The story

Front-runners John McCain and Mitt Romney attacked each other's conservative credentials as they fought for their party's top spot during the final showdown before the Super Tuesday contests.

The sharpest exchange in the debate came when Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was asked about the McCain campaign's charge that he once said he favored a strict timetable for removing troops from Iraq.

Romney has consistently denied ever having backed a timetable and said McCain was taking a small portion of a quote out of context.

"It's simply wrong," Romney said. "By the way, raising it a few days before the Florida primary, when there was very little time for me to correct the record, falls in the kind of dirty tricks that Ronald Reagan would have found reprehensible." Watch the candidates trade barbs

But McCain, the Arizona senator who has strongly backed President Bush's Iraq policy, accused Romney of hedging after public support for the war waned. Read full article »

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CNN California Debates
The Democratic candidates face off in the last debate before Super Tuesday.
Thursday, 8 p.m. ET

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