Per the New York Times, yesterday’s back-and-forth between Romney and Gingrich amounted to their most intense skirmishing yet. “Mr. Romney demanded that Mr. Gingrich return the $1.8 million in consulting fees he had received from Freddie Mac; Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, cast aside a vow not to attack his opponents and responded that Mr. Romney should ‘give back all the money he earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.’”
More: “Until now, the two had circled each other warily and largely refrained from direct attacks, often using surrogates instead. But with both men on the ground here, they took to swatting at each other directly, highlighting just how important the New Hampshire primary may be in framing the fight for the Republican nomination.”
“Tonight’s foreign policy debate between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman could scarcely be called a debate,” the Boston Globe writes. “The two rivals for the Republican presidential nomination agreed on most issues, and the tone was cordial – a stark contrast to recent debates that have been characterized by sharp attacks among all the candidates.”
GINGRICH: “Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney: ‘Bring It,’” the New York Daily News writes. “In a growing war of words between the GOP White House contenders, Gingrich showed he’s happy to go toe-to-toe with Romney. Romney opened Monday telling Fox News that Gingrich is ‘erratic,’ and that the former House Speaker should pay back the $1.6 million in fees he took as a consultant to mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which was kept afloat through a taxpayer bailout.”
He sent a letter to staff and surrogates urging that they stay positive during the campaign, NBC’s Alex Moe reports. Some portions: “For these reasons I have refrained from launching attacks on my Republican opponents, though I have reserved the right to respond when my record has been distorted. On Monday this occurred when Governor Romney and I engaged in what in diplomatic circles is called “a frank exchange” over our respective records in the private sector. That same day, however, Mr. Romney announced, “I’m not going to say outrageous things that can be used to hang [a GOP opponent] down the road.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. So let us hope that from this point forward we can devote our energies to real issues, such as discussing our plans for our nation’s economic recovery and helping to create millions of new jobs for the American people. … Therefore, I am instructing all members of my campaign staff and respectfully urge anyone acting as a surrogate for our campaign to avoid initiating attacks on other Republican candidates. It is my hope that my Republican opponents will join me in this commitment.”
Varmints, if you will… “As Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich campaigned in New Hampshire today, the National Association for Gun Rights sent out robo-calls in New Hampshire accusing the former House speaker of being ‘anti-gun,’” The Boston Globe writes. “The calls say Gingrich has not returned the organization’s survey, adding, ‘Maybe it’s because of his past support for gun control.’ The call says that as speaker, Gingrich ‘wanted to strengthen the anti-gun Brady Bill that created a national gun registry.’"
“Now might be Mitt Romney's chance to slam someone as a flip-flopper,” the New York Daily News writes of Gingrich, who initially declined to sign the Family Leader’s pledge months ago, but yesterday affirmed it with a lengthy letter that included this line: "I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others."
That gets this headline from the New York Post: “Gingrich: I’m done cheating.”
Talking about his vacation to the Greek Isles, after which most of his staff quit his presidential campaign, Gingrich said yesterday, “It was actually a very helpful trip.” He contended, per the Boston Globe, “Greece was in the early stages of its monetary crisis, and the trip gave him a chance ‘to talk to folks in Greece.’” He “used that to segue into a discussion of the euro crisis, which he said is actually a ‘cultural crisis,’ between the different European nations.”
Rudy Giuliani thinks Gingrich might be the stronger general-election candidate, not Romney. “You won't have this barrier of possible elitism that I think Obama could exploit pretty effectively,” he told CNN.
“It could be a lonely march to the nomination for Newt Gingrich, the GOP presidential hopeful who is having trouble getting the members of his party establishment to back him,” The Hill writes.
PERRY: Perry is up with an Iowa ad that makes the case that he isn’t "politically correct" -- though the text focuses not on social issues, but on his plan to overhaul Washington. He takes a swipe at "congressmen becoming lobbyists," NBC’s Carrie Dann reports.
ROMNEY: The headline from the New York Times: Campaign Sends Romney to the Rescue. Ann Romney.”
“Fresh from his trip to Iowa to boost GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s standing with Republican caucus voters, Gov. Chris Christie tonight helped fill the candidate’s campaign coffers,” the New Jersey Star Ledger reports. “The governor hosted Romney at a fundraiser Christie said took in $1.1 million for the former Massachusetts governor. Billed as the Romney campaign’s ‘New Jersey Kickoff Reception,’ the high-priced shin-dig at the Parsippany Hilton cost a minimum of $500 and drew more than 500 people.”
Romney said this in an interview with Politico yesterday, per Political Wire: "I'm not in trouble. I'm in a great spot. I could become our nominee, or someone else might become our nominee and I could go back to business and go back to my family. Either one of those is a very nice outcome."
Want to hear Mitt Romney speak French? As iWatchNews writes, per PoliticalWIre: “A new political ad, entitled “French Mitt Romney,” shows a video of the presidential candidate speaking in French, poorly, promoting the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. But the subtitles are a bit off – actually they don’t mention the Olympics at all. They consist of old quotes from the former Massachusetts governor, promoting such un-Republican positions as support for abortion rights, gun control and fighting global warming.” The funder of the ad is TJ Walker, who says, “the ad is payback for 2004 attacks on former Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s fluency in that language.”