The GOP primary candidates are like watching a school of sharks turning on one another.
In a continuing back and forth over Newt Gingrich’s immigration policy, Michele Bachmann criticized the former House speaker Saturday over a letter he co-signed in 2004 in support of President George W. Bush's immigration initiative.
Bachmann's campaign staff handed copies of the letter to the media Saturday morning before an event marking the release of Bachmann's new book, "Core of Conviction," at the Radisson Hotel in Davenport.
“He has a long history of supporting amnesty,” Bachmann told reporters of Gingrich, “and that’s not something that people in Iowa are supporting.”
Gingrich has taken fire from Bachmann and other candidates, including Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, since Tuesday's CNN debate in Washington, where he called for a "humane" immigration policy for illegal immigrants "who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community."
Bachmann’s charge that the policy amounts to "amnesty" is being met with increasingly sharp language by the Gingrich campaign.
"Either Michele Bachmann can't get her facts straight on understanding immigration reform, or she is intentionally lying," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told NBC News on Saturday while the former speaker was campaigning in Florida.
Gingrich is proposing that longtime illegal residents leave the country and apply for citizenship. He told reporters Saturday he doesn't recall the 2004 letter.
“I have a deep history of supporting efforts to solve the problem of illegal immigration, going back to 1986,” Gingrich told reporters following a book-signing event of his own, citing legislation passed during the Reagan administration.
Despite her attacks, Bachmann spent part of Saturday on the defensive, knocking down comparisons – first noted in Politico and on the conservative website Townhall – between Gingrich’s outlook on immigration and remarks she made at the Sept. 7 MSNBC-Politico debate.
At that debate, Bachmann was asked how she would handle the more than 11 million people living in the United States without documentation. "It depends upon where they live, how long they have been here, if they have a criminal record," Bachmann said.
Asked Saturday how those remarks diverge from Gingrich's position, Bachmann insisted she was speaking about determining which illegal immigrants should be forced to leave the country first. "It is 180 degrees different from where the speaker stands. Because what I'm talking about is order of deportation," Bachmann said.