Republican Candidates Spar on Immigration, Israel

Posted January 27th, 2012 at 5:25 pm (UTC-5)
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The top two front-runners in the U.S. Republican presidential primary race touted their positions on immigration before Hispanic leaders in Miami Friday, in the final days before next week's crucial Florida primary.

Immigration is a flashpoint issue in Florida, which is home to a large Cuban immigrant community.

Newt Gingrich told the Hispanic Leadership Network Friday that he supported a guest worker program for certain immigrants. He also promised that he would let Puerto Rico vote on the question of statehood.

Mitt Romney said the United States needs to work harder to promote democracy across Latin America.

Both candidates pledged to take a tough stance against Cuba's government.

On Friday, a new poll showed Romney leading the Florida primary race, adding to the momentum for the former Massachusetts governor, following a strong debate performance Thursday night.

During that debate, immigration was also a key topic.

Accused by Gingrich of being the anti-immigrant candidate, Romney called the remark “repulsive” and demanded an apology. Gingrich accused Romney of wanting to force all illegal immigrants, including the elderly, to leave the country. Romney said he wants people to come to the United States legally and work.

The two also sparred Thursday over immigration and a proposed moon colony, in the state that hosts much of the nation's space industry.

Romney attacked Gingrich's recently announced proposal to establish a colony on the moon, saying he would rather see the money put toward rebuilding housing in the United States. Contender Ron Paul quipped that, instead of establishing a colony, perhaps “some politicians” should be sent to the moon instead.

Whoever wins the populous southern state on Tuesday will pick up a large amount of delegates to the national convention, and could take a firm lead in the battle for the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in the November election. Unlike years past, in 2012 no clear Republican leader has emerged after three previous state contests.