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Florida GOP debate: Romney assails Gingrich record at House, Freddie Mac (+video)

Mitt Romney landed plenty of blows to Newt Gingrich's record during Monday's GOP debate in Tampa, Fla. Gingrich has described his role at Freddie Mac as 'strategic adviser;' Romney calls it 'influence-peddling.' 

By Staff writer / January 24, 2012

Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, take part in a GOP debate Monday, at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla., as moderator Brian Williams of NBC News listens.

Paul Sancya/AP



Mitt Romney came ready to rumble. 

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In a bid to retake the lead for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Romney went after Newt Gingrich Monday night for his controversial tenure as speaker of the House, lucrative consulting for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, and other work Romney derided as “influence-peddling.”

Mr. Gingrich fought back, but without the verve that fueled his decisive victory over Romney in last Saturday’s South Carolina primary. The GOP debate in Tampa, the first of two before Florida’s Jan. 31 primary, was generally a subdued affair, without the raucous audience reactions of previous faceoffs. But Romney landed plenty of blows.

“I learned something from that last contest in South Carolina, and that was I had incoming from all directions, was overwhelmed with a lot of the attacks,” said Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. “And I'm not going to sit back and get attacked day in and day out without returning fire.”

Within hours, though, Romney buried his own debate headlines by putting out his 2010 and 2011 tax returns – a treasure trove of financial data on one of the wealthiest presidential contenders in history. Romney and his wife, Ann, reported income of $21.7 million in 2010 and $20.9 million in 2011, according to a preview provided to the Washington Post late Monday.

Because most of that income came from investments, the Romneys’ effective tax rate was well below that of most Americans, who work for a living. In 2010, the rate was 13.9 percent and in 2011, 15.4 percent.

Romney had come under intense pressure to release his returns for the first time in his political career, and stumbled badly in the debates last week as his halting answers on whether and when he would release his returns made it appear he had something to hide. On Monday night, Romney said he was “proud” that he pays a lot of taxes.

“I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more,” Romney said. “I don't think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”

Earlier, Romney had stated that the two returns out Tuesday will be it – no release of 12 years’ worth of tax returns, as his father, George Romney, did during his presidential campaign in 1967. The Democrats are now pounding on Romney to release more returns.


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