CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami/AP) – As Florida Republicans prepare to cast their votes, the GOP presidential hopefuls will try to rally support in the Miami before January 31st primary.
GOP-hopeful Rick Santorum made an appearance at the Wings Plus restaurant in Coral Springs on Sunday. Newt Gingrich will be at Wings Plus at 10:30a on Wednesday. Wings Plus has become a staple political stop in Broward County.
Gingrich is also scheduled to speak at the National Hispanic Endorsement Event on Friday in Doral.
CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald reports Mitt Romney will be in Miami on Wednesday following a debate in Tampa on Monday night.
Romney said it was “not a good week for me” and cited all the time he had spent talking about his tax returns as his rivals pressed him to make them public before his promised date in April. Romney and a group that supports him were have been on the air in Florida with a significant television ad campaign, more than $7 million combined to date.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul likely will not be a factor in Florida. He already had said he was bypassing the state in favor of smaller subsequent contests.
After months of resistance, Romney had said last week that he would release tax information for 2011, but not until close to the tax filing deadline. That also was seen as a time, before the South Carolina race rattled his front-runner status, when the GOP nomination might have been decided.
“I think we just made a mistake in holding off as long as we did. It just was a distraction. We want to get back to the real issues of the campaign: leadership, character, a vision for America, how to get jobs again in America and how to rein in the excessive scale of the federal government,” said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist.
Romney disclosed last week that, despite his wealth of hundreds of millions of dollars, he has been paying in the neighborhood of 15 percent, far below the top maximum income tax rate of 35 percent, because his income “comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past.”
“Given all the attention that’s been focused on tax returns, given the distraction that I think they became in these last couple of weeks,” Romney said Sunday he would release his 2010 returns and estimates for his 2011 returns at the same time “so there’s not a second release down the road.”
“We’ll be putting our returns on the Internet, people can look through them,” Romney said. “It will provide, I think, plenty of information for people to understand that the sources of my income are exactly as described in the financial disclosure statements we put out a couple of months ago.
During 2010 and the first nine months of 2011, the Romney family had at least $9.6 million in income, according to a financial disclosure form submitted in August.
Further focusing attention on his wealth was Romney’s offhand remark to reporters that his income from paid speeches amounted to “not very much” money. In the August disclosure statement, he reported being paid $373,327.62 for such appearances for the 12 months ending last February. That sum alone would him in the top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers.
In addition, Romney owns investments worth between $7 million and $32 million in offshore-based holdings, which are often used legitimately by private equity firms to attract foreign investors. Such offshore accounts also can enable wealthy investors to defer paying U.S. taxes on some assets, according to tax experts.
“I know people will try and find something,” Romney said, adding, “We pay full, fair taxes, and you’ll see it’s a pretty substantial amount.”
Santorum, who beat Romney and Gingrich in leadoff Iowa, scoffed at the suggestion he might leave the race so conservatives could rally behind Gingrich against Romney.
“The idea that conservatives have to coalesce in order to beat Mitt Romney, well, that’s just not true anymore. Conservatives actually can have a choice. We don’t have to rush to judgment,’ he said.
“The longer this campaign goes on,” Santorum said, “the better it is for conservatives, the better it is for our party.”
Santorum’s continued presence ensures at least some division among Florida’s tea party activists and evangelicals, a division that could help Romney help erase questions about his candidacy.
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