Tales from the Trail

Gingrich cites Soros in attempt to paint Romney as “liberal”

When renowned investor George Soros referred to Newt Gingrich as an “extremist conservative” last week, he didn’t mean it as a compliment. But that hasn’t stopped Gingrich from wearing it as a mark of honor.

In an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Soros told Reuters Digital Editor Chrystia Freeland that in his view there wouldn’t be “all that much difference” between President Obama and a President Romney. But an “extremist conservative” like Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, he said, “would make a big difference.”

Gingrich, fighting to close the gap with frontrunner Mitt Romney a day ahead of the Florida primary, seized on his words, starting with an appearance on Good Morning America. Gingrich told host George Stephanopoulos that Soros “said publicly, in a Reuters interview on video, that he’s perfectly happy with either Obama or Romney, that they’re the same people. Minor differences. He said, ‘Gingrich, now, that would be real change.’”

“There are a lot of parallels between these two guys. Romneycare and Obamacare are essentially the same,” Gingrich said. “In the long run, the Republican Party is not going to nominate the founder of Romneycare, a liberal Republican who is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, and pro-tax increases. It ain’t gonna happen.”

Gingrich repeated the point at campaign events throughout the day, first in Jacksonville: “George Soros in Europe yesterday said it makes no difference to us whether it’s Romney or Obama, we can live with either one. But not Gingrich, that would be a real threat,’” Gingrich said. “It’s so perfect you’d think we made it up.’’

Ad connecting Romney to company in Medicare fraud case “mostly true”

Last week a public workers union launched a television ad that raised an old question about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s connection to Damon Corp, a company that defrauded Medicare by the millions while under the watch of Romney’s private equity firm Bain Capital. Thursday, the Super PAC Winning Our Future, which supports Romney’s Republican rival Newt Gingrich released the trailer for a campaign video titled “Blood Money” that echoes the same criticism.

The ad created by AFSCME equates Romney with Florida Governor Rick Scott whose approval rating is one of the lowest in the country. Scott is the former CEO of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA that became embroiled in a Medicare fraud case in the late 1990s.

A narrator speaking over black and white photos of Romney says he was director of Damon Corp, which was later fined $100 million for medicare fraud. Romney’s image morphs into that of Rick Scott as the narrator asks, “Corporate greed … Medicare fraud. Sound familiar?”

Candidates run Hispanic media gauntlet in Miami

The leading GOP presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, walked into the lion’s den today when they agreed – after much back and forth – to participate separately in a ‘Meet the Candidates’ event co-hosted by Univision Network, the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcast news outfit.

Univision is considered Public Enemy No. 1 by many in the GOP for its strong pro-immigrant advocacy on issues such as the DREAM Act and the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

The network is owned by a consortium led by Haim Saban, the billionaire head of New York private equity firm Saban Capital Group, who is reportedly a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and a major Democratic Party donor. GOP strategists describe him as the liberal media’s answer to Wall Street Journal owner and fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

Presidential candidates take on Castro in Florida

Republican White House contenders took the race to win their party’s nomination to Florida this week, where they tried to outdo each other on topics important to Floridians–including what to do about Cuba, the small, Communist, Spanish-speaking island that has long frustrated U.S. foreign policy.

In a debate on Monday in Tampa, the candidates took turns lambasting Castro and current U.S policy toward Cuba, striving to curry favor with conservative Cuban Americans who make up the majority of Florida’s 400,000-some Hispanic Republican voters.

Florida votes next in a primary race that has already had three different winners and is home to the country’s largest Cuban-American community–many of them former refugees who escaped the communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro. A 2011 poll by the University of Florida showed that 80 percent of Cuban Americans believe a decades-long U.S. trade embargo on the country has been ineffective.

Washington Extra – Timed release

Right before Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich tangle in tonight’s debate, we are supposed to get details of Gingrich’s work for troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac from his former consulting firm.

The disclosure could shed light on what work Gingrich did in exchange for $ 1.6 million in consulting fees. What it for his historical acumen, as he has claimed, or his influence in Washington, as rivals for the Republican presidential nomination charge?

It could be interesting fodder for the debate if it comes out by 9 pm EST. Or it might just disappear in the heavy news flowing from the debate, which suggests the former consulting firm is doing Gingrich a favor by coming out at this strategic time.

Romney presses Gingrich on Freddie Mac fees

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is turning the tables on Newt Gingrich, putting the squeeze on the former House Speaker to disclose details of his financial relationship with Freddie Mac.

The Romney camp scheduled a conference call Monday morning to talk to reporters about Gingrich’s work as a “historian” (quote marks supplied by the campaign) for the government-owned mortgage finance giant.

Romney campaign surrogates former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Will Weatherford, Speaker Designate of the Florida House of Representatives, will be on the conference call — with the call code name “Definitely Not a Lobbyist.”

Washington Extra – Home alone

When it comes to fixing the housing market in this election year, it’s a battle between the “ineffective” and the “do-nothing.”

President Obama’s relief measures for homeowners facing foreclosure have fallen far short of objectives. Republican candidates, meanwhile, prefer to let the marketplace work its magic. Prices will then hit bottom and begin to recover.

The hands-off approach might not cause too much damage to Republicans in South Carolina. But when the race moves to foreclosure-heavy states such as Florida and Nevada, Republican candidates could find themselves having to explain why they don’t want to help any homeowners.

Newt Super PAC imagines Romney-Obama debate

A Pro-Newt Super PAC posted an animated version of how a general debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee would look.

The video titled “Obama’s Dream Debate” shows a cartoon Obama, voiced remarkably well, not only trouncing Romney in a debate but pointing out just how much the two have in common.

Winning Our Future is the same PAC that made a short campaign film attacking Romney as a “corporate raider” while head of Bain Capital, an ad Gingrich eventually asked to be pulled because of inaccuracies.

By George, Romney would not be the richest U.S. president

A furor over his refusal to release his tax records has focused renewed attention on Mitt Romney’s vast personal fortune, which puts him in the top tier of wealthy Americans.

But Romney would not be the richest president in U.S. history if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee and defeats President Barack Obama (net worth: $5 million) in November. He’d be the second richest. And to find a wealthier one, in the long line of the mostly well-to-do men who have held the country’s highest office, you’d have to go way back. Way, way back, in fact — all the way to 1789, when George Washington became the first president.

The former private equity executive Romney is worth an estimated $250 million to $270 million, but his pile pales besides that of the father of his country, whose holdings are estimated at $525 million in today’s dollars. 

Sarah Palin: I’d vote for Gingrich “to keep things going”

Sarah Palin gave a qualifying endorsement of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Tuesday, a week after her husband also endorsed him.

In an interview with Fox television host Sean Hannity on Tuesday, Palin said that if she were a South Carolina voter she would cast her ballot for the former Speaker of the House in Saturday’s primary.

“If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep things going, I’d vote for Newt,” she said. Using a quote from the bible she said she wanted the race to continue because, “iron sharpens iron, steel sharpens steel.”