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Gingrich and Bachmann duke it out early in Republican debate

Michele Bachmann came out swinging at Newt Gingrich and his $1.6 million in earnings from Freddie Mac.

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Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks during a Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.

AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)

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In the first hour of the GOP debate in Iowa, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann went toe to toe over Gingrich's $1.6 million in earnings as a consultant to Freddie Mac

The Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said Gingrich "had his hand out and received $1.6 million to ... keep the scam going in Washington, D.C."

Gingrich shot back that he never lobbied members of Congress on behalf of the quasi-government housing agency, and that Bachmann "ought to have facts before make wild allegations."

During a live chat on DCDecoder, CTognott wasn't buying Gingrich's explanation: 

"To be clear: if you take money to let a company use your letterhead (metaphorically, I mean), it is a matter of pretty shifty semantics to claim you're not a lobbyist. Perhaps not technically, but you certainly couldn't deny a charge of influence peddling."

Mitt Romney looked on and smiled. During the same chat on DCDecoder.com, Jennifer Marsico at American Enterprise noted, during the Bachmann-Gingrich exchange: "Romney's got to be loving this right now--Gingrich is the big target tonight and Mitt's not even saying a word."

As The Christian Science Monitor's Linda Feldmann noted today: "A new Rasmussen poll of Iowa Republicans taken Tuesday shows Mitt Romney now in the lead in Iowa and Newt Gingrich down to second place, losing 12 percentage points since the last Rasmussen poll a month ago. "Former Utah Gov. John Huntsman was out of the blocks early, sounding more confident and self-assured than in previous debates.

As Tumblr blogger "Shortformblog" commented: "Statement of the night, from Huntsman: "We are getting screwed as Americans!" #IowaDebate [via Twitter]

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