Romney and Cain took some well-deserved shots at the occupiers today too but here’s Gingrich ramping it up with a base-pleasing tea-party contrast. Between soundbites like this and the occasional roundhouse at debate moderators, I’m starting to believe those Rasmussen numbers.

Just one question: Is a guy who got paid big bucks to push expensive new government health-care programs really going to emerge as the “tea-party candidate”? If you missed Timothy Carney’s report on Gingrich’s work for the pharmaceutical lobby while Bush was pushing his Medicare prescription-drug expansion, read it now. Quote:

While the Bush White House and the Republican congressional leadership supported a bill creating a new entitlement for all seniors, Washington conservatives mostly opposed the bill. Gingrich went around Washington at the time plumping for the bill to free-market groups and activists.

“In the height of the debate,” one conservative opponent of the bill told me, “Newt was calling around” selling the bill as a great conservative measure even though it was a new federal entitlement.

Bob Moffitt of the Heritage Foundation, another veteran of the Medicare drug battle, tells me that early in the debate Gingrich favored a Medicare drug benefit only for the poor. The drug lobby, however, had settled on backing a drug benefit for everyone on Medicare. Gingrich soon changed his tune, and began pushing the universal benefit…

A source who worked for PhRMA at the time told me that Gingrich was being paid by “someone in the drug industry” — either PhRMA, some other industry group, or a specific drug company — as a consultant during the debate over the drug benefit. My source double-checked this with a former PhRMA colleague, who had the same recollection. The Gingrich Group operates the Center for Health Transformation, through which Gingrich publicizes his health care policy proposals.

The Times is reporting tonight that in July 2009 Gingrich used a WaPo op-ed to laud a health-care outfit that had been proactive in getting patients to sign “advance directives” (which, you’ll recall, came up during the ObamaCare uproar over “death panels”). Turns out that same outfit was also a paying client of Gingrich’s health-care consulting firm. Meanwhile, at Politico, it seems Gingrich remained a paid consultant of Freddie Mac until the bitter end before it was taken over by the feds in September 2008. Seriously, given his loooong tenure inside the Beltway as a congressman and later a well-paid lobbyist and in light of his many ideological “eccentricities” over the years, how exactly is Newt more of a tea-party champion than, say, Romney is? Yeah, true, Romney has RomneyCare to his record and Gingrich doesn’t, but as Mitt reminded him at one of the debates a few weeks ago, Newt supported health-care mandates before supporting health-care mandates was “cool.” So why the obvious grassroots advantage for Gingrich?