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Intro: "Mitt Romney has moved to fend off a late surge in support for Newt Gingrich in South Carolina's Republican primary election by calling on him to release a secret congressional report that saw Gingrich become the first speaker of the House of Representatives convicted of ethics violations."

Mitt Romney and other Bain Capital partners pantomime for a 1984 photo adorned with money. (photo: Bain Capital)
Mitt Romney and other Bain Capital partners pantomime for a 1984 photo adorned with money. (photo: Bain Capital)

Romney-Gingrich War Escalates

By Ewen MacAskill and Chris McGreal, Guardian UK

21 January 12


itt Romney has moved to fend off a late surge in support for Newt Gingrich in South Carolina's Republican primary election by calling on him to release a secret congressional report that saw Gingrich become the first speaker of the House of Representatives convicted of ethics violations.

Romney's call comes as he attempts to deflect attention from his own refusal, repeated on Friday, to immediately make public tax returns on a fortune of more than $200m.

A series of opinion polls put Saturday's race too close to call following a sharp rise in voter backing for Gingrich as social conservatives coalesced around him in an attempt to block Romney, who is suspect for his previous support of abortion rights, gay marriage and government intervention in health care, from winning the nomination.

All the candidates made a last ditch effort to win over the large number of undecided voters with swings across the largely religious and conservative state and a blitz of television advertising and phone calls.

In a fresh wave of adverts, Romney pressed home his claim that he is best positioned to beat President Barack Obama – an assertion backed by nationwide opinion polls. But he has been on the defensive over his tax returns with Gingrich implying during Thursday's televised debate that Romney may have something to hide. Gingrich said he saw no reason why Romney should not release last year's returns if there was nothing in them to embarrass him, and if there is then he should let the Republican party know before he becomes the nominee and Obama can use them against him.

Gingrich added to the pressure by releasing his own returns which show that he earned $3.1m in 2010 and paid tax of 31.5%.

On Friday, Romney sought to throw that back at Gingrich by suggesting that a report from a 1997 Congressional ethics investigation into the then-speaker of the House of Representatives' conduct, which resulted in him being fined $300,000, is a time bomb that the Democrats will release when it suits them. Romney called on Gingrich to make the report public now.

"[Former Democratic speaker of the House] Pelosi has a full record of that ethics investigation … it's going to get out," he said during a campaign stop in Gilbert.

Romney's backers had spent the morning in conference calls attacking Gingrich's congressional record. In Gilbert, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who has endorsed Romney and was at his side, told reporters who had asked about his tax returns: "The people of South Carolina are not talking about tax returns. They're not. They're talking about jobs, spending and the economy.

"In all honesty, I've heard more people wondering why you guys aren't asking about ethics reports and ethics problems with the Gingrich campaign."

Gingrich was fined over the financing for two projects he supported and for giving the ethics committee false information, but the full report on the affair has never been made public.

Romney's attempts to put Gingrich's ethics on trial follow the dramatic showdown at Thursday's debate over the opening question about allegations by one of Gingrich's former wives, Marianne, that he asked for an open marriage so he could continue an affair with the woman who is now his wife, Callista.

Gingrich's theatrical and blistering attack on the media over the question will have endeared him to many Republicans looking for someone to take the battle to Obama. But opinion among pundits was divided on what impact the allegations will have on the large numbers of deeply Christian voters in South Carolina as they remind evangelicals of past infidelities that have already caused some to say Gingrich is an unfit candidate. Polling suggests women voters are particularly wary of Gingrich.

The latest opinion polls offer an array of outcomes from a Politico poll that put Romney seven points ahead to a Public Policy Polling survey that gave Gingrich a six-point lead. Other polls put the race much closer. The other candidates, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, were far back in the field.

A win for Romney in South Carolina would see him remain favourite to take the Republican nomination. But a loss to Gingrich would probably result in a protracted and bloody political battle, as the fight moves on to Florida, that would delay the Republican campaign to unseat Barack Obama.

One key Romney supporter, former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, predicted the nomination race will be a long one. Asked what Romney will do if he loses South Carolina, Sununu said: "He has never suggested one or two or three primaries and caucuses would make a difference. It has been designed for a long slog."

He compared the race to the Ford-Reagan one in 1976, which went all the way to the party convention in the summer.

Sununu dismissed the tax issue, asking journalists what they expected to find in his tax returns.

"Are you going to be surprised when it turns out he is rich?" he said. Sununu said the surprise will be how generous Romney is in giving to charity.

National polls continue to show that Romney maintains a clear lead among Republican voters. A Pew Forum poll released on Thursday gave Romney 31% support, nearly double that received by Gingrich. Republican voters overwhelmingly said they believe Romney has the best chance of beating Obama.

Among the undecided South Carolina voters is Kristen Stoudenmire, a hairdresser in the conservative northwest of the state who said her principal concern is the economy because she and her husband do not earn enough to afford health insurance and they are about to have a baby and face thousands of dollars in doctors bills.

"It's jobs and the economy. I'm leaning to Romney. I'm looking at who can improve the economy. We need the better jobs. I think Romney is better on that," she said. "We're struggling, really struggling. We have to come up with $4,000 for the doctor and that's even before the delivery."

Dave Crook, a salesman, thought differently.

"Romney is like Bush. Nothing will change. He'll be for big government. We need someone radical. I favoured Perry but it's Newt who can win and so that's who I'll vote for," he said.

South Carolina holds an open primary which means any resident of the state can vote whether they support the Republican party or not. But while African Americans make up more than a quarter of South Carolinians, only a tiny proportion are expected to vote in an election tinged with racism, including Gingrich's implication that black people are reluctant to work and are the principal beneficiaries of government food stamps.

However, the open primary has also opened the way for popular satirist Stephen Colbert, to call for voters to back his bid to be "president of the United States of South Carolina" by voting for Herman Cain, who dropped out of the race but whose name is still on the ballot.

Colbert led a rally in Charleston where Cain took to singing and Colbert attacked Romney's much derided flip flops on abortion, gay marriage and health care.

"The only difference between Mitt Romney and a statue of Mitt Romney is that a statue never changes its position," he said. your social media marketing partner


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+50 # Barbara K 2012-01-21 11:13
To think that this gaggle of contestants was the best the Republicans could come up is a telling thing about the quality about the Rs since the Tbaggers got hold of them. If the Rs were smart, they would kick out the baggers, but they seem to be lacking there too. Any one of these buffoons would bring our country and us down. We cannot afford to let that happen if we want any liberties at all left.


our future is at stake
+38 # isafakir 2012-01-21 11:58
even worse it tells you the depths to which we have sunk since gringrinch transformed our politics into what it is today, slash and burn.
+4 # X Dane 2012-01-21 18:43
Barbara, the SMART ones aren't running, because they can SEE what a mess the country is in. They KNOW that it will take many years to "right the ship".

So in 1216, whoever won, would look bad, for he would NOT be as far in rebuilding the country as our citizens need or want to see.

Unfortunately republicans are expert at campaigning. They have all the dirty trics, and fighting down to a T. It is GOVERNING A COUNTRY, THEY CAN'T DO.
Giving tax cuts to the wealthiest is not governing, it is ribbing off the country.

I think they secretly want to loose for it is a lot easier to sit back and heckle the efforts of the democrats, and throw sand in the gears too.

So when THEY win we all LOOSE.
+14 # bugbuster 2012-01-21 11:52
None of this is unusual. Normal voters respond to personality and likeability. Since ideological zeal is a form of vanity, the most vain voters will respond only to their ideological beliefs.

I think that over time Romney could reveal his better self and win over the voters. Gingrich must do his best to conceal who he is. I don't think he has a better self.
+20 # pbbrodie 2012-01-21 12:20
Neither does Romney. Get a grip.
-9 # bugbuster 2012-01-21 12:48
You are short on information and long on rudeness. You can never argue effectively that way, even to advocate a point on which you may be correct.
+2 # X Dane 2012-01-21 14:13
WHAAAAAT. Explain yourself.
+12 # Doubter 2012-01-21 12:23
"...Romney could reveal his better self..."

Thanks for the info.

I had no idea the Mitt had a better self.
Maybe he'll bring it out where we can see it before the election.
-15 # bugbuster 2012-01-21 12:54
There was a recent segment of Fresh Air on NPR with the author of a book on Romney. I came away from that much less apt to judge him harshly. He is not skilled at political rhetoric and public relations, and he has been part of the problem with contemporary capitalism, but I don't see a bad man there. Quite the contrary.

Some people want to make everything simple so they can claim great knowledge and understanding of things. Catch phrases and terms like "get a grip," "wake up, people," "sheeple," etc. identify the writer as an angry person who would rather emote than think.
+13 # X Dane 2012-01-21 14:22
Romney is NOT complicated, HE IS GREEDY.
You STILL have not seen how he destroyed businesses and ruined so many people's lives. Why don't you listen to what some of THOSE people say. You will learn something!!!!

Romney brags that HE can create jobs!!! ......That's rich. HE IS A JOB KILLER. HE KILLS FOR MONEY
+11 # native son 2012-01-21 12:36
Vote for Cain. lol
+7 # hd70642 2012-01-21 12:40
Ever wonder what happened to the monsters from Buffy the vampire slayer the villians batman or Dick Tracy and patrons from Mos Isely Cantina from Star wars ?Well they ended up on the circus sideshow / insane asslyum known as the repubilican't party . If Rod serling were still around they all would be sued for copyright infringement since they are constantly walking around in their own Twilight zone .Last but looniest the Rock Head horror picture AKA the horde of mad hatters from their own blunder land the Tea Party
+3 # Jane Gilgun 2012-01-21 12:59
What is the matter with the media? What kind of headline is this--The Romney-Gingrich War Escalates. Elections are not wars. Neither this election or wars are glamorous, but this headline make both seem glamorous. Lots of people are saying that President Obama has to stand up to the radical Republicans. What about the role of media? The media are supposed to have brains and to point out absurdities of politics and business and not glamourize them. The fourth estate has to engage in critical thinking and not treat politics like an amusing spectator sport or war. Use your brains, for the sake of human decency.
+4 # X Dane 2012-01-21 15:16
Jane you hit the nail on th head. Ronney-Gingrich War!!! Sadly our country is war crazy. Have you not noticed how EVERYTHING that takes hard work, is

etc. etc. etc.

How successful have we been with these wars???? RIGHT

Politicians don't say: I will work hard for you, so we can achieve our goal. ...
I would love to see our representatives work hard for us.......Instea d, we get:

I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU. No wonder NOTHING is accomplished. The two parties only FIGHT, instead of WORKING to get something constructive DONE.

Jane I mentioned the press in another post. There you are also right.
+11 # jwb110 2012-01-21 13:02
John Sununu's remark about Mitt's wealth and the surprise about how much he gives to charity is very telling. Sununu and Mitt are both out of touch if for this reason alone. The American's who are suffering thru an economic downturn made by the likes of Bain Capital do not want charity. They want jobs. The citizens of this country are not asking for charity. In fact, for many Americans finding themselves in need of help is a very uncomfortable thing. We would rather be able to make donations to others. For the average American to be able to BE charitable is more important to us than how much the rich kid gives away.
+3 # DaveM 2012-01-21 13:05
These guys are going to destroy each other and Ron Paul will be the candidate. Which might not be so bad, as he won't win, but's a scary prospect.
+5 # JayMagoo 2012-01-21 13:16
This is the most disgraceful collection of candidates ever to vie for a presidential nomination I've seen in many a year. To get a perspective, I'd like to see comments from an old-time Republican, a man with dignity and education, who would represent the old Republican party of Eisenhower and Taft. These modern Republicans seem to be gutter trash. Maybe a gentleman of the "old school" would give us some perspective of just what all of this means to more traditional Republicans.
+3 # X Dane 2012-01-21 14:31
Senator, (former, from Wisconsin) Simpson has already said how digusted he is with this sick spectacle, in no uncertain way. I don't remember his words, but they were scathing. He is VERY conservative.
+5 # Doctoretty 2012-01-21 13:20
It would be a disaster if either of them became President! They are both arrogant men who don't care about anyone but their rich friends.
+1 # tomo 2012-01-21 14:27
The more I watch the cat-fight of Republicans, the more likely I think it is that Obama will be re-elected. And that's really too bad--because his re-election would be taken as voter approval for making permanent the terrible losses to American democracy engineered by Bush-and-Cheney . These are losses that have been left standing or, in some cases, made notably worse by Barack Obama. If you loved Bush-Cheney, VOTE FOR OBAMA! HE makes the poison go down easy.
+6 # Texas Aggie 2012-01-21 14:35
"... but the full report on the affair has never been made public."

Sorry, but the Guardian blew this one. The report is available on line although I don't have the link offhand. Romney is just blowing smoke on this one.

And as for Sununu's comment about "being rich" is another attempt at blowing smoke. No one cares about how much he has but rather how he got it and whether he paid full taxes on it. His father was head of American Motors and paid over 30% of his income in taxes. His father made a career of creating jobs. Mitt has made a career out of destroying them. It's very difficult to argue that siphoning money out of a company in management fees and other dodges is somehow going to make it more productive.
+6 # CL38 2012-01-21 14:38
Mitt is the vulture capitalist and Newt, the lobbyist.
+6 # BBFmail 2012-01-21 15:25
If the Repubs are stupid enough to have Newt as the GOP nominee....they will assure another 4 years of Obama as President of the USA!
+4 # ozken 2012-01-21 19:00
BBFmail NEWT just won South Carolina - isn't that amazing! I think you're right - Obama will continue as president - let's just hope he does the right thing this time and doesn't cave into the Republicans when things get a little tough. Let's also hope that blue dog democrats are voted out and that true liberal democrats control both houses of congress so that Obama has no more excuses not to pursue a real democrat agenda on behalf of the 99%.
0 # X Dane 2012-01-21 23:42
That's what WE need to work on
-1 # KittatinyHawk 2012-01-22 13:13
Perhaps it is time for Perry to do what he is second best at..hand out guns and let them all shoot each other. Then perhaps some intelligent conversations, writing can be done.

Joe Paterno has died, we can all thank McQ for making a dying man go down disgraced for following the good ol boys rules of order.
Good By Joe, We all Love you for the Person you were and Leader you will be remembered as.
0 # pernsey 2012-01-24 11:09
The media is bought and paid for by the corporations, so any real reporting is frowned dumb and dumber get talked about with credibility. If Newt and Mitt are the cream of the republican crop, if either gets elected God help us all! The republicans got nothing these are corporate shills...thats all! I remember the 8 years of Bush and all the damage that was done, that will be nothing if Newt or Mitt gets in there, it will be full steam ahead. What Mitt did to companies he will do to this country, and Newt isnt going to be much better.

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