Following his win in the state's GOP primary, Newt Gingrich addresses… (Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer…)
Newt Gingrich said Monday that he’s more than willing to see his consulting contract with Freddie Mac be made public in advance of the Florida primary, although the Republican presidential candidate maintained that the decision to do so is out of his hands.
In the wake of Gingrich’s win Saturday in South Carolina, rival Mitt Romney’s campaign has seized on the Freddie Mac issue as a means to retaliate against Gingrich over his continual pressing of Romney to release his tax returns.
"I’m very comfortable with it being released," Gingrich said on ABC’s "Good Morning America," referring to contracts detailing the work he performed for the mortgage giant. At a rally in Florida on Sunday evening, Romney claimed that Gingrich worked as lobbyist for Freddie Mac, something the former House speaker has has denied.
"I did no lobbying, period. He keeps using the word 'lobbyist' because I’m sure his consultants tell him it scores well,” Gingrich said. "It’s not true. He knows it’s not true. He's deliberately saying things he knows are false."
Gingrich suggested that Romney is "fundamentally not honest" and again turned the issue to Romney’s tax returns, which the former Massachusetts governor has said will be made public on Tuesday.
"Here’s somebody who has released none of his business records who decided to make a stand on transparency without being transparent," Gingrich said.
Gingrich said that because he has cut ties with his consultancy, the Center for Health Transformation, it’s not his decision whether the contracts with Freddie Mac can be released. He said his attorneys are working with the organization on the issue.
The Gingrich-Romney spat over Freddie Mac suggests that the next eight days in the run-up to the Jan. 31 Florida primary could be marked by brutal, scorched-earth warfare. (Romney also said Sunday that Gingrich resigned as speaker in 1998 "in disgrace.") Two new polls, one by Rasmussen Reports and one by the firm Insider Advantage show Gingrich with an early lead over Romney in the state. (Both firms use automated surveys, which are considered less reliable than personal interviews.)
Expect Gingrich to do a lot of free-media interviews over the next two weeks as one way to combat Romney’s financial and organizational advantages in Florida. And Monday night will bring the first of two Sunshine State debates -- Gingrich’s favorite sport. Romney likely will go heavy and hard at Gingrich over Freddie Mac.
But Gingrich is clearly relishing his new-found perch in the race, tweaking Romney as the favorite candidate of the GOP power structure. "You’re going to see the establishment go wild over the next week or two," he said on "Good Morning America," suggesting that they are "very frightened" of "the idea of a Newt Gingrich presidency actually changing Washington.”