GREENVILLE, S.C. -- After days of watching his once-substantial lead in the Palmetto State slowly evaporate, Mitt Romney this morning opened a new front in his battle against Newt Gingrich; calling for the former speaker to release records of his dealings with failed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as Republican voters here headed for the polls.
"Speaker Gingrich worked for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. By the way, Didn't he say he was going to release information about his relationship there? Lets see what report he wrote for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Lets see what the conclusions were, what the contract looked like," Romney said at an event with volunteers at his Greenville headquarters. "I thought he said he was going to do that. Let's have him describe his relationships in Washington. If people think Washington is the answer, if people think someone who spent the great majority of their life in Washington, I'll be surprised."
Outside the event, Romney went even further in hitting Gingrich, repeating a line he first debuted in Thursday's debate meant to undercut Gingrich's role in the Reagan economy.
"I'd like to see what the report was that he provided to Freddie Mac. I'd like to see what he advised. He said he was an historian and just provided historical information, then he said he told them what they were doing was somehow not going to work. I'd like to see the report," Romney told reporters. "He also said that he was one of the authors of the Reagan revolution economically and created these jobs. Now that we've looked at the Reagan diaries and seen he's mentioned only once and in a way where Reagan said he was wrong, I'd like to see what he actually told Freddie Mac. Don't ya think we ought to see it? This is a big issue. We've got Washington insider talking about Freddie Mac, let's see what his report was to Freddie Mac, what he said to them, what advise he gave them."
The "Washington Insider" label Romney has deployed in recent days against Gingrich comes as he also attempts to claim the mantle of "Washington Outsider" long worn by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who dropped out of the presidential race on Thursday.
"In order for us to take a new direction in this country I believe we must step out of Washington," Romney said. "The people I'm running against -- all three -- have spent the great majority of their career working in Washington."
Romney's most prominent endorser in the state, Governor Nikki Haley also took up the call for Gingrich to release more information, making a veiled reference to the speaker while defending Romney's decision to release his own potentially damaging documents, his tax returns, in April.
"All this issue about the tax returns. He's doing it. He's going to do it in April. He's gonna show 'em and what we're going to see is that he was successful," Haley said at at the headquarters event. " We're going to see that he paid on time. We're going to see that he paid at the rate he was supposed to. What I will tell you is that we've got some other candidates who don't want to show things."
And while Haley told reporters after the event that Romney would win South Carolina "without question," the candidate himself looked to tamp down expectations and prod on his volunteers by reminding them of the results of the first nominating contest just two weeks ago.
"It has every indication this will be a very close race, so the work that you do can make the difference between winning and losing," Romney told his volunteers. "As we found out in Iowa, every vote counts."
Republican voters in the Palmetto State go to the polls today to cast ballots for their party's nominee for president this year. As NBC's Peter Alexander reports, Newt Gingrich's slim edge in the opinion polls is giving his campaign hope that the former speaker of the House of Representatives can win his first state race.