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Gingrich Applauds Romney's Tax Decision; Santorum Declares Three-Man Race

The morning after a stinging defeat in South Carolina, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would release his most recent tax returns this week, ahead of the Florida primary.

Romney said he would release his 2010 tax returns and an estimate of what he'll pay for 2011 on Tuesday. "We made a mistake in holding off as long as we did," he told Fox News Sunday.

His wealth, his record in running the private equity firm Bain Capital, and his tax bracket have increasingly become political issues for Romney, who has complained that Republicans are engaging in a Democratic line of attack. Romney has said he pays a tax rate of about 15 percent.

"If there are things in there that can be used against him, we better know before the nomination," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who won the South Carolina primary, said on NBC's Meet The Press, in supporting Romney's decision to release his taxes.

Romney has built a campaign in part on the premise that he is the Republican candidate best positioned to defeat President Obama in a general election. But exit polls from South Carolina show for the first time in a 2012 contest that Gingrich was the choice of voters who called electability their top priority.

"Mitt Romney is no longer the inevitable," said former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, appearing Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. "It's not just about how much money you have."

Gingrich told CNN's Candy Crowley on the same program that he is the one Republican who could go "toe to toe with President Obama."

Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses, finished fifth in the New Hampshire primary, and finished third in South Carolina, where he got 17 percent of the vote, declared a "three-person race" among him, Gingrich and Romney.

Santorum said he had faced no pressure to step aside to allow conservatives to coalesce around Gingrich, and predicted a nominating fight that would extend beyond March 6, when 10 states weigh in on this year's Super Tuesday.

Lost in most of the discussion was Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who finished fourth in South Carolina with 13 percent of the vote, after a second-place showing in New Hampshire and third place finish in Iowa. Paul said Saturday night that he's staying in the race. "This is the beginning of a long, hard climb," he told supporters.

Politico notes that Romney's formidable operations in Florida could already be helping him there, where nearly 200,000 early and absentee ballots have been cast.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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