- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2012

The day after a big loss to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina’s primary, a chastened Mitt Romney began trying to jump-start his stalled presidential campaign, saying he intends to move quickly to correct a “mistake” he made in not disclosing his tax returns.

“I will release my tax returns for 2010, which is the last returns which were completed, on Tuesday of this week. And I will also release at the same time an estimate for 2011 tax returns,” the former Massachusetts governor said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We made a mistake holding off as long as we did, and it just was a distraction,” Mr. Romney said, acknowledging that the attacks over his tax returns contributed to his double-digit loss Saturday night. “It was not a great week for me.”

Mr. Romney, a former venture capitalist who made millions as the CEO of Bain Capital, acknowledged last week that he paid a tax rate of about 15 percent on his most recent returns. He said he will post the tax returns on his campaign website.

Mr. Gingrich, in his own Sunday talk show interview, applauded the disclosure of the tax returns.

“As far as I’m concerned, that particular issue is now set to side,” Mr. Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Trailing Mr. Romney in South Carolina polls in the days leading up to Saturday’s primary, Mr. Gingrich surged past his wealthy opponent by casting him as a friend of Wall Street and the choice of the “Republican establishment.”

It’s a tactic he promised to continue in Florida.

“As they look at the big boys on Wall Street, they look at the guys in Washington, they know that none of that help got down to average, everyday Floridians,” said the former House speaker, who has made millions himself as a Washington consultant since leaving office in 1999.

“In Florida, my case is going to be very simple: you have a clear establishment candidate in Mitt Romney,” he said.

But Mr. Romney, while acknowledging his campaign’s missteps, sent signals over the weekend that he is prepared to take a more aggressive stance in responding to the Gingrich attacks.

In his concession speech Saturday, Mr. Romney, 64, congratulated Mr. Gingrich, but he warned Republican Party voters that attacks on capitalism would doom the party’s chances against President Obama in November.

“Our party can’t be led to victory by someone who also has never run a business and never led a state. … We cannot defeat that president with a candidate who has joined that very assault on free enterprise,” he said.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that despite Saturday’s results, the Romney campaign believes that questions about Mr. Gingrich’s character, as both a public servant and a husband, will matter more to voters in Florida and elsewhere than they did in South Carolina.

That tougher tone likely will be on display Monday night in Tampa, Fla., when Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas face off in the first of two debates — the second is Thursday — leading up to the Jan. 31 primary.

Mr. Romney, asked Sunday whether character would become an issue, said: “No question.”

“Leadership is the key attribute that people should look for in considering a president,” Mr. Romney said, “and character is a big part of leadership, as is vision, sobriety, steadiness.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of Mr. Romney’s most outspoken supporters, said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Mr. Gingrich would be an “embarrassment” to the party.

“We all know the record. I mean, he was run out of the speakership of his own party, he was fined $300,000 for ethics violations,” Mr. Christie said.

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