Obama's first ad
A new CNN poll released Wednesday showed Romney leading with the support of 33 percent of likely voters, Gingrich with 23 percent, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 16 percent, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 13 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 6 percent.
President Obama's reelection campaign is poised to release its first 2012 broadcast advertisement as his team seeks to get a jump on Republicans while they battle over selecting their nominee to challenge him.
The ad will begin running Thursday in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, said a campaign official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The ad highlights Obama's record on clean energy and pushes back against what it says are "secretive oil billionaires" making inaccurate attacks on him.
On Wednesday, Romney showed signs of worry that he is losing ground to Gingrich. Top Romney allies who served in the House when Gingrich was speaker told reporters that Gingrich was an erratic leader who made it hard to govern and who invited a backlash from voters that helped Democratic President Bill Clinton win reelection in 1996 and cost the party congressional seats in 1998.
Republicans forced Gingrich out after the 1998 elections.
"I can only describe his style as leadership by chaos," former Rep. Susan Molinari (R., N.Y.) said of Gingrich in a call to reporters set up by Romney's campaign. "If he were to become the nominee . . . the Republican Party loses. We do not want Speaker Gingrich to help elect another Democratic president."
Former Sen. Jim Talent (R., Mo.), who also served in the House, said that "the speaker is running as a reliable conservative leader. . . . He's not that. He is not reliable."
Campaigning in Spartanburg, Romney belittled Gingrich's boast of helping create jobs during the Reagan administration. "He had been in Congress two years when Ronald Reagan came to office," the former governor of Massachusetts said. "That would be like saying 435 congressmen were all responsible for those jobs.
The tax issue
"Government doesn't create jobs. It's the private sector that creates jobs. Congressmen taking responsibility or taking credit for helping create jobs is like Al Gore taking credit for the Internet."
Romney did not address the brouhaha over his personal taxes, which started when he said in Monday's debate that he might release his tax records in April after clinching the nomination, and which grew Tuesday when he revealed that his tax bill is only about 15 percent.
One of his own high-profile supporters said Wednesday he should not wait. "If you have tax returns to put out, you should put them out," Gov. Christie said on MSNBC.
Gingrich said Wednesday that he paid 31 percent of his income in taxes, though he did not say whether that was for federal taxes only or included state and local taxes.
What's Coming Up
Forthcoming events in the GOP presidential primary contest:
Southern Republican Leadership Conference debate, Charleston, S.C., starting at 8 p.m.
Saturday: South Carolina primary
Monday: National Journal/NBC News/
St. Petersburg Times/Florida Council
of 100 debate, University of South Florida, Tampa, starting at 9 p.m.
Jan. 26: CNN/
Republican Party of Florida debate, Jacksonville
View a complete 2012 presidential election calendar via www.