SIMI VALLEY, Calif.- Republican Mitt Romney accused John McCain of using dirty tricks by suggesting the former Massachusetts governor wanted a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, in a spirited debate Wednesday night that underscored the intensity of their presidential rivalry.Coming 24 hours after McCain defeated him in Florida, Romney vented his frustrations over the Arizona senator’s claims from last weekend.
“I have never, ever supported a specific timetable” for withdrawing troops, Romney said. McCain’s accusation on the eve of Tuesday’s primary, he said, “sort of falls into the dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found reprehensible.”
The debate was held in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., six days before more than 20 states hold primaries or caucuses that could determine who succeeds President Bush as the party’s standard-bearer.
McCain stuck to his guns, saying, “Of course he said he wanted a timetable,” for a withdrawal. McCain had made the allegation in Florida as he tried to shift the debate from the ailing economy, a stronger issue for Romney, a former venture capitalist and businessman.