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New numbers from Public Policy Polling (D) show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with a six point lead in a survey conducted over the last two days, after an impressive debate performance on Monday night. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 29 percent after leading the state for the last ten days, and has fallen to second in our TPM Poll Average.

PPP will continue polling on Friday, which will provide some insight on how South Carolina GOP voters saw the final debate in the state on Thursday night.

When questioned on his pro-life bona fides by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defended himself through a lengthy explanation of his role as Governor of a very blue state. Romney pointed out that there was no mention of abortion in the Massachusetts health care reform bill he signed, that he didn’t have a litmus test for judges, and he vetoed a bill that went to far on the morning after bill. But he also admitted he may not have to most stringent anti-abortion record.

“By the way, is there any possibility I’ve ever made a mistake in that regard? I didn’t see something I should have seen?” Romney asked rhetorically. “Possibly. You can count on me as president of the united states to pursue a policy that protects the life of unborn, whether here in this country or overseas. I’ll reverse the policies of this President.”

In a defense of his Massachusetts health care reform not having funded abortions, Mitt Romney actually used the word ‘RomneyCare’, for what just might have been the first time.

“I don’t feel like standing here for that but let me clarify the things which are wrong and what the Speaker just said. And he can get a scintilla of truth in there to make it seem like this is a significant issue. Let’s go through one by one. In RomneyCare, there’s no mention of abortion whatsoever.”

Updated 6:57 pm ET, Thursday, December 19

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

That seems to be the maxim of the shady online hacktivisit collective Anonymous at least, as several Twitter accounts that identified themselves as members of the loose-knit hacker group on Thursday boasted of taking down the websites of the U.S. Justice Department, the Recording Industry Association of America and Universal Music in retaliation for the U.S. government shutting down and charging its founders with extensive copyright violations.

Indeed, at the time of this post's publication, all of the websites were offline.

"Tango down! & #Megaupload," the Twitter account @AnonOps tweeted on late Thursday evening.

" & TANGO DOWN! You should have EXPECT US! #Megaupload," the account tweeted shortly thereafter.

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The Romney campaign is holding another conference call with reporters Friday, featuring Republican members of Congress who will lambast Newt Gingrich's leadership record. But they've picked some interesting names for it.

The Romney camp's press release announces: "On Friday, Congressmen Jeff Flake, Jason Chaffetz, and John Campbell will hold a press conference call to discuss Speaker Newt Gingrich's record as an unreliable leader."

However, none of these three men were in the House yet when Gingrich was Speaker, and thus did not serve under his leadership at all. Flake was first elected in 2000, Campbell in a 2005 special election, and Chaffetz in 2008.

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When pressed on the issue of illegal immigration in Thursday night’s debate, Newt Gingrich offered a novel idea for how to manage the logistics of a guest worker program in the United States.

“I favor a guest worker program. I would outsource it to American Express, Visa or Mastercard because they can run it without fraud and the federal government’s hopeless,” the former Speaker said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, when asked anything that he’d do differently in his 2012 campaign, Romney said “Work to get 25 more votes in Iowa, that’s for sure,” to laughter among the candidates and in the hall. Romney was referring to the fact that the Iowa Republican Party announced he won the state’s January 3rd caucuses by eight votes, only to say today that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum actually won by 34.

TPM has reported however that Santorum actually won by 69 votes.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had a lively attack at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during Thursday night’s CNN Republican debate in South Carolina — Santorum hit Gingrich on a bit of governmental sleaze, saying that Gingrich did nothing about the House Banking Scandal that hit in the early 1990s.

Santorum, referring to himself, said (from a rush transcript):

But you have to admit this freshman congressman who wasn't supposed to win a race came and did something you never did, which is blew the lid off the biggest scandal to hit the Congress in 50 years. You knew about it for 10 or 15 years because you told me you knew about it. And you did nothing because you didn't have the courage to stand up to your own leadership. The Democratic speaker of the house. Take to the floor of the senate. Demand the releasing of the checks that were being taken by members of congress. Risk your political career. Risk your promotion within the ranks. And that had more or as much to do with the 1994 win as any plan that you put together.

A primer on the scandal, from PBS:

“In 1992, many House members were suspected of bouncing checks from accounts they held at the so-called "House Bank” — a loose operation that allowed member of Congress to cash their checks but kept shoddy records and often were quite delayed in recording deposits or withdrawals.

Although the lawmakers had broken no laws and many did not even know they were bouncing checks, several took advantage of the bank system and many voters viewed the scandal as a blatant abuse of power.

Of the 296 sitting representatives and 59 former members who had overdrafted their personal accounts in the preceding 39 months, the House Ethics Committee released a list of the 24 worst abusers. Twenty were Democrats, although Republican Rep. Tommy Robinson of Arkansas was the worse offender, with 996 overdrafts."


Mitt Romney, under fire for thus far resisting to release his tax returns, said in the debate Thursday night that he would release his 2011 returns after they’re filed this year, in April. But he went a step further, saying he’d release his returns for “some other years as well.”

Rick Santorum used his experience in the House alongside Newt Gingrich to chide the former Speaker – in a not so subtle dig at the man with reputation for ego.

“Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich,” said Santorum.