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Romney, Giuliani Clash Over Immigration

After no talk of illegal immigration in the last Republican presidential gathering in Iowa, the topic is front and center tonight.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have clashed repeatedly over the issue in recent weeks and did so again tonight.

"This is a place where Mayor Giuliani and I simply disagree," Romney said, noting that Giuliani during his tenure as mayor had helped grow the number of illegal immigrants from 3 million to 12 million.

Giuliani shot back quickly. "I didn't have the luxury of political rhetoric," said Giuliani. Zing! He went on to advocate the "sensible policy" he put in place in New York City, which was aimed at reducing the crime problem.

Romney's response drew loud cheers; Giuliani's polite cheers. It speaks to the difficulty of any candidate who has something less than a black and white position when it comes to immigration.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who watched his campaign brought low by his support for comprehensive immigration reform, acknowledged the power the issue had and also took a shot at Romney along the way; "Governor Romney less than a year ago had the same position I did," McCain said.

By Eric Pianin  |  September 5, 2007; 9:22 PM ET
 
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