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Ahead of Iowa Caucuses, it Could Still Be Anyone’s Game in GOP

December 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
On the heels of Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scored an endorsement from South Carolina's governor. Hari Sreenivasan reports on the latest in the race for the GOP nomination.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to campaign politics.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scored a governor’s endorsement today, on the heels of last night’s Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

Hari Sreenivasan has the latest on the race for the GOP nomination.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mitt Romney may not be leading in the polls, but he’s far ahead of the Republican pack when it comes to endorsements. And this afternoon in Greenville, S.C., he picked up another one Nikki Haley, the state’s first-term governor.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY, R-S.C.: I didn’t want anyone that had any ties to Washington, which — it’s chaotic enough. And what do we know? The biggest chaos we know right now in this country is Washington, D.C., and we don’t want any more of it.


HARI SREENIVASAN: The Haley nod came a day after Romney and the six other Republican contenders met in Iowa for their 13th debate of the year, and the last one before next month’s caucuses.

REP. RON PAUL, R-Texas, presidential candidate: You’re trying to dramatize this.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The event, broadcast on the FOX News Channel, included a number of sharp exchanges…

RICK SANTORUM, (R) presidential candidate: He personally as governor issued gay marriage licenses.

HARI SREENIVASAN: … between candidates looking to break into the top tier and the leading front-runners, Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann was asked if she could prove her accusation that Gingrich’s work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac amounted to influence-peddling.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-Minn., presidential candidate: Well, it’s the fact that we know that he cashed paychecks from Freddie Mac. That’s the best evidence that you can have.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) presidential candidate: That’s just not true. What she just said is factually not true. I never lobbied under any circumstance.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN: You don’t need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding. And the bidding was to keep this grandiose scam of Freddie Mac going.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Gingrich’s past work for the government-sponsored enterprise, and the $1.6 million he received as payment, also came under fire from Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

REP. RON PAUL: It’s literally coming from the taxpayer. They went broke. We had to bail them out. So, indirectly, that was money that he ended up getting. They’re still getting money from us.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Gingrich was also asked by the moderators to respond to recent attacks leveled by Romney that he is an unreliable conservative.

NEWT GINGRICH: It’s sort of laughable to suggest that somebody who campaigned with Ronald Reagan and with Jack Kemp and has had a 30-year record of conservatism is somehow not a conservative?

HARI SREENIVASAN: But former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said Gingrich’s record warranted additional scrutiny.

RICK SANTORUM: The speaker had a conservative revolution against him when he was the speaker of the House. I had conservatives knocking down my door because I was the effective advocate for the principles that they believed in.

HARI SREENIVASAN: FOX News moderator Chris Wallace pressed Romney to explain his shifting views on abortion, gay marriage and gun rights. Romney asserted that he had been consistent on two of the three, admitting to only a change on abortion.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) presidential candidate: I have learned over time, like Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and others, my experience in life over, what, 19 — 17, 18, 19 years has told me that sometimes I was wrong. Where I was wrong, I have tried to correct myself.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, meanwhile, made an unusual appeal to religious voters, likening himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, a born-again Christian with a knack for comebacks late in the game.

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-Texas, presidential candidate: I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.

HARI SREENIVASAN: With recent polls in Iowa showing the race there narrowing, the contest could still be anyone’s game.