From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Romney now is emphasizing in appearances another line of attack against Huckabee instead of sticking mostly to immigration -- his spending record.
Romney's campaign has been pointing to Huckabee's record as governor on the matter for a while now, but in appearances, Romney's criticisms of Huckabee have been limited largely to the former Arkansas governor's past support for giving in-state tuition aid to the children of illegal immigrants.
Before taking questions from reporters after an event at Kirkwood Community College, Romney said that, as governor, Huckabee "took spending from just over $6 billion to $16 billion. And he financed that by raising taxes time and again. He raised sales taxes, gasoline taxes, grocery taxes, even taxes on nursing home beds."
Romney's campaign is also now giving Huckabee the Giuliani treatment with a new opposition research e-mail document on his tax record sent out to reporters today with the banner headline, "Those who know him best."
Romney went on that the discussion over the differences in his and Giuliani's records on fiscal issues have already been publicized, but he conceded, "We both lowered taxes." He added, however, that on city and state taxes for people working in cities, "New York still has some work to do to catch up to Boston -- not just in baseball."
Pressed by a host of reporters to comment on Giuliani's expensing situation as mayor, Romney hesitated. "He hasn't really laid out at this stage his full explanation for all that was shown," Romney said, "and so my view is, let's give him the benefit of the doubt until he has a chance to do that."
And asked to respond to countercharges about the numerous political trips he made while in office, he explained, "The use of security is 24 hours a day, regardless of what you're doing, whether you're taking a vacation at the beach or whether you're traveling for politics -- that's a very normal procedure."
The candidate spent a fair amount of time discussing fiscal matters this morning at a town hall event, lamenting the wastefulness of Washington and adding that he'd start with the Department of Defense as a place to start looking for ways to cut excess.
Despite the criticisms of his rivals, Romney did pay one of his lower-rung competitors a compliment. "One thing I thought was great in the debate the other night was Tom Tancredo's point" about candidates talking about all of the programs that the government could launch, but the problem that causes because they ultimately drive up spending.