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Mitt Romney and Rick Perry share a moment in last night's debate. Mike Carlson/AP/Press Association Images

Watch: The key moments as Republican presidential hopefuls debate in Florida

The latest frontrunner, Texas governor Rick Perry, came under attack from rivals wary of his healthy poll numbers.

THOSE HOPING TO be the Republican Party’s candidate for the US presidential election next year squared off in another debate in Florida last night.

With the campaign already underway, the latest front runner, Texas governor Rick Perry, faced a number of attacks from rivals increasingly wary of his high standing in a number of polls, CNN reports.

The debate was co-hosted by CNN and the Tea Party, a conservative movement that has become increasingly influential within the Republican Party and whose support is likely to be crucial for any candidate hoping to secure the party’s nomination for the election next year.

Perry’s positions on Social Security, illegal immigration and a Texas programme to vaccinate school girls against a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer were all scrutinised and challenged by his rivals. .

On Social Security, Perry came under attack from former Massachusetts governer Mitt Romney who had long being considered the favourite for the nomination before Perry’s entry into the race.

Perry’s previous reference to the federal welfare scheme as a “Ponzi scheme” drew the ire of Romney. Watch:

On illegal immigration, Perry’s previous policies also came under attack from former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. Watch:

Whilst on Perry’s measure to order vaccinations to be given to Texas schoolgirls against human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Santorum had plenty of criticism.

The Washington Post described it as the most heated exchange of the night. Watch:

Of the other candidates, former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman raised doubts about Perry and Romney, the two leading candidates, accusing Romney of being a flip-flopper on policy, a charge which badly damaged Romney in the 2008 campaign.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain hit back at a charge that he didn’t know how Washington works politically, observing: “Yes I do. It doesn’t.”

Other candidates running for the nomination and who participated in last night’s debate include Texas congressman Ron Paul and former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich.

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