Rivals pounce on Newt Gingrich at last Iowa debate

 

Republican presidential candidates pounced on front-runner Newt Gingrich yesterday to try to blunt his surge at the last debate before Iowa launches the 2012 US election season.

Gingrich is in a tight race with rivals Ron Paul and Mitt Romney in Iowa less than three weeks before the state's Republicans decide on January 3 who they want as their presidential candidate. It is anybody's guess at this stage as to who will win.

Gingrich's main adversary was not former Massachusetts Governor Romney as anticipated, but instead it was Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who won Iowa's straw poll of Republicans in August and would like to score a surprise victory here.

Bachmann repeatedly tried to raise doubts about Gingrich's conservative principles and accused him of being a Washington lobbyist for accepting up to $1.6 million (£1m) in payments from troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which was at the heart of America's housing crisis.

"We can't have as our nominee for the Republican Party someone who continues to stand for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. They need to be shut down, not built up," Bachmann said.

In a standoff over whether Gingrich in his congressional past had supported late-term abortion, Gingrich said Bachmann had her facts wrong.

Already, Gingrich is showing signs of fatigue among Republicans in this Midwestern state, an indication that they remain open to voting for someone else as a barrage of negative ads and verbal punches takes a toll on him.

A Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa this week said Gingrich's support had dropped several percentage points and he was leading Paul narrowly by 22 per cent to 21 per cent, with 16 per cent for Romney and Michele Bachmann at 11 per cent.

All told, Gingrich appeared to hold his own at the debate and Romney might have missed a chance to follow up on attacks he has been making against the former speaker in the media all week.

"I'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany," Gingrich said at one point, breezily making reference to a criticism of him this week by Romney.

A Reuters/Ipsos national poll this week shows Gingrich holds a 10-point lead, but that he would fare worse than Romney against President Barack Obama at next November's election.

At this debate, Romney let his rivals lead the battle against Gingrich, and adopted an above-the-fray stance, trying to establish himself as a credible alternative to Democratic Obama.

Romney gave his best answer yet to questions about why he has changed positions on some key issues during his political career. He denied changing positions on gay and gun rights and said his stance now opposing abortion evolved over time.

"Experience taught me sometime I was wrong. Where I was wrong, I've tried to correct myself," he said.

Paul, who came into the debate with a head of steam and is challenging Gingrich for the lead in Iowa, stumbled in answering a question about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

He insisted there was no evidence to suggest Iran was attempting to develop a nuclear weapon and enrich uranium. A UN nuclear watchdog report last month said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon, and that secret research to that end may be continuing.

"There has been no enrichment in Iran," said Paul, an anti-war libertarian.

Bachmann called him on it.

"We know without a shadow of a doubt that Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map," she said.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is hoping a 44-city bus tour of Iowa will allow him to rebound after a string of bad debates, compared himself to American football star quarterback Tim Tebow, who has managed to win a string of games for NFL's Denver Broncos despite some obvious deficiencies.

"I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses. There were a lot of folks who said Tim Tebow would not be a very good professional quarterback," he said.

Gingrich, who has emerged as the lead conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney, compared himself to the Republicans' iconic President Ronald Reagan. He scoffed at his rivals' attacks on him as "kind of laughable."

"I think people have to watch my career and decide," said Gingrich, ticking off a conservative record he said he built up as House speaker in the 1990s.

The fact that this is the last debate before the Iowa caucuses increased pressure on Gingrich's rivals to press the attack against him and try to raise doubts about him.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum noted that Gingrich was not well liked as House speaker.

"The speaker had a conservative revolution against him when he was speaker of the House," said Santorum, who also subtly raised character issues about the thrice-married Gingrich, saying, "We need someone who is strong in the political and personal side."

Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...