Campaigning in South Carolina on Saturday, Mitt Romney once again questioned Newt Gingrich’s work for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac, but mainly reserved his fire for President Obama – accusing him of failing to effectively corral Congress to pass measures that would improve the economy.
Romney has dialed back his attacks on Gingrich in recent days and made no mention of his rival, who is leading by double digits in polls here. But asked after a forum in Charleston whether he believed Gingrich had lobbied for the group, Romney revived his weeklong feud with Gingrich over their private sector work.
"I'm going to let the lawyers decide what is and what is not lobbying," Romney said after he was asked by a reporter whether he would define Gingrich’s work as lobbying. "But you know, when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck. It's a duck."
Gingrich, whose firm collected $1.6 million from Freddie Mac for its services, has insisted that he never lobbied for the mortgage giant – and merely gave them strategic advice.
When Romney suggested earlier this week that he should return the money his firm earned from Freddie Mac, Gingrich criticized Romney’s role at Bain Capital, a leveraged buyout firm that Romney headed for 15 years, suggesting that he might listen to Romney’s advice if he returned the money "he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain." Romney has argued his work turning companies around and making them more efficient created tens of thousands of jobs.
The former Massachusetts governor held a wide-ranging forum in Charleston on Saturday morning hosted by Rep. Tim Scott, who read all of the questions that he said had been submitted by the audience. At one point Scott asked Romney to react to the breaking news that Congress had reached a short-term deal to preserve President Obama’s payroll tax cut, which amounts to a $1,000 average tax break for working Americans. (The Senate passed the temporary extension Saturday morning – sending the measure to the House).
Romney has referred to measures like the payroll tax cut extension as a “temporary little Band-Aids,” but has said he would support it.
He suggested that the short-term deal was a result of what he describes as Obama’s failed leadership style, as well as the gridlock in Congress.
"It’s hard to expect a bunch of kitty cats to all come together and march in lock step," he said. "So the only way you can herd cats, as difficult as it is, is to have a leader… who knows how to bring people together and find some common ground, maybe some catnip."
"Why in the world this president is having such a difficult time actually leading may be the result of the fact that he’s constantly demonizing and attacking," Romney said. "He ran as a president who was going to bring us all together – remember that? – and over the last three years all he’s done is attack one group after the other inside this country. It seems to be his normal pattern – attack Americans, attack Americans, divide Americans. That is not the American way to success and greatness."