Bloomberg News

Gingrich Dubs Romney ‘Wall Street Elite’ Before Florida Vote

January 31, 2012

(Updates with Quinnipiac poll in seventh paragraph. For more 2012 campaign news, see ELECT.)

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Newt Gingrich, accusing Republican presidential primary opponent Mitt Romney of being a “fundamentally dishonest” tool of Wall Street, pledged to stop big banking firms such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. from “rigging the game.”

Pressing his underdog campaign into the last full day before Florida’s primary election tomorrow, Gingrich spoke of running a White House that would “challenge the system head- on” and disrupt the “Wall Street elite.”

“To the degree they survive by rigging the game,” Gingrich said in an interview with Bloomberg News, “they have a lot more to fear. To the degree that they’re willing to be in a very investment-oriented, high-tempo, entrepreneurial world, they have more to gain.”

Gingrich said his plans, like eliminating the capital gains tax and repealing the Wall Street regulations of the Dodd-Frank Act, would benefit the banking industry. Gingrich also said he’d consider new legislative changes, including replacement of the Glass-Steagall Act, a 1933 law that increased bank regulations and was repealed in 1999. He said he would stop deals like the $13 billion payment Goldman Sachs received for American International Group, Inc. investment guarantees after the bailed-out insurer received billions from the U.S. government.

Running Out of Cash

Gingrich is seeking to make up ground before Florida’s vote tomorrow. The former U.S. House speaker says he is down to about $600,000 after winning South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary and is spending money as fast as he can collect it. Gingrich, 68, says he probably trails Romney in Florida ballots cast at early- voting sites and through the mail. Almost 535,000 Florida Republicans already have voted.

Romney, 64, a former Massachusetts governor, leads Gingrich by 42 percent to 27 percent among likely Republican primary voters, according to an NBC News-Marist poll released yesterday. The survey of 682 likely Republican voters was conducted Jan. 25-27 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows similar results, with Romney over Gingrich by 43 percent to 29 percent. The telephone poll of 539 likely voters in the Republican primary was conducted Jan. 27-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Gingrich is “looking for some kind of excuse,” Romney told voters yesterday in Hialeah, Florida, a largely Cuban- American community northwest of Miami. “But I’m afraid the real reason he hasn’t been successful connecting with the people of Florida is because of his message, and his failure to connect with the needs of the people in this state.”

Freddie Mac

In Naples, Romney told voters yesterday that Gingrich was sinking in Florida because of his work for Freddie Mac, the federally tied home mortgage company. In Florida, 23 percent of mortgaged homes are delinquent or foreclosed upon, the most of any U.S. state, according to Jacksonville, Florida-based Lender Processing Services.

“Mr. Speaker, your trouble in Florida is not because the audience is too quiet or too loud, or because you have opponents that are tough,” Romney added, a reference to Gingrich’s nationally televised debate performances last week, which drew tepid responses from supporters.

“Your problem in Florida is that you worked for Freddie Mac at a time that Freddie Mac was not doing the right thing for the American people, and that you are selling influence in Washington at a time when we needed people to stand up for the truth in Washington,” Romney said.

‘Staring in Amazement’

If Gingrich appeared tired during the two debates during the week leading to Florida’s primary vote, he said he was simply “staring in amazement” at Romney.

“I’m standing there thinking to myself, ‘You think you can lie your way to the presidency? You think it’s possible in America today, even to be this dishonest?’” Gingrich said in the Bloomberg interview. “There was no way in that kind of setting to demonstrate to people what a fundamentally dishonest man I was up against.”

Gingrich said he went into the debates with one goal: “I didn’t want to get mad enough to lose my poise.”

“I felt that the Romney people had a very deliberate strategy. They’d all been talking about my temperament and they were looking for an excuse,” he said. “So I just wanted to be very calm no matter what. I spent a lot of my energy just staying disciplined.”

Gingrich yesterday renewed his criticism of what he described as a barrage of negative ads run against him, accusing Wall Street and Goldman Sachs of financing the attacks.

‘Carpet-Bombing’

“Romney has the ability to raise an amazing amount of money out of Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs, to all the major banks,” Gingrich said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. “And he has a basic policy of carpet-bombing his opponent.”

Gingrich continued his attacks yesterday outside a mega- church near Tampa and again at a rally that attracted more than 1,000 to The Villages, a retirement community northwest of Orlando.

“I am not running for president of the United States to make the Wall Street elite and the Washington elite happy,” Gingrich said at The Villages. “I am running to change both groups on behalf of the people of the United States of America.”

Asked to name the best-run national campaigns he’d seen or been a part of, Gingrich first named President Barack Obama’s primary campaign in 2008. He added Richard Nixon’s in 1972, with the exception of the Watergate scandal, Ronald Reagan’s in 1984 and George H.W. Bush’s in 1988.

Yet Gingrich refused to compare his campaign with those.

“I’m totally unique,” Gingrich said in an interview. “My campaign resembles nothing that has ever been run. It’s a very idea-oriented, Internet-based, constantly-evolving,” he said. “It’s organic.”

--With assistance from Alan Bjerga, Gopal Ratnam and Phil Mattingly in Washington and Lisa Lerer in Jacksonville, Florida. Editors: Robin Meszoly, Mark Silva

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael C. Bender in Tampa, Florida at mbender10@bloomberg.net; Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Pompano Beach, Florida at jdavis159@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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