Mitt Romney spent the first part of Sunday's GOP debate arguing -- rather unbelievably -- that he's a reluctant politician who never really planned a White House bid after he left the governor's office in Massachusetts. But he did it in rather smart fashion: going on and on and on until his time had run out. And with the rest of the field eager to pounce on Romney, Newt Gingrich finally jumped in at one point.
"I realize the red light doesn't mean anything to you because you're the frontrunner," he said. "Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney..."
"You didn't have this interlude of citizenship while you thought about what you were going to do," he said, referencing the time before Romney decided to run for president in 2007. For good measure, Gingrich added: "You happened to lose to [John] McCain as you did to [Ted] Kennedy ... Just level with the American people, you have been running at least since the 1990s."
"Mr. Speaker," Romney responded, "citizenship has always been on my mind."
Earlier in the debate, Rick Santorum similarly attacked Romney for only running for one term as Massachusetts governor.
"Well, if his record was so great as governor of Massachusetts then why didn't he run for re-election?" Santorum said. "If Romney wouldn't stand for the people of Massachusetts and run on your record, if it was that great, why did you bail out?"
In contrast, Santorum said he ran for reelection multiple times in both the House and the Senate "and I won a couple of times." He pointed out that he ran in a primarily Democratic district and against an incumbent.
"At the end of that campaign, [Romney] wouldn't stand for conservative principles," Santorum said.
Romney said he believed he had accomplished what he wanted to during his term.
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