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The opening round of Monday’s Fox News debate in Myrtle Beach, SC was all about Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Newt Gingrich took some swipes at Romney’s time at the company, but it was Rick Perry who really stepped it up, defending his claim that Romney’s business career was “vulture capitalism” and calling on Romney to release his tax returns.

“We cannot fire our nominee in September,” Perry said to Romney, who’s said he won’t release his tax records yet. “We need to know now.”

Mitt Romney, hammered by fact checkers over his claim he created 100,000 net jobs at Bain, tried out a new number in the South Carolina debate: 120,000 jobs from his four most successful investments. That number, which includes companies like Staples, counts jobs that were added long after Romney had anything to do with the businesses, however.

The GOP Debates seem even more like a reality show. The host opens by asking the crowd to welcome the “five remaining contestants.” Because of the smaller number of speakers, the general speaking time per candidate is one minute and thirty seconds.

Rick Santorum may have won Iowa and in ongoing counting holds an 80 vote lead over Mitt Romney, Byron York reports:



The final numbers will be different from those released on caucus night. One campaign source says the vote count as of midday Monday showed Santorum ahead by 80-something votes. If that number holds through certification of the last precincts, Santorum will win. Of course, there is always the possibility that some of the final precincts will contain discrepancies that put Romney back on top. It’s just not clear.

TINA CASEY

Phobos-Grunt, an unmanned Russian spacecraft that malfunctioned shortly after launch in November 2011 and was stuck in Earth's orbit for the two months thereafter, apparently broke up and plunged harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, though the final resting place of any surviving debris has yet to be confirmed, according to Russian news outlet Itar-Tass.

At the time of this post, the latest statement from Russian defense officials to Russian news outlet Ria Novosti indicated that "fragments" fell into the Pacific about 770 miles off the coast of Wellington Island, Chile. The European Space Agency was double-checking its own readings to reconfirm that assessment.

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Before he dropped out and endorsed the Republican presidential frontrunner, Jon Huntsman was among the toughest of Mitt Romney's critics. Huntsman has made it pretty clear he'd rather people forget that, removing the many hits on Romney that were until very recently found on Huntsman's campaign YouTube page.

Unfortunately for Huntsman, the DNC has TiVo.

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The big news of today was a blow to Jon Huntsman's supporters. Both of them.

The former Utah governor and Obama-appointed ambassador to China bowed out of the race after having failed to catch fire... Even after committing a huge amount of time and money to making a splash in New Hampshire.

This video has some of his greatest hits, even as he now heads off to become yet another surrogate for Mitt Romney.

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Another debate, another candidate gone. This time it's Jon Huntsman, who dropped out hours before tonight's scheduled gathering and endorsed Mitt Romney. That brings to four the number of big name Republicans whose campaigns didn't make it to South Carolina: Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and now Huntsman.

For those who remain, the focus is on the now unambiguous frontrunner Mitt Romney, who has plenty of momentum on his side after a strong New Hampshire win. After being mocked all year for his inability to crack the mid-20s in national polls, rank and file Republicans are finally starting to come around. His position in the TPM Polling Average is spiking near 40%, suggesting that the end may be near for the Republican contest.

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CNN reports:



A key Rick Perry supporter, South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, withdrew his support for the Texas governor and urged Perry to drop his presidential bid, the legislator's office announced Monday.

"I still believe he would be a great national leader, but campaigns are tough and early mistakes and missed opportunities have taken their toll," the state senator said in a statement. "Now is the time to get out and pass the baton to another leader that can take the message to the next level."

The announcement came five days before Perry competes in South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary.

The Hill reports:



Mitt Romney's campaign has invited a trio of anti-illegal-immigration advocates to act as surrogates in the spin room after Monday's debate in South Carolina, according to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), one of the surrogates.

Kobach is best known for helping Arizona lawmakers to write a controversial anti-illegal-immigration bill that has since been adopted in other states — including South Carolina.

He said he will be joined by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who has said all illegal immigrants should be deported and won his seat by hammering then-Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) for supporting amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and Bay Buchanan, a longtime conservative activist who was a senior adviser on former Rep. Tom Tancredo's (R-Colo.) 2008 presidential campaign. All three have endorsed Romney.

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