowd cheered their support of U.S. soldiers urinating on dead Afghan bodies and their condemnation of the Obama administration’s condemnation of it.

Newt Gingrich earned a standing ovation for this quote: “Andrew Jackson knew what to do with his enemies - he killed them.” How professorial he can be.

Even Romney, the most vanilla of all candidates, got into the act, saying “The right thing for Osama bin Laden was the bullet in the head that he received.”

No one here's missing Osama, but really Mitt?

The audience then jeered Ron Paul for suggesting that “we should practice the Golden Rule in foreign policy.” Nice to see we boo NOT bombing people.

The yelled their approval of Rick Perry saying America should “go to zero on foreign aid.” They booed Juan Williams for questioning Newt's big janitor idea.

The South Carolina primary has a reputation for being a bloodbath, and last night's rancor showed why. Just imagine if this race were in any way close.

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Newt Gingrich is just throwing $h!t at the wall at this point.

During his college years in the '60s, Mitt Romney spent two years as a Mormon missionary in France. Now, Newt is trying to use that time against his rival as part of his desperate, scorched-earth campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Here's his new ad, titled "The French Connection" ...

The crux of the ad - that Mitt Romney isn't too different politically from failed Democratic Massachusetts presidential hopefuls Michael Dukakis and Sen. John Kerry - might've been effective, but Newt is clearly just bitter at this point.

In a parting shot, the voiceover explains: "Just like John Kerry," the voice in the ad says, "he speaks French too!" Mitt Romney: He's ... multilingual!

Guess he and Jon Huntsman are automatically DQ'd in Newt's mind.

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