Morning Examiner: Newt’s lucky fumble

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

Last night, Newt Gingrich may have turned in his worst debate performance of the campaign so far, but he picked a great day to do it. From his Freddie Mac lobbying to his advocacy for government sponsored entities and Medicare expansion, Newt was exposed as the big government, crony capitalist he is. But it all will probably get drowned it in today’s news cycle.

Already Team Romney stepped on his big debate win by releasing his 2010 tax return and 2011 estimated return late last night. So far, there are no big surprises in the documents, but they do show that Romney paid a 13.9 percent effective rate in 2010 (he will pay an estimated 15.4 percent in 2011). Both numbers put him well above the 11.06 percent effective rate that the average American pays. The revelation that Romney has paid more to charity ($7 million) than to the government ($6.2) over the last two years, also should play well with small government/pro-civil society conservatives.

Then there is tonight’s State of the Union address, which Obama is expected to use to wage class warfare in the form of higher taxes on the Mitt Romneys of the world. And if that wasn’t enough, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will be giving the Republican response. If Daniels does well, talk of his possible entry into the race will be yet another story drowning out Newt’s bad debate.

There is another debate scheduled for Thursday. Like Romney last week, Newt has now been put on notice that his answers on lobbying, ethics, and leadership are weak.We’ll see if he can improve.

Florida Debate
The Washington Examiner‘s Michael Barone: “The most electric moment of the debates came in the first half hour, with the exchange between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on the latter’s alleged lobbying activities for Freddie Mac and in favor of the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill. I thought Romney had the stronger half of the argument, and he showed none of the hesitation Tim Pawlenty did, back before the Iowa straw poll when he was an active candidate, when he was asked to repeat his criticism of “Obamneycare” and declined to do so.”

The Washington Examiner‘s Phil Klein: “In the exchange most likely to be talked about, [Romney] absolutely destroyed Gingrich by methodically exposing his untenable position on his work for Freddie Mac, about which Tim Carney has written a great deal. Not only was Gingrich put on the defensive during that exchange, but unlike last week’s debates, in which he fed off the energy and applause of the crowd, the subdued audience tonight seemed to sap his passion and energy.”

The Corner‘s Rich Lowry: “Romney had two wins. 1) The dullness of the debate and the lack of crowd reaction kept Gingrich from having another “moment.” Romney can ill-afford another one of those. 2) He won the Freddie exchange, which will get a lot of the post-game attention. Newt simply can’t be honest about why Freddie was paying him.”

The Corner‘s Jonah Goldberg: “I thought Gingrich had two very bad answers. He suggested that he left Congress to start businesses or some such. That’s nonsense and everyone knows it. He left the speakership and Congress on bad terms… Second, his stuff about not being a lobbyist of any sort is just silly. Why else bring in a lawyer to explain to him how to avoid the label?”

The Corner‘s Terence Jeffrey: “Rick Santorum did have an opportunity in this debate to run to daylight — while Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich inanely grappled with each other at the line of scrimmage. Yet Santorum failed to do so. He looked more like a punt returner for the San Francisco 49ers.”

The Weekly Standard‘s Stephen Hayes: “Gingrich not only defended his work on behalf of government-sponsored entities (GSEs), but he defended their existence. Even if he were right that such quasi-public institutions serve an important role – a dubious proposition, at best – it’s not a winning argument in a Republican primary. The central rationale for a Gingrich candidacy is that he is a conservative, and Romney is not. He usually distances himself from anything in his history that undercuts that rationale (e.g. Nancy Pelosi and the couch, which he calls the “dumbest single thing I’ve done in the last few years”), yet he embraced GSEs.”

Campaign 2012
Romney: Mitt Romney will pay $6.2 million in taxes on a total of $45.2 million in income over the years 2010 and 2011. He paid a 13.9 percent effective rate in 2010 and will pay a 15.4 percent effective rate for 2011. Romney gave $7 million to charity over the two years.

Gingrich: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is pumping another $5 million into Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC, Winning Our Future, the same Super PAC that ran ads attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. And USA Today reports that Gingrich may have opened himself up to an IRS audit by avoiding Medicare taxes.

Around the Bigs
The Washington Examiner, Obama to strike partisan tone in State of Union: President Obama will pitch himself as a champion of the middle class and claim that Republicans’ brand of “you’re-on-your-own” economics has enriched the wealthy in his State of the Union address tonight.

The Wall Street Journal, Obama to Spotlight Energy: A week after he canceled the Keystone XL oil pipeline, resident Barack Obama will use his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to call for an increase in domestic energy production.

The Washington Post, Europe bans Iranian oil imports in push to curtail nuclear program: The European Union banned the import of Iranian oil Monday and froze Europe-based assets of the Central Bank of Iran, intensifying an international campaign to force the regime in Tehran to abandon their nuclear program.

The Washington Post, Federal employees owe $1.03 billion in unpaid taxes: About 98,000 federal, postal and congressional employees owed $1.03 billion in unpaid taxes at the end of fiscal 2010, according to records provided by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Washington Post, Settlement with mortgage lenders inadequate, activists say: Liberal activists are rejecting an impending deal between mortgage lenders, state attorney generals, and the Department of Justice over foreclosure abuses. Banks have been working with state and federal government for over a year on a deal.

Gallup, More Americans Uninsured in 2011: Despite the passage of Obamacare, more American adults lacked health insurance coverage last year than in any year since Gallup started tracking it in 2008.

Righty Playbook
AEI’s James Pethokoukis identifies 11 stunning revelations from Larry Summers’s secret economics memo to Barack Obama, including: “Your campaign proposals add about $100 billion per year to the deficit largely because rescoring indicates that some of your revenue raisers do not raise as much as the campaign assumed and some of your proposals cost more than the campaign assumed.”

At National Review, Avik Roy looks at how Bain Capital helped South Carolina’s economy.

RedState‘s Daniel Horowitz argues that congressional Republicans can and must force Obama’s hand on Keystone Pipeline.

Lefty Playbook
Talking Points Memo reports that Obama will use the State of the Union to frame the 2012 election and will “capitalize on the Democrats’ December victory over Republicans — who were forced to buckle on a package of two month extensions — and warn GOP members not to hold the measures hostage to unrelated policy disagreements, or partisan pay-fors.”

Daily Kos‘ Joan McCarter looks at Sen. Sherrod Brown’s, D-Ohio, and Rep. Brad Miller’s, D-N.C., campaign to get Obama to investigate foreclosure fraud.

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein reviews the 57-page memo on the economy then-National Economic Council Director Larry Summers sent to Obama shortly after he was inaugurated.

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