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Speaking of homeowners struggling to keep their homes, Romney responded to a question about helping them. “Help them? Of course we help them.” How, Romney gave a list: crack down on fraud, get government out of the way, try to get more flexibility from banks, get economy going again. And repeal Dodd-Frank, which he says made it harder for banks.

In October 2011, Romney said this about the housing crisis: “don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.”

Rand Paul "won" the day today, at least in TPM's view. After a run-in with a scanner at an airport he embarked on a fully fledged one-man war against the "out of control" TSA "police state" that would have made his father, Ron Paul, proud.

And speaking of presidential candidates, the pundits were busy doing a scan of their own: scanning Florida for signs of who might win the coming Romney-Gingrich showdown.

Here's what their penetrating X-ray vision uncovered...

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Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich tangled over whether Gingrich took money to lobby members of Congress to support Medicare Part D.

“We have Congressmen who say you lobbied them with regard to Medicare Part D,” Romney said, prompting an indignant reply from Newt, who said “Romney "jumped a long way over here, friend.”

“I have always publicly favored a stronger Medicare program,” Gingrich said.“I wrote a book in 2002 called Saving Lives And Saving Money…I’ll say this in Florida. I’m proud that I publicly advocated Medicare Part D. It saved lives. It’s run on a free enterprise model, includes health savings accounts and includes Medicare alternatives which gave people choices.”

Gingrich added that “It is not correct to describe public citizenship having public advocacy as lobbying. Every citizen has the right to do it.”

But Romney said that Gingrich, by accepting money from health care companies at his various companies, crossed the line.

“Here’s why it’s a problem,” Romney said. “If you’re getting paid by health companies. If your entities are getting paid by health companies that could benefit from a piece of legislation and you then meet with republican congressmen and encourage them to support the legislation you can call it whatever you’d like. I call it influence peddling. It is not right. It is not right. You have a conflict. You are being paid by companies at the same time you’re encouraging people to pass legislation which is in their favor.”

Mitt Romney came down hard on Newt Gingrich, accusing him of being a lobbyist, not an historian, as Gingrich claims. “They dont pay peopel 25k a month for six years as historians,” said Romney. “They werent hiring you as a historian.”

At the NBC debate, Newt Gingrich continued to deny any accusation that he had acted as a lobbyist for Freddie Mac, as part of his consulting and advisory work for them.

“You know, there’s a point in this process where it gets unnecessarily personal and nasty, and that’s sad,” said Gingrich, adding that he had brought to the job his long career of serving in the House of Representatives from Georgia, and as Speaker.

“I think it’s pretty clear to say that I have never ever gone and done any lobbying. In fact, we brought in an expert on lobbying law to our staff,” he said, and that expert would be prepared to testify that he explained the “bright line” between what a person can do as a private citizen, and what would qualify a person as a lobbyist.

In an odd moment, Mitt Romney suggested he would use the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission’s report as a model for tax reform. “We need to go back to that, get our rates down, and get a pro-growth tax policy in this country,” he said. But oddly enough, the report suggested raising tax revenue overall — close to $1 trillion from 2012 to 2020 — in order to reduce the deficit. Romney has insisted he opposes tax increases of all kinds, so it’s likely his proposal is a ways off from the report.

Discussing their tax plans at the NBC debate, Mitt Romney asked Newt if his plan included zero capital gains tax. When Newt said yes, Romney replied that under Newt’s tax plan he would have paid zero taxes over the last two years.

Watch the vid below:



In his first response during NBC’s Monday night debate, Ron Paul weighed in on a discussion among the other candidates about Newt Gingrich’s tenure as speaker and the circumstances under which he left the House. The gist, says Paul, is that Gingrich didn’t become speaker for another two years because “He didn’t have the votes.” Here’s a rough transcript:



I do want to address the earlier discussion that you had about 1997. I had been out of congress for 12 years. I went back in 1996 and arrived in '97. It was chaotic, let me tell you. It was a mess for 12 years. Newt had a big job on his hands but he really had to attack the conservatives. He did it boldly. Quite frankly, I think the reason -- he didn't not run for speaker, you know, two years later. He didn't have the votes. That was what the problem was. So this idea that he voluntarily reneged and he was going to punish himself because we didn't do well in the election. That's not the way it was.

At the NBC debate, Newt Gingrich responded forcefully to Mitt Romney’s attacks on his record as Speaker, and the circumstances under which he was reprimanded by the House, and under which he resigned after the the 1998 elections.

“He said at least four things that are false,” he said of one Romney answer. “I don’t want to waste the time on it.” Instead, he pointed viewers to his website, Newt.org, where comprehensive answers would be posted.

After Romney repeated his charges that Republicans had voted to reprimand Gingrich on ethics charges, Gingrich fired back. “First of all, he may have been a good financier. He’s a terrible historian.”

Gingrich said he had personally directed Republicans to vote for the reprimand, in order to put the Democratic-mounted ethics charges behind them — which Gingrich said were the result of Democrats being “very bitter” at his having led Republicans into their first majority in 40 years. “See, you have all this stuff jumbled up, apparently consultants aren’t very good historians. And you ought to look at the facts.”

He then compared his electoral record in 1998, when he resigned — “we had won the house in 1998, but the margin wasn’t big enough” — to Romney’s electoral record: “In the years when you were head of the Republican Governors Association, we lost governorships. And when you were Governor of Massachusetts, we lost seats in the legislature.”

At the NBC debate, Brian Williams asked Newt Gingrich about Mitt Romney’s attacks that Gingrich was “erratic,” a “failed leader,” and that his nomination would result in “an October Surprise every day.” In the ensuing conversation, Gingrich likened himself to Ronald Reagan — and also sought to explain his own resignation as Speaker in 1998, when he was forced out by House Republicans.

“Well in 1980, when Ronald Reagan started the year about 30 points behind Jimmy Carter, and when the Republican establishment described his ideas as "voodoo economics,” Reagan went out and won the debates, won the nomination, and won the general election — and carried more states than Franklin Roosevelt did against Herbert Hoover."

He also said that this kind of leadership “may make the Washington establishment uncomfortable, but is also the type of bold lead the American people want. they’re not sending someone to Washington to manage the decay, they’re sending someone there to change it.”

And regarding his having resigned in 1998: “I left the Speakership after the 1998 election, because I took responsibility for the fact that our result wasn’t as strong as it should have been,” compared to how Nancy Pelosi has continued as House Minority Leader after her party lost control of the House outright.

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