Romney and Gingrich under harsher fire as election nears

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011.
AP Photo
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich
AP Photo

With just a month left before the first Republican voters start picking their candidate for taking on President Obama, the two front-runners find themselves increasingly under attack.

A new attack ad from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman hits former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney where most critics do: his ever-changing positions on key issues. And Rep. Ron Paul launched a scathing ad on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for his "serial hypocrisy."

Huntsman's web ad, called "Mittstant Replay", hits Romney for shifting positions on abortion, immigration, climate change, and health care over a number of years.

As governor of Massachusetts and a presidential candidate in 2008, Romney has been in the public eye long enough to have lots of videotape of him on lots of issues. While it is not wholly uncommon for a politician to have shifting views over a long career, Romney insists he has been consistent.

To test that claim, we took a look back at Romney's appearances on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Days before the Michigan primary in early 2008, Romney told Bob Schieffer the struggling auto industry needed help from Uncle Sam.

"I'm the only one who was born and raised in Michigan that's got the automobile industry in my blood veins," he said.

Washington, he proclaimed was "paralyzed, not taking action to get Michigan on track again. And if they can't fix Michigan, they won't fix the national economy. And that's why I believe it's so important for us to come together to help the ailing auto industry and other industries in this state get back on their feet," he said on January 13, 2008.

Romney attacked then opponent John McCain for saying that manufacturing jobs lost in Michigan weren't coming back.

"The last thing you need in a state like Michigan is more pessimism," he said. "And if he's saying those automotive jobs are not coming back, well, how about the jobs that are still here? How about the hundreds of thousands of people who still work in the automotive sector? Are they all going to lose their jobs, too? Or are we going to say it's simply unacceptable to us to have a major sector of the economy - transportation - turned over to people around the world?" he added.

That same year, after he had lost the nomination to McCain, Romney was advocating against a bailout for the auto industry. In a New York Times editorial "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," Romney said if the bailout went through, "you can kiss the American automobile industry goodbye."

In the piece, he pushed for a managed bankruptcy for the auto industry as "the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs."

Speaking on the CBS Early Show on November 20, 2008, Romney was asked if his plan would results in significant layoffs throughout the industry. "I know there's a frequent thought that when you hear the word "bankruptcy" that means going out of business. Just the opposite is what I'm calling for. Help them get rid of the excess costs so they can stay in business," he said, expressing what some would call tough love after previously showing nothing but love for the industry before the primary.

While Romney has only made two appearances on Face the Nation, both in the past election cycle and not since 2008, Gingrich has been on the broadcast at least 17 times, most of it focused on his time as speaker and twice this year as a candidate.

Gingrich, in his appearances on Face the Nation at least, has been consistent about pushing for reducing government spending and for lower taxes. "We're prepared to rethink the Washington bureaucracy to keep money with the family. The liberal Democrats want the family to rethink their budget so they can spend the money in the bureaucracy. It's the same dollars. And it's a question of where do you want them?" he said in a discussion on taxes from August 1996.

In 2005, Gingrich spoke about the upcoming 2008 election and offered his fellow Republicans this advice: "I think we need to go back to focusing on a balanced budget. We need to offer real solutions on border security and immigration. We need to understand how big the challenge of health is for the country both in cost and effectiveness," he told Bob Schieffer. Gingrich once supported an individual mandate requiring Americans to purchase health insurance, but now criticizes President Obama's health reform bill for, among other things, its expansion government.

In that same interview from October 2005, he said Republicans had erred and had to reform their ways to win again. "There are some places where we got off-track. We size of the deficit is one. The failure on illegal immigration is one. The failure to tackle health is another. We need to go back and be the party of reform and the party of real change. Otherwise, the American voter is going to look for somebody who will get the job done."

And after that 2008 election, appearing on Face the Nation in June 2009, Gingrich was asked about the future of the Republican party.

"Who's the real Republican, you, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Colin Powell, Rush Limbaugh?" asked guest host Harry Smith.

"Oh, all of us are, So is Mitt Romney," said Gingrich, interestingly praising his top challenger now in 2011. Later in that interview, the former speaker was asked if he was going to run for president in 2012.

"I wouldn't run unless I thought we could govern," he said.

Gingrich recently hit Romney for his stance on immigration - saying he once signaled amnesty for the millions of immigrants in the country illegally, and now doesn't. That hot button issue also came up in an interview on Face the Nation, in which Romney appears to walk a fine line.

"I feel very strongly that we should protect our borders and that amnesty is not the right way to go," he said in his lengthy interview from October 2007. "People who have come here illegally, should be able to apply for citizenship or permanent residency, just like everybody else around the world that wants to come here. But there should be no special deal, no amnesty deal saying that all those are here illegally get to stay," he said.

That take is exactly what the Huntsman campaign's video his Romney for - allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens but not through amnesty. While it may not be a full contradiction, Romney has failed to explain how the twelve million individuals in the US illegally would be able to apply for citizenship or residency without being punished for being in the country by non-legal means.

Additional reporting by Jillian Hughes.

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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.