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Oh la la! Newt attacks Romney for speaking French

16 january 2012, 16:44
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. ©REUTERS/CHRIS KEANE
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. ©REUTERS/CHRIS KEANE
Struggling US presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has taken a shot from a Gallic angle at Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, accusing him -- sacre bleu! -- of speaking French, AFP reports.

In an attack ad released as he battles to turn the tide ahead of the South Carolina primary, the former US House speaker compares Romney to John Kerry, the Democrat skewered by similar claims in a run for the White House in 2004.

Set to lilting accordion music, the ad -- named "The French Connection" on YouTube -- lists the alleged mistakes of Romney including distancing himself from Ronald Reagan, raising taxes and offering taxpayer-funded abortions.

Rising to a crescendo, the voiceover intones: "Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney, he'll say anything to win, anything.

"And just like John Kerry," -- cut to a clip of Massachusetts senator Kerry exclaiming: "Laissez les bons temps rouler! ("Let the good times roll!") -- "he speaks French, too."

"Bonjour, je m'appelle Mitt Romney," the former Massachussets governor is shown saying, in footage from a promotional video Romney made when he was chief executive of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Romney spent two and a half years in France as a Mormon missionary in the 1960s, including through the turbulent period of the May 1968 uprising, before returning home to begin a career in business and politics.

But commentators point out that Gingrich also speaks French, having spent several years in Orleans, northern France, as a youth when his father was posted there as a soldier.

Gingrich also has a doctorate in European history, and his thesis -- on Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945-1960 -- had a bibliography including several French-language publications.

The six Republican contenders remaining in the race are keen to present themselves as the most free-market, anti-liberal candidate to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in November elections.

In that context, Europe, and France in particular, is often presented as an example of the economically and socially misguided big-government path that Obama has allegedly led the United States down since taking office in 2008.

Many conservatives have not forgiven France for vigorously opposing the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, when a torrent of public vitriol was unleashed against the French, and French fries were renamed Freedom Fries.

The following year Kerry lost the White House race to George W. Bush after a campaign in which Republicans notably said he "looked French."

The latest opinion polls put Romney in front for the January 21 South Carolina primaries, after the Mormon politician won the first two Republican poll tests, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

A CNN/ORC International poll published Friday gave Romney 34 percent, followed by Gingrich at 18 percent, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both at 15 percent, with Rick Perry at 9 percent and Jon Huntsman last at four percent.

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