“Was he working or were his entities working with any health-care companies that could’ve benefited from that? That could represent not just evidence of lobbying but potentially wrongful activity of some kind?”
Romney — who has come under fire for not releasing his tax returns but who promised to do so Tuesday — called on his surging rival to return the money he was paid by mortgage giant Freddie Mac. He offered no evidence that he knew of wrongful activity by Gingrich. Nor did his advisers when pressed by reporters. The allegation was the latest sign that Romney is searching for a way to blunt Gingrich’s momentum, coming after his surprise win Saturday in the South Carolina primary.
Gingrich responded swiftly, saying he would release his contract with Freddie Mac and calling his rival a desperate candidate who will say almost anything.
“I have been told by a variety of people that Governor Romney has been saying unkind things. I prefer personally not to believe it,” Gingrich said to a crowd of about 150 people who gathered in front of the River Church in Tampa. “It’s such baloney. It used to be pious baloney, now it’s just desperate baloney. That’s the succession of this campaign, we’ve moved from Romney’s pious baloney to Romney’s desperate baloney.”
Before a candidate debate Monday night, Gingrich said that he had been memorizing the line “There you go again,” which Ronald Reagan used when squaring off against President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
“I’m thinking maybe I’ll finally convince him I really am a Reaganite if I just use President Reagan’s line,” Gingrich said.
Romney hopes to put Gingrich on the defensive heading into an intense week of campaigning before the Florida primary on Jan. 31. With his onetime momentum now gone, Romney is counting on his superior organization and financial advantage to gain an edge in Florida, the fourth-most-populous state in the nation and one with expensive media markets.
Romney has a head start on the airwaves. His super PAC, Restore Our Future, has spent $5 million in Florida, according to Federal Election Commission filings. And his campaign has been on the air for three weeks, running about the same number of ads as the super PAC, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.
Gingrich is working overtime to catch up. On the heels of his victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, his campaign set a goal of $1 million for an online “money bomb” but quickly raised it to $2 million over two days. And Winning Our Future, a PAC backing Gingrich, set a goal of spending $10 million on the Florida primary.