TPM News

On Meet the Press, Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod discussed Romney’s tax returns and the fact that he paid a 13.9% effective tax rate. Asked if Romney broke any rules, Axelrod pushed back. “I’m not saying he didn’t play by the rules. The rules allow you to have Swiss bank accounts. The rules allow you to put your money in the Cayman Islands and to set up businesses in Bermuda and so on. The rules allow all of that. The question is are the rules right? He would continue those rules. They are not right. It’s not right that someone like Governor Romney can make $20, $22 million and pay an effective tax rate lower than the average middle class person in this country.”

On Meet the Press Sunday, the Romney and Gingrich campaigns sent their best surrogates to discuss the Florida primary and represent the two candidates. John McCain represented Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson represented Newt Gingrich. As Romney rises in the polls days before Tuesday’s primary, McCain played up the importance of Florida while Thompson downplayed its importance. If the polls are right, Romney will win Florida, Thompson conceded, and with that he’ll get about 10 percent of the delegates. Reducing Florida to simply a delegate count — rather than a momentum-buildling or breaking moment.

The two also disagreed over Newt Gingrich’s record. McCain stressed the government shutdown which was “killing” Republicans at the time, as well as Newt’s embrace of earmarks. Thompson countered that there is an argument that if they had held out longer on the shutdown, Clinton would have caved.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said on ABC’s This Week that the House will probably attach approval of the Keystone pipeline to its infrastructure bill set to be unveiled next week.

“All options are on the table,” Boehner told Jake Tapper. “If it’s not enacted before we take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, it’ll be part of it.”

The Speaker’s remarks indicate that the House GOP will continue to hammer the Keystone issue, in an effort to back President Obama into a corner.

In an interview on Face The Nation, Newt Gingrich further attacked Mitt Romney, accusing him of “using non-facts” to win the debates — declaring that such a strategy would destroy his own credibility.

“There are a series of things that happened in the debate, that are factually false,” Gingrich told Bob Schieffer. “This is a smart man, and as you pointed out he was well coached. He came into the debate prepared to say things that were clearly false.”

Gingrich also added: “I think someone running for President has a clear requirement to be honest. Because the only way you lead the American people is by having them believe in you.”

Newt Gingrich was interviewed on ABC’s This Week, during which he called Romney “fundamentally dishonest.”

Jake Tapper writes:

“I am saying that he would not be where he is today, the debates this week wouldn’t have been where they were, if he had told the truth,” Gingrich told me this morning on “This Week.” “And I think that’s a very serious problem for somebody.”

Gingrich said Romney has run a “campaign of vilification” that is based on “factually false” claims and “carpet-bombing with negative ads.” When I asked the former speaker if Romney had the character to be president, Gingrich said “it is a very serious problem.”

“You cannot be president of the United States if you cannot be honest and candid with the American people,” Gingrich told me.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal endorsed Mitt Romney, saying “Mr. Romney is pro-growth all the way. He wants the country to develop all its energy resources, not punish the oil, coal and gas sectors. He wants states and citizens to have more freedom to innovate. And perhaps most importantly, Mr. Romney is a Washington outsider, not a capital insider.” After Florida, the Nevada caucuses are on February 4.

On GPS with Fareed Zakaria, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner explained why he would leave his position at the end of Obama’s term. He had intended to leave earlier, he explained, but the President had asked him to stay longer, and they had agreed he would stay for the balance of Obama’s term. Geithner stressed that he and the rest of the cabinet serve “at the pleasure of the President.”

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Newt Gingrich was asked about his decline in the polls in Florida, where he had briefly led earlier last week after his big win in South Carolina.

“Look, Governor Romney has the ability to raise an amazing amount of money out of Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs to all the major banks,” said Gingrich. “And he has a policy of carpet-bombing his opponents. He doesn’t build up Mitt Romney, he tears down the people he’s running against. And it has an effect.

Gingrich also bemoaned that Rick Santorum was splitting the conservative vote: “Down here one of our challenges is the two major conservative candidates between us clearly beat Mitt Romney, and I think that’s a challenge.”

The Tampa Tribune endorsed Newt Gingrich on Sunday, saying he is the best candidate to “take the fight to President Barack Obama and his liberal agenda, and revive the nation’s sense of can-do optimism.” Finding Romney, the “Cool, cautious…safer choice,” the Tribune says, “if GOP primary voters want an innovative problem-solver with rock-solid conservative credentials, Gingrich is their man. He would shake things up in a hurry, and this is a nation that needs shaking.”

On Saturday, the Miami Herald endorsed Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination.

The Herald editors wrote that electability should be the number one issue in selecting a candidate. The Herald was critical and unenthusiastic about both candidates, pointing out that Romney has changed his positions, including his opposition to the Dream Act, but ultimately found Romney more electable: “Mr. Gingrich might be the feistier candidate, but if Republicans care about electability in November, Mr. Romney is the better choice.” They also found Gingrich’s rhetoric offensive: “Mr. Gingrich’s use of racially divisive code words like “food stamps” in reference to the NAACP was especially loathsome.”