The MORNING LINE -- November 18, 2011 at 8:08 AM ET
Gingrich's Business Dealings Scrutinized
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images.
When Newt Gingrich was preparing to launch a run for the White House earlier this year, part of the delay was reportedly his need to unwind the financial entanglements from his multi-million dollar business operation.
Those dealings could now be what slows down his presidential bid.
The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reports that one Gingrich think tank, the Center for Health Transformation, "collected at least $37 million over the past eight years from major health-care companies and industry groups, offering special access to the former House speaker and other perks."
The money matters, to be sure, but the policies advocated by the group are what could really get Gingrich into trouble.
More from Eggen:
The health center advocated, among other things, requiring that "anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond," a type of insurance mandate that has since become anathema to conservatives.
The group also pushed proposals to build centralized electronic medical records and use such data to research treatment effectiveness, both central features of President Obama's health-care reforms.
Gingrich has been one of the harshest critics of the president's health care reform law, calling it a "disaster" and referring to the individual mandate as "blatantly unconstitutional." Such statements could leave Gingrich open to charges of hypocrisy from his Republican rivals.
The story about Gingrich's health care group comes the same week that Bloomberg News reported he earned as much as $1.8 million in consulting fees from the government-sponsored mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich has been sharply critical of the entity throughout the campaign.
Two national polls released by CNN and Fox News this week show Gingrich with more than 20 percent support. He trails Mitt Romney by two percentage points in the CNN survey -- 24 to 22 percent -- and holds a one-point lead over Romney -- 23 to 22 percent -- in the Fox poll.
Gingrich is a known quantity to most Republican voters, so it's hard to imagine his past hasn't been factored into their decision to support him of late. The question is whether that support will hold as new information comes to light about Gingrich's past business dealings.
THE HITS KEEP COMING
Herman Cain had another rocky day on the campaign trail in New Hampshire Thursday and produced a few new memorable quote gems along the way.
Politico reports that during a stop in Nashua, Cain rejected criticism of his most recent gaffe -- when he had difficulty answering a question from the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his position on President Obama's handling of Libya.
Cain told the New Hampshire crowd: "Who knows every detail of every country on the planet? Nobody!"
"We need a leader, not a reader," Cain declared.
Steve Peoples of the Associated Press reports that Cain also dismissed the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
"The people that are on the Cain train, they don't get off because of that crap," he said.
And that wasn't the only news Cain made during his Granite State visit. He also snubbed the influential Manchester Union Leader editorial board by skipping an endorsement meeting. The newspaper's endorsement is coveted by conservative candidates seeking the presidency.
Mike Memoli of the Los Angeles Times reports the Cain campaign wanted to change the terms of the meeting in the wake of the Journal Sentinel embarrassment:
After the Journal Sentinel interview was released, Cain's campaign contacted the Union Leader to say they would not allow C-SPAN cameras to be present for the session, as they had been for meetings with other candidates.
The campaign again contacted the paper to say that rather than the hourlong interview they had agreed to, Cain would be available for only 20 minutes. (Union Leader Editorial Editor Drew) Cline said they told Cain's campaign it was "not worth our time to do it for 20 minutes." The campaign promised to get back to them, but never did.
"We thought they were coming. I don't know what happened," Cline said, chalking it up to a "communications failure on their end."
The Cain campaign announced late Thursday that it would no longer allow videotaping of Cain's editorial board meetings.
These events, rolled together with some of Cain's past gaffes, present a picture of an unprepared candidate who appears to prefer shooting from the hip, regardless of the potential consequences. Such missteps, combined with his handling of the harassment accusations, appear to be taking their toll on Cain, whose standing in the polls is headed in the wrong direction.
PELOSI VS. PERRY
Give Round 1 to the House minority leader.
On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a letter challenging her to a debate in Washington next Monday.
In it, Perry wrote:
I am in Washington Monday and would love to engage you in a public debate about my Overhaul Washington plan versus the congressional status quo. I think it would be a tremendous service to the American public to see a public airing of these differences. Let the people decide. If Monday doesn't work, perhaps we could find a time in Iowa over the course of the next month to discuss these issues in front of the people of America's heartland.
Should you choose to not respond or engage in such a healthy discussion, I will take it to mean you will continue your obstructionist ways in the face of much needed Washington reform.
You can read the entire letter here, courtesy of The Hill.
Perry's "Overhaul Washington" proposal calls for making Congress a part-time body and cutting the salaries for lawmakers in half.
Pelosi was asked Thursday during her weekly press conference if she planned to accept the challenge from the GOP presidential contender.
"Well, he did ask if I could debate here in Washington on Monday. It is my understanding that such a letter has come in. Monday I'm going to be in Portland in the morning. I'm going to be visiting some of our labs in California in the afternoon. That's two. I can't remember what the third thing is I'm going to be doing," Pelosi said, poking fun at Perry's recent debate flub when he couldn't name the third federal agency he would eliminate as president.
The dig by Pelosi is the latest sign that while Perry's "oops" moment may have lasted only 53 seconds, it doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.
TAKING A BREAK
A note to our readers: The Morning Line will be going dark next week for Thanksgiving. We will return the Monday after the holiday.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama is in Indonesia for the ASEAN Summit.
Rick Santorum campaigns in Iowa, holding a meet-in-greet in West Burlington at 8:30 a.m., and hosting four town halls: in Mt. Pleasant at 11 a.m., Washington at 1 p.m., Ottumwa at 3:30 p.m. and Knoxville at 6:30 p.m.
Rick Perry speaks at the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation luncheon in New York at 12 p.m.
Mitt Romney is in New Hampshire, where he attends a Manchester Chamber of Commerce forum at 1:40 p.m.
Ron Paul holds three campaign events in Iowa: in Vinton at 2 p.m., Anamosa at 5 p.m. and Cedar Rapids at 8 p.m.
Newt Gingrich hosts a documentary film screening in Cambridge, Mass., at 5 p.m.
Herman Cain delivers remarks at the "Restoration Weekend" in Palm Beach, Fla.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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