Newt Gingrich Faces Questions About His Past (The Note)

Nov 16, 2011 8:58am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

Well, that was fast.

Newt Gingrich spent much of Monday and Tuesday touting his surge in the Republican presidential primary race, but thanks to a Bloomberg News report that broke overnight, he’s going to spend much of today trying to explain his prior work with the mortgage company Freddie Mac.

Bloomberg’s Clea Benson and Dawn Kopecki noted last night that the former House Speaker “made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with” Freddie Mac — an amount that was “significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about” during a recent GOP presidential debate. http://bloom.bg/vzkzES

On the campaign trail in Iowa on Tuesday, Gingrich responded to an earlier report about his work with the mortgage giant.

“I’ve never lobbied,” Gingrich told reporters. “I just want to make it very clear, there were no contracts at any time we took with anyone that involved lobbying. We were always very clear about that.”

He added, “I offered strategic advice over a period of time,” but declined to say whether he warned to company of the coming housing bubble — a statement he made at last week’s presidential debate in Michigan.

According to the Bloomberg writers, “Former Freddie Mac executives who worked with Gingrich dispute that account.” Gingrich’s spokesman said he disputed the account in the Bloomberg story, but neither the Gingrich campaign nor Freddie Mac offered specifics.

The report has the potential to tarnish the image Gingrich has been trying to build since he left government and as he’s campaigned for president. And it points to a major vulnerability: his past.

As Gingrich, himself, said in an interview with Fox News on Monday night in reference to all the writing he has done in his career: “The fact is you go through all that stuff, you are going to find plenty of things to throw at me.”

The throw-stuff-at-Newt period of the Republican nominating contest appears to upon us.

 

OBAMA FALLS BEHIND IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. “Driven down by economic forces, President Barack Obama is running poorly in New Hampshire, a state he carried in 2008 and one that has been a swing state in recent presidential elections,” reports Bloomberg’s Mike Dorning. “Obama trails Republican Mitt Romney among likely general election voters in the state by 10 percentage points in a hypothetical contest amid voter discontent with the president’s job performance and the economy, according to a Bloomberg News poll conducted Nov. 10-11. Obama carried New Hampshire by 54 percent to 45 percent in 2008. Independent voters in the state, the site of the nation’s first presidential primary, have swung even more strongly against Obama. Romney would win independents there by 15 percentage points, the poll shows.” http://bloom.bg/uJTDg7

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE: “On Tuesday, November 22nd, President Obama will travel to Manchester, New Hampshire where he will discuss the American Jobs Act.  More information will be released as soon as it becomes available.”

@jamiedupree: New Bloomberg poll in New Hampshire has Romney 40, Paul 17, Gingrich 11, Cain 8, Huntsman 7, Perry 3, Bachmann 2

 

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”:  ABC’s Rick Klein interviews presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s daughters: Abby, Liddy and Mary Anne Huntsman. Together they have won attention for father’s presidential bid with their irreverent videos and Twitter feed. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc 

 

DISPATCHES FROM DOWN UNDER. Our ABC News White House team is traveling with President Obama on his trip to Australia and Asia this week. Here’s what they’re hearing:

Seeking to Contain China, U.S. to Establish Permanent Military Presence Down Under: “By mid-2012, a company-sized rotation of Marines, between 200-250, will be stationed at an Australian military base in the Northern territory. That will ramp up to a full force of 2,500 Marine personnel as part of a Marine, Air, Ground Task Force,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. “In addition, the US Air Force will be able to use Australian Air Force facilities significantly more than it does now. ‘This rotational deployment is significant because what it allows us to do, is to not only build capacity and cooperation between our two countries, but it also allows us to meet the demands of a lot of partners in the region that want to feel that they’re getting the training, they’re getting the exercises, and that we have the presence that’s necessary to maintain the security architecture in the region,’ the president said at a joint press conference at the Australian Parliament.” http://abcn.ws/s6LPO5

White House Says Each City Should Determine How To Handle Occupy Protests: “Following the police raid on Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York, the White House said it’s up to each city to determine how to handle the demonstrations,” notes ABC’s Mary Bruce. “‘The President’s position is that obviously every municipality has to make its own decisions about how to handle these issues,’ White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.” http://abcn.ws/vqNeRY

 

THE BUZZ

FLUBS WORRY GOP STALWARTS. “The Republican presidential candidates have served comedians a full platter of laughs this year — a steady diet of gaffes, misstatements, puzzled looks and long, awkward pauses,” The New York Times’ Michael Shear reports. “But the embarrassing moments are piling up, and some veteran Republicans are beginning to wonder whether the cumulative effect weakens the party brand, especially in foreign policy and national security, where Republicans have typically dominated Democrats. ‘It is an ‘Animal House.’ It’s a food fight,’ said Kenneth Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. ‘Honestly, the Republican debates have become a reality show. People have to be perceived as being capable of governing this country, of being the leader of the free world.’” http://nyti.ms/sYOI7X

HARRY REID PESSIMISTIC ABOUT SUPERCOMMITTE’S WORK. “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  was pessimistic that the 12-member Super Committee, which he said is currently in a “headlock,” would be able to broker a bipartisan deficit reduction deal by next Wednesday. But he rejected calls to bypass painful spending cuts that would result if no deal is reached,” ABC’s Sunlen Miller writes. “‘So far, I’ve not seen indication the Republicans are willing to agree to this balanced approach,’ a grim Reid said. “If the committee fails to act, sequestration is going to go forward.’ Sequestration is the process by which across-the-board cuts in government spending would enacted starting in the 2013 spending year. The cuts will automatically kick in if the Super Committee cannot reach a deal to reduce the deficit by between $1.2 trillion. In the face of a stalemate of the committee, some members of Congress have suggested that Congress could move to bypass the automatic spending cuts as a way to avoid the devastating automatic spending cuts to defense and non-defense spending that would take place in 2013.” http://abcn.ws/vzNjfW

GOP FRESHMAN FUNDRAISING FALLS BEHIND. “Two-thirds of the Republican freshmen who captured Democratic-held seats in the GOP’s 2010 takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives saw their fundraising dip in the past quarter, campaign-finance reports show,” according to USA Today’s Fredreka Schouten. Several of the new incumbents, including Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, in a rematch with former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, have been significantly outraised by their challengers. In addition, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took in nearly twice as much campaign cash as House Republicans in September — a sign Democratic donors are energized, despite low poll rankings for Congress and President Obama. Democrats need 25 seats to retake control of the House after losing more than 60 to Republicans last year in a wave of voter anger with Washington. ‘A deep sense of buyer’s remorse has set in across the country toward Republicans,’ said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who oversees House campaign efforts for Democrats.” http://usat.ly/t9qMNb

C-SPAN PUSHES FOR TELEVISED SUPREME COURT HEARING. “Ruling on the health reform law is sure to be one of the most important Supreme Court cases of this generation and the court has budgeted more than 5 hours for the arguments. When the court decides next year if the government can require every American to buy health insurance or pay a fee, they’ll make a decision that affects every citizen in the country,” ABC’s Ariane de Vogue notes. “But unless the court changes current policy, none but the few Americans able to score a ticket or stand in line will be able to watch the arguments. C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts today asking him to permit C-SPAN to televise the health care oral arguments, which pit lawyers for 26 states the federal government. “We believe the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument” Lamb says in the letter and adds the case ‘will affect every American’s life, our economy, and will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign.’ No hearing at the Supreme Court has ever been televised.” http://abcn.ws/un9yIt

 

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: FROM THE LEFT.

DNC RELEASES NEW ANTI-ROMNEY SPOT: The DNC released a new web video today titled, ‘Mitt Romney: Our Veterans Deserve Better.’ The video highlights Mitt Romney’s ill-timed Veterans’ Day proposal to provide veterans with vouchers for the medical care.  This is the same Mitt Romney who wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program, who wants to let homeowners hit rock bottom, thinks middle class tax cuts are ‘little bandaids’ and who made a fortune breaking up companies and shipping jobs overseas.” http://bit.ly/w1QFs3

HEALTH CARE GROUP, UNIONS PRESSURE LAWMAKERS ON MEDICARE: “The advocacy group, Americans United for Change, SEIU and AFSCME are going up with three new ads today pressuring Republicans — Scott Brown, Dean Heller and Denny Rehberg — not to cut Medicare.” Here’s the ad against Scott Brown: http://bit.ly/sU2N5t

MILLIONAIRES TELL CONGRESS: ‘TAX ME!’: “Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength – a group of people with incomes over $1 million who want to pay hire taxes — will descend on Washington to testify at a hearing called by the Progressive Caucus. Immediately following the hearing at about 12:30pm ET, these Patriotic Millionaires will hold a press conference and then embark on a day of meetings with Super Committee Members and their staffs, Congressional leaders, Tea Party Caucus members, and tax lobbyist Grover Norquist where they will convey a simple message: Any deal super committee deal that does not include higher taxes for millionaires should be killed.”

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@mattklewis: Exclusive Interview: Jon Huntsman refuses to be interesting -dailycaller.com/2011/11/15/jon…

@ChadPergram: In light of 60 Minutes report, Gillibrand, Tester and Stabenow introduce bill to ban members from engaging in insider trading.

@nationaljournal: Advice to Romney: Don’t be afraid to lose. njour.nl/vgsY7w

@BenLaBolt: Welcome Rob Diamond, who is spearheading Veterans and Military Families for Obama: barackobama.com/people/veterans

@JNSmall: Congratulations to my friend Ryan Loskarn, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander’s newest chief of staff!

 

POLITICAL RADAR.

*Herman Cain has a busy day of campaign events in Florida where he’ll start the day in Miami. Cain ends Wednesday with a pricey fundraiser in Palm Beach, costing $999.00 a plate.

*Rick Perry will host two town hall meetings in New Hampshire.

*Newt Gingrich is in Iowa where he’ll headline a fundraiser for State Senate candidate Jeff Mullen.

*Ron Paul will deliver two major policy speeches in Washington DC. The speeches will be delivered to the National Association of Home Builders and the Congressional Health Care Caucus.

*Rick Santorum is campaigning in Iowa where he’ll attend six events with voters.

*Jon Huntsman is in Derry New Hampshire where he’ll hold a town hall at Gilbert H. Middle School.

*Michelle Bachmann will meet with voters at two events in Iowa and then attend a house party for State Senator Brad Zaun.

Check out The Note’s Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

 

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* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics

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