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2012: The Bain attacks begin

“During the past week, not one, not two, but three Republican Party presidential candidates have tied either black people, in general, or President Barack Obama, in particular, to welfare or other forms of public assistance that, the candidates say, lead to dependency, out-of-control government spending and a culture of entitlement that is harming the nation,” The State newspaper points out. “Supporters say the candidates simply are telling blunt truths about a failed presidency marked by excessive spending. Other political observers, however, say the candidates’ statements are deliberate — and effective — attempts to excite the conservative white voters who form the base of the GOP’s early-voting electorate in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, whose first-in-the-South primary is Jan. 21.”

GINGRICH: NBC’s Ali Weinberg reports that Gingrich’s campaign told NBC that it would soon run an ad in South Carolina hitting Romney over the Planned Parenthood provision in the Massachusetts health care law. And he even went after Romney on this: "He raised taxes so much that he even raised taxes on people who were blind.”

“Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich returns to South Carolina next week in advance of the state’s Jan. 21 primary. The former U.S. Speaker of the House also made a $250,000 statewide TV ad buy Friday,” The State newspaper reports.

“Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said today that he still can’t release his contract with Freddie Mac (FMCC) -- even though the mortgage finance company gave him permission to do so -- because the decision is up to his business partners in his consulting firm,” Bloomberg says. “Gingrich’s comments came after Freddie Mac told Bloomberg News yesterday that the former U.S. House speaker was cleared to make the documents public. Before that, Gingrich said the reason he couldn’t release the contract was that Freddie Mac wouldn’t waive a confidentiality agreement.”

“The Super PAC backing Mitt Romney says it’s keeping its New Hampshire radar on Newt Gingrich — revving up to unleash its newest attack ad on Monday — a move experts say suggests that, for the Romney camp, Rick Santorum’s recent surge poses no political threat,” per the Boston Herald.

PERRY: “Staking his presidential hopes on South Carolina, Gov. Rick Perry has 14 days to stage a political resurrection in a state once considered tailor-made for victory,” the Austin American-Statesman notes. “But like elsewhere, Perry's support in South Carolina has evaporated, and several Republican strategists give him little chance of mounting the comeback needed to save his campaign.”

“Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s visit to South Carolina on Sunday will kick off a 15-day tour of the state as the Texas governor seeks to resurrect his candidacy in the state that initially vaulted him to the forefront,” The State newspaper reports.

“Gov. Rick Perry has named embattled Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio his Arizona campaign chairman, despite a recent Obama administration report condemning alleged discriminatory practices in Arpaio's office,” The Texas Tribune reports.

ROMNEY: And the Bain scrutiny begins… Reuters profiles a Kansas City steel mill that had been operating since 1888 that Bain bought, dumped, and profited from.  “Workers were denied the severance pay and health insurance they'd been promised, and their pension benefits were cut by as much as $400 a month. What's more, a federal government insurance agency had to pony up $44 million to bail out the company's underfunded pension plan. Nevertheless, Bain profited on the deal, receiving $12 million on its $8 million initial investment and at least $4.5 million in consulting fees… The Kansas City millworkers, meanwhile, are still fuming, after being left with no health benefits and a reduced pension check. ‘Romney cost me lots and lots of sleepless nights and lots and lots of money,’ said Ed Stanger, who worked at the plant for nearly 30 years.”

The New York Times’ Krugman wrote the other day that Romney’s “claims about the Obama record border on dishonesty, and his claims about his own record are well across that border.” Romney claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain, but using only current employment figures for some of the companies that created jobs. Romney is “ignoring those that reduced their work forces or went out of business. Hey, if pluses count but minuses don’t, everyone who spends a day playing the slot machines comes out way ahead!”

And his bigger point: “The real complaint about Mr. Romney and his colleagues isn’t that they destroyed jobs, but that they destroyed good jobs. When the dust settled after the companies that Bain restructured were downsized — or, as happened all too often, went bankrupt — total U.S. employment was probably about the same as it would have been in any case. But the jobs that were lost paid more and had better benefits than the jobs that replaced them. Mr. Romney and those like him didn’t destroy jobs, but they did enrich themselves while helping to destroy the American middle class. And that reality is, of course, what all the blather and misdirection about job-creating businessmen and job-destroying Democrats is meant to obscure.”

MoveOn has an ad up highlighting Romney’s Bain years and layoffs. “He’ll raid this country the way he raided this company,” one man says in the ad, adding, “I know what he says; I also know what happened.” Greg Sargent writes: “[T]he battle to define Romney’s Bain years will be epic, as central to the general election as the war over the meaning of John Kerry’s war service was in 2004. And it’s already looking like there will be a cast of the layoff victims themselves who will be willing tell the story. Indeed, if Dems have their way, these layoff victims will be this year’s version of the Swift Boat Vets.” (Hat tip: GOP 12.)

FYI: The MoveOn ad buy is a small one, however. 

“Newt Gingrich labeled Mitt Romney’s economic plan ‘timid.’ Rick Santorum told voters not to ‘settle for less.’ And Jon Huntsman urged them not to support a ‘coronation’ of the former Massachusetts governor,” the Boston Globe writes. “But Romney felt no need to mention his rivals here yesterday, training all of his fire on President Obama. He was so confident about his standing in the Granite State that he left for a short sojourn to South Carolina.”

The Boston Globe goes to South Carolina: “If a conservative rebellion is going to stop Mitt Romney from rolling to the nomination, Republicans say it is likely to start here, in this redder-than-red battleground state in the heart of the South.”

To that point, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports that social conservatives have been on the phone since Iowa talking about how to get Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry to drop out before it is too late to stop Mitt Romney. These social conservatives will be meeting in Texas next weekend -- and he said they would be talking to Gingrich and Perry at some point about coming together behind Rick Santorum before it is too late. But they acknowledge, however, that it's unlikely they can persuade them to drop out before South Carolina, which means their effort to unite against Romney could come too late.

SANTORUM: Channeling First Read, the AP writes, “Losing his Senate seat might have been the best thing that ever happened to Rick Santorum's bank account. In 2006, the Republican presidential hopeful earned about $200,000 from his Senate salary and book royalties. From January 2010 to August 2011, he earned at least $1.3 million as he cashed in on his 16 years in Congress by working as a corporate consultant, political pundit and board member.”

“Rick Santorum is loaded for bear at the GOP presidential debates tonight and tomorrow,” the New York Post writes. “Santorum was in his element yesterday as he browsed hunting rifles and compound bows at a sportsman shop in rural New Hampshire, saying he couldn’t wait for his rivals to come gunning for him at the debates. ‘This is how I prepare for debates,’ Santorum quipped amid a crush of reporters during a campaign stop at Pelletiers Sports in Jaffrey.”