TAMPA, Fla. -- After he walked to a mic stand to meet reporters, it took Mitt Romney all of 30 seconds to segue from his citizen roundtable to the perfidy of his main Florida rival.
"I wish Speaker Gingrich were here this morning to listen to those stories," said Romney. "He said in a debate, actually, that people who profited from the failed model of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae ought to give back their money. Well, the speaker made $1.7 million in his enterprises for providing services to Freddie Mac. He ought to give it back. And we ought to be able to see what it is he told them."
What did he want to see? Everything. After all, he would release his 2010 tax returns on Tuesday. (The delay and the timing -- on the day of the year's biggest psuedo-event -- were because that was the day his trust's manager could do it.)
"He's got some records that might represent an October surprise," said Romney of Gingrich. "We could see an October surprise once a day from Newt Gingrich. Let's see the records from his ethics investigation. Let's see who his clients were. At the time he was lobbying Republican congressmen for Medicare Part D, was he working, or were his entities, working with any health care companies that could have benefitted from that? That could represent not just evidence of lobbying, but potentially wrongful activity of some kind."
Wrongful activity? In a small gaggle after Romney's exist, his adviser Eric Ferhnstrom left that meaning open to the darkest possible interpretation. It was impossible to know Gingrich's issues, he said, unless every shred of info about the 1990s ethics investigations were put out.
"We want to know what Nancy Pelosi knows," said Fehrnstrom. He was referring to an offhand comment the Democratic leader made last year, that she'd served on the team investigating Gingrich and knew how much dirt there was. "When Pelosi said that, Newt got very upset."
Associated Press reporter Kasie Hunt asked Ferhnstrom a natural follow-up: Should Romney give back money he made in an investment fund that included Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
"You cannot find a money market fund in this country that doesn't include Fannie or Freddie paper," said Fehrnstrom. "They dominate the commercial paper market. You know his investments are controlled by a trustee." Yes, but would he direct the trustee? "No, because Gov. Romney didn't work directly for Freddie Mac as a lobbyist. Newt Gingrich said anybody who profited from Freddie Mac while defending their failed model ought to give the money back. You're trying to take that standard and make it a apply to the governor, when it really doesn't apply."